Opinion

Published on September 11th, 2014 | by Kevin Lawson

Did Apple just kill the virtual record collection?

It seemed like such an innocuous tick box. Just a little confirmation that I agreed to be a ‘good boy’ and not use their software for anything malicious like importing illegally downloaded music or to jailbreak my iPhone, but this week I learnt my assumption about Apple’s end user agreement was wrong.

Now as someone that owns an iPhone, a Macbook and a Desktop Mac Pro it’s fair to say that I have been an evangelist for their products and services, one that would thumb his nose at my mates who were far wearier about how invasive their products can be to your privacy, until now. Every person has his or her breaking point and despite Apple tracking my movements, what I buy, search on the net and who I talk to – it seems that what I’m most unhappy about is them messing with my music library.

As I’m sure you’ve read or heard by now, on Tuesday evening apple unveiled a couple of new iPhones (I want one), the Apple Watch (which I don’t want at all) and that they would be ‘giving’ everyone with an iTunes account U2’s new album, Songs Of Innocence for free and “it’s already been placed in your library.”

What the cuss!

The second they said it I was on my feet and straight to desktop to look at my iTunes library and there low and behold, placeholder songs had been pushed into my collection, I was (and still am) seething. Not because I hate U2 (the Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby are both amazing records) or because I’m such a record nerd that I’ve spent 2000 hours nurturing my iTunes collection (I grew out of that a while ago, I promise!) but because of the invasive precedent it sets.

With the other artists that have given albums away – Radiohead, Beyonce, Prince, etc – you still had to make an active choice to engage with the music, you could completely ignore it if you wanted to. With U2 you have to either delete it (which I accept is not a great hardship) or run the risk of the music coming on next time you decide to stick iTunes on shuffle.

Given that one of the tenets of the capitalist economic system that westernised societies live in is consumer choice, this is a worrying move for iTunes. The reason why I like Apple’s music management software is that using it you create your own personal collection, you create your own little virtual record collection which you organise by whatever method you choose; album title, artist or my own personal favourite, date added. To anyone who really loves music, it’s an almost intimate and comforting virtual relationship which, much like the older physical vinyl/CD collections, you can take genuine pride in.

By plonking Songs Of Innocence into your library without your say so Apple have shattered the illusion that it was yours to begin with and have taken the first step into turning iTunes into Spotify, a place where everyones libraries are pretty much the same. Don’t get me wrong I love the music discovery possibilities that Spotify offers, but I like musical areas in which I’m the one to have curated the options.

Maybe I’m just stuck in the dark ages and my meaning relationship with my record collection has been replaced with something a little more slutty and cheap but if the ‘Songs Of Innocence’ model for the release of music to iTunes becomes the norm, it’ll be the first nail in the coffin for widespread virtual record collections.

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