Tuesday, January 17, 2006

iPod and iTunes: an unexpected effect

Results 1 - 30 of about 524,000,000 for ipod [2]

I have a love/hate relationship with Apple, as compared to a hate/hate relationship with Microsoft. I cannot deny, though, that Apple has brought one good new thing to an old dog -- music.

The iPod/iTunes combination has transformed an all-but-forgotten CD collection (bought, inherited [1], married) into something I'm getting to know. This is novel for me -- I was never a knowledgeable listener. It's the iTunes playlist, rating, listening, refining interaction that's helped me learn the collection, and the iPod technology has let me integrate it into a compressed modern existence.

Years ago I liked Joni Mitchell -- but I confess I'd never really paid much attention to her music. She's fallen a long way since I started hearing the lyrics. Joan Baez, on the other hand, has returned from the depths. The more I hear him, the more I like Springsteen - including his unfashionable mature work. Stan Rogers wears well. Rock, country, folk, jazz, classical, eventually opera. Names that are familiar, and those that almost no-one listens to. New and old. There's a lot to explore in 500 years of music.

The difference, which radio of any form cannot bring, is learning the music.

[1] The inheritance of digital music libraries will be an interesting story to track. There's a lot of music out there on CD, and it's not clear that new technologies will greatly change our listening experience. Unlike video, audio recording started to converge on human perceptual limits over 15 years ago. The staggering volume of what's already been purchased by families, and rarely discarded, may be as big an issue for the industry as digital file sharing. The fact that iPod/iTunes greatly enhances the value of existing music collections is very ominous for the music industry. Short of preventing encoding of extant CDs, is there anything the industry can do to escape this trap? I suspect recent falling digital music sales may be in good part due to users rediscovering old collections.

[2] A half-billion hits on Google? That's a lot of splogs!

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