Writing for the New York Times , Neil Strauss says that Apple has
found the future of online music sales with its iTunes Music Store. (Viewing the article requires a free subscription.)
Strauss calls the iTunes Music Store “the first real success story” in the effort to sell music online. He calls Apple’s figure of three million songs sold in iTunes Music Store’s first month “impressive,” considering the comparatively limited number of computer users who can access the service. The store is limited to iTunes 4 users for now, and that requires Mac OS X 10.1.5 or higher and a G3/400MHz or better — Strauss figures that this number totals about 1 percent of the nation’s home computers, only a fraction of which have a broadband connection big enough to make downloading a comfortable process.
Strauss also noted the controversy this week over Apple’s release of iTunes 4.0.1, which disallows users to share each others’ iTunes playlists over the Internet, though his article incorrectly suggested that Apple has disabled Rendezvous (Strauss accurately noted that the update simply limits access to local networks).
Regardless of the controversy, Strauss focused on Apple’s success in providing music listeners with an easy way to buy music online. “What is notable about the success of iTunes is that it has been achieved not by a music company but by a computer company. And this makes sense, because it was a computer solution that was needed, not a music one. Even more impressive is that Apple’s coup has been accomplished relatively simply and cheaply,” he said, explaining that Apple owns everything from the player (iTunes) to the delivery system (QuickTime) to the portable device (iPod).
Strauss quoted one expert who called Apple “the new MTV,” likening Apple to the popular cable television channel, which pioneered the music video industry, breathed new life into music sales and created countless imitators in its wake.
“The iTunes Music Store is not without flaws. Its song collection is not only relatively small, but also limited to music from major labels; independent labels are shut out,” said Strauss, although Apple CEO Steve Jobs has already noted plans to negotiate with indies, and strong interest from them as well.
Strauss also offered some recommendations for ways to improve the service: tying it in with instant messaging, for example, or creating an Amazon.com-like affiliate program that would offer a financial incentive for consumers to push each other the iTunes Music Store’s way for online music sales.