Today was the big launch of the iTunes Music Store in the UK, France and Germany (though strangely not the rest of Europe – that comes in October).
I haven’t had much of a chance to play around with it, but I’m impressed with what I have seen so far – certainly moreso than other services. Here’s why:
All songs are 79p each, which is cheaper than Napster (99p, although you can download as many as you like for £9.99/month) and the same price as the cheapest songs on OD2 (but most are 99p). So, it does well on price. It’s still more expensive than the US store, where the songs are 99 cents (99p is $1.44) but for once Apple is actually cheaper than its rivals. Furthermore, albums are typically priced at £7.99, which is cheaper than they would typically cost on CD from a shop. All major cards are accepted, including Switch and Solo which is the main reason why I don’t use OD2.
Allegedly contains 700,000 songs, putting it at the same size as its rivals. It has deals with all of the big labels but according to the Guardian article it was unable to negotiate deals with many independent labels, so many of the artists on Wippit are not in iTMS. Let’s hope they arrive in future.
While the songs are DRM-protected, Apple is quite liberal in what it allows you to do with the files. You can put them on your iPod (although the iPod is the only device supported) and burn them, and Steve Jobs made a point about Napster’s £9.99/month subscription, saying that if you cancelled it, your files would become unplayable – iTMS has no subscription model so as long as you keep your licenses backed up you can play the files for as long as you like.
It’s also the only store where all of the files will play back on a Mac as well as in Windows. Wippit is the only other service that offers Mac-compatible files, and that only includes selected songs which are available as MP3s and opposed to WMAs.
As you know, iTMS integrates into iTunes, which quite a lot of people have already downloaded. Certainly, everyone who owns an iPod will have it, along with many who don’t but who like to have a classy jukebox program, so there’s an instant audience. The store is fast and easy to use too.
Finally, AOL Europe intends to link their AOL Music channel into the iTMS, like in the US, and will allow users to buy music under their AOL screennames (from this Register article). No news yet of a tie-in with Pepsi yet though.
This is all old news for Americans, but surprisingly, even though Apple is quite late to the market, this store is the best I’ve seen so far. You’d have thought by now that its opponents would have taken a hint…