Skip to comments.Apple's iPod Leads the Way in the Fledgling Digital Music World
Posted on 12/19/2004 11:51:15 AM PST by SamAdams76
On a short subway ride, Katie Braggs, 20, reached in her purse for her source of entertainment.
MusicWashington, D.C. - Scripps Howard Foundation Wire - Inside what looks a pack of cigarettes or a small deck of cards, Braggs has her lifetime music collection - some 500 songs - literally at her fingertips.
"Oh my gosh, I love it so much," the 20-year old college student said of her new Apple iPod, a sleek digital music player wildly popular among young people. "It's perfect for me."
Braggs has transferred most of the music on her CDs to her iPod, and she uses Apple's iTunes Music Store to download new music for 99 cents a song. To her, songs exist not on CDs or records, but in cyberspace - as digital files.
Spurred by the growth of the Internet, digital music will eventually usurp CD technology, fundamentally changing how music is distributed and stored, industry experts agree. Like records and tapes, CDs will retain some usefulness, but they'll largely be relics.
"If you're looking ahead, the CD is basically dead," said James V. DeLong, a Washington lawyer who directs the Center for the Study of Digital Property, an offshoot of the Progress and Freedom Foundation. "It's really impractical to be putting bits of information on pieces of plastic and then sending them all over the country in trucks."
Even with exponential growth, the digital music industry is in its infancy. The most glaring question is how the recording industry, which has spent millions of dollars fighting online piracy in courts, will adapt and profit from it, DeLong said.
Despite the recording industry's effort, unauthorized file sharing continues to grow. In November an average of more than 5 million users were logged onto unauthorized networks, more than double November 2003, according to BigChampagne, a company that tracks online file sharing and legal download stores.
Eric Garland, BigChampagne's chief executive officer, said for every song downloaded on iTunes, there are 100 swapped on unauthorized networks.
"Paid downloads are still a very small market," he said.
Nothing spurred the movement to digital music more than the explosion of file sharing on the Napster network in 1998, when millions of teenagers swapped their music collections online to the chagrin of the recording industry.
Its trade group, the Recording Industry Association of America, sued the network, which operated on a central server, out of existence in 2001. No Napster-like Utopia for file sharing has emerged since, but several alternatives have surfaced, most of which RIAA has sued.
Today's file-sharing networks are decentralized. Called "peer to peer," users connect only with other users, not with a central server.
To eradicate P2P networks, RIAA would have to disable the software on every individual computer, Garland said.
The recording industry has turned to suing thousands of individuals who make large quantities of copyrighted material available over file sharing networks and to going after the makers of the software that allows for the activity.
Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to take up one of those cases, in which lower courts ruled that makers of programs like Grokster and Kazaa are not liable if their software is used for copyright infringement.
Even if the courts side with the record companies, Garland said unauthorized file sharing will always be around. Software developers are constantly working on stronger P2P technology that will soon be available, he said.
Garland said it's simply a generational divide: Teenagers who had the world's music catalog available to them on Napster simply expect that kind of access, and they'll keep switching computer programs until they get it.
"The people who did not experience that, they just think it's 'stealing music,'" he said.
Laith Mosley, 27, an avid iPod user, said he's downloaded music on unauthorized networks before, but since the RIAA has sued thousands of individuals, "It's not worth the risk."
Now Mosley uses iTunes. The service controls more than 70 percent of the market.
About 54 million songs were downloaded on paid services in the first half of 2004, up from 11 million in the last half of 2003, according to Nielson's SoundScan.
iTunes has sold more than 150 million songs in its three-year history.
"People with iPods are definitely buying music from iTunes, and by contrast with recent history, are buying more digital music than ever before," said Jeremy Horwitz, editor-in-chief of the independent iPodlounge.com.
Though there about a dozen cheaper digital music players, the iPod, which costs $250 to $600, depending on the model, remains dominant. That's partly because it works with the iTunes store, but also because the iPod has a sleek, elegant design and is practically effortless to use, Horwitz said.
"And no one else has been able to duplicate or supercede it," he said.
In the last three years, a subculture has developed among iPod users. Horwitz said interest in iPodlounge, a niche online publication, has soared to 1.7 million readers in November alone.
"It's definitely a fad," said Steven Kyle Joseph, 24, a professional actor from New York and an iPod owner.
Braggs, who attends Catholic University of America in Washington, said, "You walk around campus, and you see people with them everywhere. It's like everyone has one."
Braggs owns an iPod mini, which stores fewer songs than the standard iPod. Like cars and cell phones, iPod-minis come in several colors. Braggs chose lime-green, which she said reflects her personality.
Although the iPod is the digital music player of choice, there is no uniform way that users acquire music. Some, like Braggs, buy from the iTunes store or share with friends. Joseph still buys CDs, transferring the music to his iPod for when he travels or exercises.
The success of iTunes shows there is a viable market for pay services, Horwitz and Garland said.
To take the digital music movement mainstream, Apple would need to lower the price of the iPod and expand iTunes' catalog of about a million songs to 20 to 25 million, roughly the amount of music available for sale, they said.
