iTunes Australia - how not to launch an online music store
Australia finally has iTunes (meaning iPods can now feasibly have legal uses*): Apple - iPod + iTunes. Exciting... no, not really. Why not? Because I went and had a look at the site today at work.
I don't have iTunes at work, but I though I'd at least cruise over and have a look at the artists/tracks they've included in their grand opening. Surely they let you find out what's available before making you install software, right? Wrong, apparently.
Once I'd finally found the site (having first hit a 404 - silly me trying to use a .au domain for an Australian service) my first thought was.... hang on, I've gone back to the iPod store. Half the page seems devoted to selling you an iPod. OK, sure, it makes sense; but couldn't they have made the music the feature at least for a week?
I tried to look at their top ten, but all I got was a big empty blue box. By this stage I'm trying different browsers, but it doesn't work anywhere. The site is just busted. In Netscape you can even see the broken SSI hook,
An error occurred while processing this.....
Next thought... their search input is busted in Opera, no surprise. But it's probably functional so let's try to search for some music - this is a music store, right?
Whoops. Now I'm on a blank screen which has two buttons: "I have iTunes" and "I Do Not Have iTunes". For a moment I'm back at WE05 - do I have hay or need hay? It's the first instance of good usability! I click the button for I Do Not Have iTunes Now Just Let Me Browse Some Damn Music.
You must download iTunes! No music for you!
That's it. I'm at work - I can't keep wasting time. I thought I'd spend two minutes flicking through the list of artists. All that's happened is I'm wondering how Apple's web developers hold on to their jobs. This thing is broken on launch day!
later that day...
OK, so we dropped in at the supermarket on the way home, to discover the place is full of iTunes posters. Yikes! There are silhouette people guarding the trolleys! Apparently you can buy iTunes Cards, $20 or $50... I guess they're like prepaid mobile phone cards.
So, when we're home my fiancee decides to check out the iTunes Store (she has an iPod, so yes we have iTunes at home). All that happens is.....nothing. Eventually she clicks something which triggers iTunes. That's all the website does, apparently. Which would be fine if the site at least told you that's it's just a gateway to the iTunes software. I could have looked at work, realised the deal and saved it for later.
On the second attempt, we're finally in iTunes.
so is my life changed?
Yep, for sure, I'll never buy another CD! ......hah. At $1.69 per track, albums are no bargain. We happen to look at the range of Cure albums, which are priced from $16.99 up to about $33. What the hell? I can get the albums in stores for the same price - less, in many cases - and I'll be able to take the CD to work and listen there as well. Not to mention you'd burn through those $20 iTunes Cards pretty fast.
If it was dripping with rare music that'd be a different story. But so far it's mostly mainstream.
There are some good things. If you do like iTunes then it integrates very nicely with your player. It's easy to get around the categories and preview was quick. There's quite a lot of comedy stuff, even if it is pretty expensive for a download (you'd want a lot of laughs from a $40 download). The categories are mostly pretty good, although some are baffling - "Rock → Adult Alternative", for example. Alternative grew up, got a haircut and a real job?
One thing is really great about iTunes though: the mis-filed artists. We found Henry Rollins in Children's Fiction and DJ Shadow in Hair Metal. Now that's funny :)
Footnote: * Australia still has no "Fair Use" provisions in copyright law.