Steve Jobs’ master plan to draw a generation raised on stolen music into the iTunes store
Of the 5,364 items in my iTunes music library, 143 are songs I purchased on Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes store. The vast majority were ripped from my old CD collection. A few were obtained by other means.
My children have even larger digital music collections that they store on iTunes and play on their Apple devices. I venture to guess that like most kids their age, the vast majority of their music came, directly or via friends, from pirate sites. When I offer to gift them iTunes music, they tell me thanks, but no thanks. It’s not worth the hassle.
As I understand it, the iCloud service Steve Jobs introduced Monday — especially the feature called iTunes Match — is a bid to change that dynamic.
The feature that got top billing — Apple calls it iTunes in the Cloud — will have only modest impact, at least at first, because it only works with songs purchased through iTunes. If you sign up for iCloud (and it’s free, so a lot of people will) all your songs will be downloaded automatically to all your devices — as long as those devices were made by Apple or run Microsoft (MSFT) Vista or Windows 7.
For the rest of the music in your iTunes library — in my case, roughly 5,200 songs — Apple offers iTunes Match. Here’s how Apple describes it:
That footnote after “$24.99 a year,” by the way, lists the devices iTunes Match works on and mentions a 25,000-song limit.
Here’s my question: Once Apple has replaced all the 5,000 plus non-iTunes songs in my music library with clean 256-Kbps non-DRM copies that are mine, permanently, with all the benefits of iTunes in the Cloud, why would I pay for a second year of the service? The job is done, thank you very much, I’ll take it from here.
For my kids — and all those other kids who are still building their music libraries — the question is more complicated. A one-time charge of $25 to convert up to 25,000 pirated songs to legal iTunes-plus quality copies is a no brainer. If they plan to continue stealing music, however, they’ll have to make a calculation at the end of the year. Have they collected enough new music to justify spending another $25 to bring them into the iTunes fold?
A few of them might even be tempted to buy a song or two on iTunes.
iTunes in the Cloud is available now in beta by downloading iTunes 10.3. iTunes Match is scheduled to arrive this fall.