Garland said Apple could also do better by allowing users to buy into a subscription service so that they only have to pay once. The thought of adding another dollar to the credit card tends to keep people from spending more than an average of $20, he said.
Horwitz said, "If Apple can attract enough mainstream consumers to the iPod platform - people who aren't familiar with tools for online piracy and prefer not to risk being sued by the RIAA - they can grow the legal market for music even further."
Imagine having every piece of music that ever meaned something to you on a device the size of a deck of playing cards! I have about 40 playlists setup already. For example, I can select the "Late 1970s" playlist and hear all the music from my high school days. Or I can play nothing but songs from the year I was married or, as I'm doing right now, I can play nothing but Christmas songs. Not the same old crap that you hear on the radio but MY Christmas songs. All 1300 of them, on shuffle (I'll remove them at the end of the holiday season).
Or I can just hit Shuffle ALL SONGS and hear my 7200 songs all mixed up. It would take me nearly a month playing my iPod 24/7 to hear them all. I could go from The Cars to Weezer and then to something from Johnny Cash and then it will plunge right into a Beethoven symphony. The iPod has a mysterious way of shuffling your songs so that it all makes perfect sense somehow.
And when you are in the mood to just hear a particular album from start to finish, well you can do that as well!
I have an iPod dock that plugs into my home stereo - awesome sound. I also have an FM modulator that plugs into the iPod that allows me to broadcast to any FM radio. I use it in the car or I use it to "take over" somebody's stereo when I don't like what station they are tuned into. I was at a family Christmas Party last week and one of my punk nephews decided to blast some rap music on his boombox. Well I saw what frequency he was tuned to and jammed it with my iPod. Poor kid didn't know what to do when his boombox suddenly started playing a Christmas song by Frank Sinatra!
I've also been buying legit music on iTunes for 99 cents a pop. But they have a long, long way to go. There is still so much music that is still unavailable at iTunes. Like the article states, they need to get to about 20-25 million songs before people start using it as an alternative to buying the CD.
BTW, I downloaded the new U2 album on iTunes and I got a PDF with the cover art and lyrics. Now there is even less reason to buy the CD. I paid $9.99 for the entire album online. Would have costed at least $13.99 at the store.
I just got a 20g iPod, and haven't loaded a lot on it yet. Just getting started. I bought a small set of speakers to use when I'm doing things where I don't want to use headphones. And I'm not exactly young! I just love new toys.
5 million users were logged onto unauthorized networksWhat the hell does that mean? Who, exactly, should be authorizing file share networks?
I dunno. The UN maybe? They'd like to be regulating the internet, wouldn't they?
I have a set of speakers for my office at work. Of course I can justify the existence of my iPod in the workplace...I have all my Outlook contacts loaded on it!
The stores have run out of iPods and I hear they are selling above retail price on Ebay.
It works with Windows as well as with Mac. Paypal is even getting in on the craze by offering its members the opportunity to download five free songs if they get an iTunes account with Apple.
I can play nothing but Christmas songs. Not the same old crap that you hear on the radio but MY Christmas songs. All 1300 of themYou have 1300 Christmas songs?!
Don't tell me... you must own that Terry Bradshaw Christmas album
P2P networks. Death To RIAA! ;-)
Before getting the iPod, I checked out the other MP3 devices. They aren't even in the same ballpark. Apple has an opportunity to atone for their mistakes with the PC. They are in Microsoft territory so far as market share goes. Let's see if they don't blow it this time.
I checked out the creative labs Zentouch MP3 player, and it's a nice unit, but much bulkier. The one I was interested in was not compatible with audio books, which also interests me, because when I'm out exercising, I don't always want to listen to music. I enjoy audio books, and the Zen Touch didn't support that format. I got my iPod from Amazon.com.
They are making big bucks on the thing, it can't cost more than $75 to produce.
But I don't have Terry Bradshaw's Christmas album, I must say. Maybe I'll check it out!
Right now I'm listening to a block of Mannheim Steamroller.
By all means, man, if you have $75 lying around, go for it.
Well SA thanks for the review.
For the life of me until I read your review, I couldn't see what the fuss was about.
My thing is that I don't want to have to wear earplugs all the time, but with this FM transmitter you mention, I could play it from any radio....
You can't look at product reviews and see how this device actually works in real life...
Aren't they still a little pricey and bound to fall to 40% of their current cost in 6 months?
Are all the things you mention (like the FM transmitter) extra?
How do you connect the thing to a CD player to 'rip' a song?
Also what digital music service do you recommend?
Could I get started on my 200 gig desktop and get an iPod this spring at a fraction of their current cost?
How are they on batteries?
Still, though, I might replace it with another one...I have too many iTMS songs purchased now to contemplate a WMV player, and more importantly, I have an iPod dock hard wired into my car & car stereo. (It is hidden in what used to be the ashtray...who smokes in their car anymore?)
I certainly will be buying the extended warranty to go with it, that's for sure....
I've got 1997 Christmas songs on my iPod!
I think my first purchase will be that new Michael Chrichton novel (State of Fear). 19 hours of unabridged reading...that will keep me occupied for a while!
They are selling for $300 and up, I'll wait until they are a commodity and come down to $75 before I purchase one.
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