Dear Microsoft

Dear Microsoft Xbox 360 Team,

Previously I could only play MP3 and WMA format audio files on my XBox 360. This was very frustrating to me since I switched several years ago to encoding new tracks in AAC format (it gives better quality at lower bitrates than MP3). The end result was that I preferred to listen to music while sitting at my computer instead of while sitting on my couch.

Then you released the "new xbox experience" and provided an "optional media update" which added support for a host of additional audio and video formats (including AAC!). I was pleased. You didn't yet allow me to play DRM'd songs from the iTunes Music Store, but that was understandable because Apple was refusing to license Fairplay to anyone. Still, I was content.

Then Apple starting selling songs without DRM. Now, I could play these songs with your own Windows Media Player, but my Xbox would not play them. I was no longer content. It was pointed out that this may because Apple writes the headers a little differently for purchased vs. non-purchased songs. But the fact that the Xbox cannot handle this small difference is rather remarkable.

I am sure you all know how to fix this. So, please... just do it already.

Thanks,
Blake Johnson

Guitar Hero is selling songs

I bought Guitar Hero 3 for the Xbox 360 about a week ago (I know, I am a bit late getting on the bandwagon). I find it to be a rather fun rhythm game, less exhausting than DDR (a minus, I like the physical craziness of DDR), but also a less familiar experience (a plus). I am stuck on medium difficulty until I get more familiar with the game.

Something that surprised me, though, as I was browsing the iTunes music store's best sellers a couple days ago, was that many of the songs I had been playing in Guitar Hero were on the best sellers list. After a bit further investigation, I noticed that almost the entire song list of Guitar Hero 3 is on the 100 best sellers in the Rock genre of the iTMS.

Maybe I should not be surprised that Guitar Hero can revive interest in some great rock classics-- it is a popular game and it features some great music. However, it does suggest something else... the makers of Guitar Hero now have a good argument that they shouldn't have to pay to license songs for future Guitar Hero games, because having your song in their game will create a massive increase in demand for your music.

It also means that we have entered a time when video games are influencing music listening, and not in some minor way. Digital music sales have finally surpassed retail store sales, so when the top sellers on iTMS are from a video game, that indicates a big impact. It would be fun to see some real numbers on sales for these songs.

Now Music Companies Get Revenue from Devices Too?

Just read this article on the New York Times. The way these music executives talk about mp3 players really pisses me off. Check out this quote:

“It’s a major change for the industry,” said David Geffen, the entertainment mogul who more than a decade ago sold the record label that bears his name to Universal. “Each of these devices is used to store unpaid-for material. This way, on top of the material people do pay for, the record companies are getting paid on the devices storing the copied music.”

I also have only 100 songs purchased from the iTunes Music Store on my iPod, but the majority of the rest of the music is ripped from my personal CD collection. Just because I didn't download it from iTMS doesn't mean I didn't pay for it, but it seems like that is the mentality of the music industry.

Getting more out of iTunes

A neat article on using smart playlists to get more out of iTunes.

Re: The End of the Music Industry As We Know It

I had a reader comment that he thought my post regarding the potential collapse of the music industry was really just an attempt to justify illegally downloading music. Unfortunatley, I accidentally deleted the comment... but I wanted to respond.

I was not attempting to justify illegal file-sharing. Most of the songs I download are songs for which I own the cd or tape, but do not have the cd or tape with me at school. I think this type of use is justified by "fair use" rules. Otherwise, I purchase the cd in a store or from iTunes, buymusic.com, rhapsody, or another online music source.

The intent of my comments regarding file-sharing was to point out that illegal file-sharing is not what is killing the music industry. If you look at the revenue of cd sales for the entire industry in the period 1995-2003 you will notice that revenue has increased every year until cerca 2000-2001, at which point it basically holds steady.

It is not a coincidence that this leveling-off corresponds with the world-wide economic recession. Sure, these numbers might be higher without file-sharing; but the music industry does not have the evidence to even suggest that online file-sharing is the cause of their woes.

I would propose, instead, that the music industry's problem is that it produces a product which is only appealing to a tiny portion of their possible market. Essentially, the 14-25 year-old segment of the market is the only one interested in the majority of new commercial music.

The music industry is dying because it has alienated its customers. The rest of us are sick of teeny-bopper teen-idol crap. We want music with depth, and we want innovation! If the music industry does not step up to the plate and begin offering a product to those with even a slightly sophisticated palate, then the music industry as we know it may be seeing its last days.

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