Stupid Is As Stupid Does: ITMS And Napster

| Editorial

"Hey STUPID! Yeah, you with the iPod, and you who is thinking about buying an iPod! Want to know just how STUPID you really are? Commere, lemme show ya."

Thatis the message the nice folks at Napster are pitching to iPod and potential iPod owners with their iDo The Mathi ad campaign. Basically they are saying that youire stupid to buy or to think about buying an iPod, then download music at 99 cents a pop when you could pay $15 a month for all the music you can eat.

Of course, they donit tell you, unless you do some digging, that you never actually own anything with their subscription service, even if the music is on your Napster To Go compatible music player. If you want to own the music, so that you can play it anywhere you want, you have to pay the additional cost for the song or album.

So, in essence, subscribing to Napster is akin to subscribing to one of the satellite music service, like XM or Sirius, except that you pick what you listen to instead of getting spontaneous programming. Some might see that spending an extra $5 a month (the difference between a service like XM and Napster) is worth it; it is for sure that subscription services have their fans. But is it istupidi to not want to subscribe?

In a word, no, but I will refrain from making allusions to the perceived intelligence of those who came up with the Napster campaign. You catch more ants with sugar than salt, my grandma use to say. She use to also say that honesty was always best. My grandma didnit originate those witticisms, they are widely known in one form or another, yet the folks at Napster do apparently not know them.

Napster?s iDo the Mathi campaign never accounts for the fact that many of us stupid iPod owners already have stacks of CDs that we rip into our Macs or PCs and play on our iPod, nor does it account for the notion that we may want to use a song as background to a slide show or movie; if we subscribe then we can?t use the song in that way unless we buy it first. And, if we subscribe is it really OUR music? Sure, we get to play with it, move it around, and listen to it as long as we pay our $15, but what if I get tired of paying? All of my playlists, are null and void, useless because the music in them was never mine to begin with.

I don?t know about you, but I still buy CDs, even though I download music from Apple?s iTunes Music Store. I buy them because I like the physical aspect of CDs, I like listening to the whole album as the musicians intended it, and I know I can do whatever the heck I want to with the music.

iPod plus iTunes Music Store is definitely a case where 1 + 1 is far more than 2.

Yet, I will admit that there?s one advantage subscription services have over the iPod/iTunes combo; they make it really easy to discover new music.

If I have to fault the iTunes Music Store for anything it is its silly 30 second song previews. Music is not some dollop of an edible concoction that is offered up on tiny plates in a supermarket by some hairnetted grandma; music must be enjoyed like you would a fine meal at a fine restaurant, or all 7 courses if you?re into albums like I am.

While Napster?s subscription model makes it easier to find new music because you get to listen to the whole song or album, it isn?t necessarily the best way. Finding new music is an exercise in discovery, and discovery is best when you are surprised by what you find. Regular radio use to be the best way to discover new music, but nowadays broadcast radio is weighed down by men and women with verbal diarrhea, and commercials that insult your intelligence. I don?t want to wade through inane commentary and screaming ads to listen to a song that I might like.

A better alternative is satellite radio, like Sirius or XM. I pay my monthly subscription bill and I get surprised by music in the genre I want, wherever I want. AND NO COMMERCIALS! Now that?s cool.

The only thing cooler would be to have my iPod play satellite radio, and have button that lets my iPod remember the song title and artist that just played. The next time I dock my iPod it will download the saved info into iTunes. ITunes would then automagically find all the songs and ask me if I want to buy them, allowing me to pick and choose which I want to pay 99 cents for.

Now THAT?s cool!

I read that some believe that Apple and a satellite radio service are in talks to do something similar to what I?ve proposed. If they do then Napster may as well close shop and call it a day, because satellite radio + iPod is a killer combination.

In the end, no matter how you dice it; it?s about my music, stupid!

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