Man vs. Machine: I Sign Up For iTunes

I’m just going to go ahead and say it: I’ve never used iTunes.

That’s not out of some sense of being hipper-than-the-hipper-than-thous, but…well, I dunno, I’ve never seen the point. I’ve used Windows Media Player since I started using a PC in 7th grade mostly because it works; big, clearly labeled buttons, clear library organization, user-friendly interface, doesn’t crash, rips MP3s…it does what I ask, and that’s all I need. The fact that I’ve never had an Apple computer, iPod, iPhone, iTampaxiPad, or any Apple product to suck me into the iWeb probably helps. So let’s do this.

Ok, so on iTunes’ main site and there’s a little blue “Download iTunes” bar in the corner. Alright, easy enough, let’s click and download. Also, does Apple believe in any color that isn’t Soul Crushing White, Office PowerPoint Gray #2, and black?

Yeah, yeah, download, clicky-click, install…well, this seems simple so far. Granted, all I’m asking it to do is manifest itself, but still. All installed…let’s fire it up.

Ok, let’s get to the mus–wait, what? Oh, ok, upload my library. Sure.
[five minutes later]
Still loading? Well…that’s fair. Guess I have a lot of music. Hey, look, wet paint on a wall.
[time passes]
Man, that is a good looking wall. Ok, we’re all loaded and primed to go! Well, I guess I’ll check the s–
[“Genius: gathering information about your library”]
[“Genius: sending your information to Apple”]
Er, what?
[“Genius: delivering your Genius results”]
…what the hell was that? I just want to listen to some Radiohead, not let Steve Jobs know that I have every Smashing Pumpkins album. Well, great, I guess Big Brother had to start somewhere…

Playing the Music (aka: Music Library)
Well, the music plays, that’s comforting. Playing with the view menu gives you a few redundant ways to see your music depending on if you like seeing album covers, but I can’t knock that at all. Looks like everything has a shortcut button, which reinforces something I think about Apple: Their means and methods don’t make a lick of sense until you totally immerse yourself in the iLife. And if that’s what you want, then sure, I won’t stop you.

Features: Probably what iTunes prides itself on. Lessie what we’ve got…
Ping: It’s like Twitter but with less comedy potential and more artists hawking their/other artists’ music. Meh.
Genius: Ok, so this makes a little “sounds the same” playlist within your library. I feel like there’s a comment in there about having your computer tell you what you like within your own music, but hey, whatever does it for you. I played around with this for awhile, and the playlists consistently fell in “Close enough” territory. But the Genius Recommendations in the sidebar are pretty on-target.

The Store: The pride and joy of iTunes, the online store. The first successful online music distribution system (now, as they keep telling me, with The Beatles!). The iTunes store is pretty damn expansive, and has gobs of information for anything. Reviews, the ever present “You might also like” section, iTunes created playlists…they certainly did their research. The downside is the pricing. On an album-size scale, it’s pretty fair, but on a song by song level…I can’t see paying ¬†$1.29 for the hot new single.

Burning: How the hell do I burn a CD with this? People say that iTunes is super user friendly, and as I tinker with it more and more, it is, but what gives here? I’m used to a great big button on the screen that says “burn”. Oh, wait. I’ve been informed that I have to click a little plus sign on the screen, make a playlist, and then choose to burn that playlist. Make sense in that “I need to pee, so if I build a house, I’ll have a bathroom” sort of roundabout thinking way.

Sync: Not having an iPod, I can’t say much about the sync with iTunes. And thanks to my friend Rob (appreciate it, buddy), I now know that the syncing process isn’t as one way as I had been led to assume from friends’ comments. From what he says, the process is fairly open ended…but your iPod can only sync with one computer at a time. Mixed bag, I guess.

Final Conclusion: Maybe iTunes isn’t the sign of the devil like I always joke it is, but…still, there’s something about it I just don’t like. The store is expansive, it gives you nothing but recommendations, and all the information you want, but somehow it doesn’t feel quite right. If you love iTunes, then more power to you, I’m happy for you. It’s an innovative system that fulfilled a need, and I admire how much it’s done for people and new music.

I think what it gets to is that I like putting people to music; it’s a communal experience. Chatting with store clerks while buying records, watching a friend play an original song on YouTube, reading an artist’s blog, getting an indie label’s newsletter in my email…those are all fun elements that end up leading me to new artists and the people within music. I just don’t see those people when I look at iTunes.

About bgibs122

I enjoy music and music culture; I hope you do, too.
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3 Responses to Man vs. Machine: I Sign Up For iTunes

  1. Robert says:

    For reference: The syncing is very much not like how you describe, which I don’t fault you for since you’ve never used it, but you absolutely can choose what you want – down to the song, if that suits you. You also have options for randomly uploading stuff from your playlists (and for syncing purposes, the library counts as a playlist if you want it to).

    You can also choose which media and to a much lesser degree which formats to use on your iPod. This is far cry from the ‘everything must go’ download you describe for the ‘iTune to iPod’ interaction.

    HOWEVER: That being said, the real downer is that iPod’s must now be sync’d with only one computer at a time (has been true for a while). There are very easy ways around this, but they aren’t technically in the purview of iTunes, so that very much should count against the software. Basically, unless you’re connecting your iPod to your sync’d computer, you can ONLY charge it or erase it and reformat it to sync it with the new machine.

    Other things: You can turn off Ping and Genius. I keep Genius as a ‘iPandora,’ but shut off Ping because it is stupid and dumb and i dont like it okay. Also, speaking as someone from the other side, I’ve found burning on iTunes easy and accessible and I’ve always found Windows Media Player to be clunky and poorly laid out. However, I feel I should also point out that complaints about the poorly coded nature of iTunes run rampant. The main issue on Macs that I know of (and I presume Windows as well, though I’ve never checked it personally) is just how much RAM it uses and locks up while running. It’s never got in the way for me, but if you were running, for example, some Adobe products and wanted tunes in the background, iTunes is probably not the best choice.

    • bgibs122 says:

      Ah, thanks for the syncing information. I was going off of things I’d heard from people over the years, and even this past weekend. The way you describe it makes more sense, but with Apple’s underlying tendency to control (merely an observation; correct me if I’m wrong).

      As soon as I found the off-switch for Ping, I turned that sucker off and never looked back. Genius seems like a fun feature; a good alternative to just hitting “play all”. The burning thing makes sense, I’m just more used to the “You need to burn a cd, we have a button for that” vibe of WMP. iTunes’ way seems to work just as well, though. And I didn’t notice any slow-down in my computer while using iTunes, but I did notice that iTunes itself wasn’t exactly the most responsive program I’ve run. To each their own, I suppose.

      • Robert says:

        I’d say you’re spot on with the comment about Apple’s tendency for control; it’s how they reinvented and revitalized their brand, essentially. I’m not sure if one can attribute all of their success to that, a lot of it was just re-stylizing themselves after deciding that going bankrupt was a possibility they wanted to avoid. As you may or may not recall, Apple used to be like windows in that you could install the Macintosh operating system on any hardware that could support it. It was after Apple made the first iMacs that they started really buckling down on the modern control tactics, since the iMac was an all-in-one computer. This became completely official when Mac OS X came around, and (glossing over stuff here) the rest is essentially the modern Apple computer we know and discuss.

        Moral of the story: Apple likes control because they can. (For them, it seems to be a healthy thing, although whether this will always be good for the consumers…?)

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