Apple Responds To Kooper

Al’s email is full of inaccuracies and misinformation. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, i’ll assume he doesn’t know any better as opposed to being a grumpy old man. Well, maybe it’s a bit of both.

1. iTunes is a store. It has never pretended to be anything else. The store never offered "universal" unprotected mp3s, the file format has always been 128K protected AAC. And you can play your music anywhere when you buy it from iTunes. You can play it on your computer, you can play it in your iPod, you can burn it onto a cd and play it on your home stereo or transfer it to your Gigabeat or Creative Zen or Samsung player or, presumably, your Zune. We’re not stopping you. Sure it’s an extra step, just like you need to go through an extra step to transfer the cd you paid 18.98 for onto your computer and then onto your digital player. Unless it’s a dual disc or some other format that won’t play on your computer in your car stereo. Then you paid nearly $20 to be tied to your home stereo.

2. New release day is Tuesday at iTunes. We turn the store at midnight eastern every Monday night. All the new releases delivered by the labels are up at that time except for the very few where there are problems with the delivery, which is usually on the label end, sometimes on ours, but we try to correct those delivery errors as soon as possible. By 2 or 3am eastern all the new releases and new catalog titles are available for purchase. If the labels send an album with a release date that is earlier than a Tuesday, the album goes live that day, we just don’t change the store front until Monday midnight, but you can search for it and it will be there. Note that the store is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, unlike nearly all physical stores.

The shutting down of the store yesterday was the first time the store has been closed for any period of time. It was down for six hours for renovations. It’s not as if a switch gets flicked and all the new content, design, and backend programming suddenly appear. It is much more complicated than that, as I’m sure Al understands but pretends not to, which is why we are happy to turn the store in the middle of the night every week so the content is all in place for Al who must have his new releases Tuesday at 8am.

We treat our customers with great care. The people who program the content on the store each week love music. They handpick everything that is up there. Labels cannot buy placement on the store or "front rack" placement. You’ll see indie priorities featured up along side the major label releases. And often releases will be featured that are not label priorities but are things that we feel will be of interest to music lovers. People just like Al but perhaps less grumpy.

The store was slow coming up yesterday after Steve’s presentation. But this was the biggest upgrade we have ever done and it was done in the middle of the day, immediately after a Steve presentation, with everyone watching. Most of the store worked great. Parts of it, especially some of the new content, was a slow in coming back online. But that is not a reflection on how we feel about our customers. We are very proud of the new store and wish it had come up instantly and everything was there just like we had planned. It was close, but not perfect. Al, I personally am sorry that we had to close to store for a few hours and that the upgrade did not go absolutely perfect. Really, I am. Please accept my apologies. Just know that close to 200 people have worked endless days and nights for weeks and months to make this possible and to improve the iTunes service so it can be the best paid download store and we all wanted it to work perfectly from the first second it was on. If you can cut us a little slack, just a little, we have been working on it non-stop since the end of the presentation yesterday and will make everything just right.

3. You can get info on a track when you buy it from iTunes, it just depends on how much metadata has been supplied. And just to be clear, I don’t believe Al can walk into a Tower, Virgin, Best Buy, or Borders and buy the individual tracks that he wants to begin with. I believe he’ll have to buy the entire album for whatever the full price may be. And even then, that album may or may not have liner notes. It may or may not tell you who the members of the group are or the backing musicians or who the artists wish to thank. I also don’t believe that Al can walk into a store and get a CD booklet if he doesn’t buy the entire album. Last I checked I cannot walk into a Best Buy, purchase two tracks off an album to see if I will like the rest of it and get the CD booklet to go with those two tracks. That would be great though, wouldn’t it?

4. It’s good that Al is seeing into the future and is upset about what he thinks iTunes will do with prices when at the same time he complains that he can’t talk to anyone at iTunes. I think it’s been proven that guessing what Apple will do, even for those who work there, is a fool’s game. If he would prefer that Apple stop working to update the iPods so that his previous generation iPod is not the latest and the greatest, well, I don’t think that will happen at Apple. I still have a second generation iPod that works great. I gave it to a friend who did not have an iPod because I am a gadget geek and have an inexplicable need to have the newest model of technology that I love. The second generation iPod still can’t play videos, but then that’s not what I bought it for and my friend doesn’t care. It is not obsolete, just as my 23" cathode ray tube television (which I also gave to a friend because I had to get a new flat screen) is not obsolete. It still works but technology has advanced. That’s what happens with technology.

Also, I don’t know if Al saw it or not, but there is now a Support link right on the front page of iTunes. It will take you to the iTunes support page on the Apple website, where the iPod support page is also just a click away. And if anyone needs more support or personal support, there is a form on the bottom of every support page that will get read and answered by a real person.

I’m sorry that we disappoint you, Al. I wish we could be everything to everyone. I even wish we could make Bob happy once in awhile. But in the big picture, we have the best legal download service and will continue to work to make it even better.

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  1. […] weighed in at The Lefsetz Letter on the sorry state of affairs at the iTunes Music Store. Apple duly responded to Kooper’s complaints about form […]

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