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WSJ: iTunes Music Store = Crack

From an article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal:

I had never downloaded music from Napster or other Internet services before, because it was against the law and seemed complicated. Apple has solved both those problems with iTunes. For now it's available only to Macintosh users, but it's invading a PC near you by year-end. Armed with nothing more than a high-speed modem and a hideously large credit limit, you can log on to the iTunes Music Store and enslave yourself to the 200,000 available songs, all there for the grabbing at 99 cents a pop (or pop hit). Plunk down a buck, download a song in 10 seconds flat, then sit back and enjoy.

It sounds so simple, doesn't it? So did crack cocaine. The analogies are eerie -- both involve a pipe (in Apple's case, a broadband pipe), both are cheap, and both offer instant gratification. And both, unfortunately, can cause seemingly normal people to become unhinged.

When I worked at QDesign, a digital audio technology company, we spent a lot of time talking with people in the recording industry. Surprisingly, many of them understood that the "music that goes away when you stop paying subscription fees" model was doomed to failure. It was, however, the best they thought they could do. Obviously Apple could do better.

In the QDesign days, I would talk to people who had large collections of MP3 tracks from Napster, asking them if they'd pay a dollar a track if they could buy them from a legitimate source. The answer was nearly always yes.

The iTunes Music Store demonstrates that when you don't treat your customers as children or thieves, they respond accordingly.


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