Owning music is impermanent

Anil lost his iTunes data. Not the song files, just the metadata that makes iTunes such a personally gratifying joy to use. So he’s faced with basically inheriting music that might as well belong to somebody else.

That’s a crushing blow for sure. It’s crazy how comfortable the playlist gets when you’ve got that metadata built up — like a comfortable pair of boots. A new pair will never feel the same way, no matter what.

The idea of “owning our music” is a dubious one. Who really owns it anyway? A while ago, Napster started promoting the idea “own nothing – listen to everything” for its all-you-can-eat subscription plan. I can’t imagine our ownership society will go for that very quickly, but it’s a peaceful idea to be sure – to let the music go and just experience what you can, when you can.

It’s unbelievable how personal humans’ experience with music is, for just about everyone. I was talking with Jeri earlier tonight about the iPod experience and music libraries, and the way it’ so hard to share a playlist with someone else. The exact combination of styles, artists and songs in your library is as unique as a fingerprint.

You might have Alison Krauss next to AC/DC, and that’s just fine. Maybe a million other people do, too. But it’s the other 500 artists in your iTunes library that individually create the “fingerprint” of your musical taste. It’s no wonder that Amazon and iTunes find our personal selections so helpful in targeting ads to us.

I really enjoy surfing other people’s music collections when I’m on a network with other people’s shared libraries. But it never feels like the right set of music. It makes me wonder at the apparent attraction of checking out (and even purchasing) celebrity playlists. Who cares what Paris Hilton is listening to? Her taste is going to be like a set of fingerprints that don’t fit me.

All this just supports the brilliantly personal iPod + iTunes experience. They allow you to live and breathe your music in your own headphones, wherever you are.

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3 responses to “Owning music is impermanent

  1. If it’s my music, how come it’s so hard to play on my stereo from my iTunes using anything other than the apple extender? Or on my cell phone (little organge guy included?) 🙂

  2. laughinggiant

    That’s a great point. Other than using an audio line out from my computer to my stereo (and controlling with iTunes) it’s not easy at all. Here’s my best answer: the technology companies making the hardware and software have had to build in a lot of DRM provisions in order to get access to the record label catalogs. It’s arguably not as easy as when everyone could get everything on Napster and burn whatever they want. But it’s the trade off they made (and that we are living with).

    I still don’t think we really own the music. It’s an illusion of ownership, now more than ever during the age of CDs, tapes and vinyl. We pay 99 cents per song to have access to it as long as we play by the DRM rules. But that’s a lot of cash going somewhere.

  3. Pingback: laughing giant

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