Friday, June 12, 2009

Thoughts on iTunes' User Interface Problems

Consider the record store.

Not today's record store. Jump back 20, 25 years. When I was high school age, at the center of the record-buying demographic.

There's about four choices then. No, five.
  • The Record Section in K-Mart or the Equivalent - About four racks at best
  • The Mall Record Store - Better selection. If it was popular, there was a good chance for you to find it. If not? Well, I special ordered Allan Holdsworth's Metal Fatigue. I saved up my money for it before I ordered it. Got a postcard later, saying it was unavailable. So I bought something else. Then I looked in the Jazz section and found it, after I had spent my money.
  • The Cool Record Store - Cool record stores didn't exist in every town. The place I had my Mall Record Store experience was in Goldsboro, North Carolina. The nearest Cool Record Store, the place I got the first Suicidal Tendencies album, was in Raleigh, about an hour drive away. I had to beg my parents to take me when we were there for another reason. And once you were there ... well, watch High Fidelity. Many more Jack Blacks than Todd Louisos in those places. And, for another point, those were pre-Soundscan days. Those were the guys who would say they're selling the "cool" stuff rather than what they were really selling. For example, they notoriously underreported Country. Garth Brooks came out right after Soundscan. He probably wouldn't have been nearly as big if the contrast wasn't as big.
  • Mail Order - That works when you know about it. I got Program: Annihilator via mail order, on cassette. But if you don't know about the band, about the label, how do you know where to order? You had to send a dollar to even get the catalog in the first place.
  • The Columbia Record Club - 10 CDs for 1 cent or so, but a) you had to get some later at a higher price, and b) they're all Columbia. Columbia was a cool label — DYLAN and MILES were on Columbia — but not everything cool was on Columbia and not everything on Columbia was cool.
This is how it was at the height of the Rock era, when the labels were where it's at. Tell me how iTunes isn't vastly superior to this.

5 comments:

Pribek said...

Vastly superior?...OK Dave-I get your point but, it's because I feel I sort of know you through the ether.

You aren't the typical consumer.

The typical consumer takes it for free.

How/why is file-sharing vastly inferior to the antique paradigm?

Embrace the mouth that bites your hand seems to be the common wisdom.

Dave Jacoby said...

You get me. Comparatively, we live in a golden age for finding and getting music, even if we don't accept it and romanticize the old ways.

And I get you. We know that for any album I could want, going to Google and typing, for example, 'site:blogspot.com "fleetwood mac" "rumours"' we can find it for free. Somehow, someone wants an iTunes or Amazon or whatever UI that makes $1/song or $10/album better than free.

Had a talk with a friend this week. He mentioned some albums that he used to have on album until his now-grown child wrecked 'em. I forget what they were — he mentioned Nantucket Sleighride but that is out on CD — but he's torn between them not being currently available in legal ways and being very available in illegal ways.

Pribek said...

It does my heart good to see the continuing success of iTunes. It not only reflects the convenience and usability, it also reflects some amount of consumer responsibility in that some go there to support the musician rather than take it for free. No telling how much of that goes on.

The data isn't a viable commodity and the result is a new age of patronage. Problem with patronage is the key to success is tied to how much one patronizes and that disrupts the form an evolution thereof.

Sammy said...

Based on all of your other posts, I'm still focused on the fact you bought an ST album way back. That, my friend, is awesome!

Dave Jacoby said...

Does it seem that unlikely?

I'll probably just get hit by a car anyway....