The Biggest Cause of Music Piracy – the Apple iPod and “Mass Storage” MP3 Players

“Home taping isn’t killing music, music’s dying of natural causes,” sings Mitch Benn, and he’d be right. But posts about the quality of music from The Men are for another tim. I see that under the fair and just and right American legal system and the recent Grokster case that advertising (or even creating) devices that encourage people to break copyright are verboten. Step forward the biggest culprit of our times, the Apple iPod.

Recent research indicates that the average iPod user purchases a huge amount of music through the one online store that is available to iPod users (iTunes Music Service, ITMS) is seven. That’s a good number of factors away frm hte advertised 15,000 tunes that the 60gb unit can handle, or even the 5,000 that the 20gb unit will hold. So where are people getting all these tunes?

Let’s be generous and suggest they’re pre-existing CD collection. Let’s be even more generous and say that the average CD has 15 tracks on it – apart from the fact it’s a nice number to work with I have to assume everyone has 94 track opus of “The Eagles Greatest Hits” to offset the teenage boy bands with 5 tracks on the CD, so this should average it out. That means for the 60gb iPod, you would need to have 990+ CD’s to fill the unit. Average number of CD’s in a household… around 50. That’s a big discrepancy.

OKay now lets look at a bit of a music nut… me. Number of CD’s in my collection? Around 150. Number of albums stored on my PC? Well it reports as 287, but a lot of them are single songs that I’ve auditioned/played on The Podcast Networks TPN Rock Show, so to be fair let’s have a bit of windage and rounding error and say 250 CD’s. That’s a disparity of 200 CD’s between my physical collection and the PC, and an order of magnitude (and then some) on the capacity of the iPod. So how do I make up the numbers? Go figure…

…and then try and figure out (if I were to have my own iPod) if Apple have induced me in any way to build up my music collection to make full use of their device.

The way forward, frankly, isn’t the ITMS model of buying single tracks. It’s a subscription all you can eat service like Napster mk2, Yahoo’s My Music, and so on. And blow me if that’s not the Windows Media “Plays for Sure” route where the actual hardware is reduced to a commodity (much as the PC white box is) and the key is in the PC software you use to sync, and the software in both the playback devices and the server end. The software thats slowly being pushed by Microsoft. Apple to go the way of the minidisc in the mainstream? Not quite yet, but that will happen.

That is, of course, the way forward for “The Man,” I’m pretty sure that there are other routes for indie bands with the power of the internet, which I’m sure I’ll talk about in another post. But the mainstream is going to go the Napster mk 2 way.