The recent explosion in Internet song swapping presented the recording industry with a paradoxical challenge: to stop music lovers from freely trading files over the Internet, while trying to make money themselves by selling copy-protected music online. The early attempts, backed by the major record companies, featured a monthly fee, a puny song catalog, and no ability to burn the purchased music to CDs or save it onto music players. What a deal!
Needless to say, people stayed away in droves. The free (and free-form) world of Napster, Grokster, KaZaA, LimeWire, and similar file-trading services were much more attractive.
Then Apple took a whack at it. In April 2003, the company unveiled its iTunes Music Store, an online component of iTunes 4 that scored the hat trick that other companies had yet to achieve: digital audio downloads that were easy, cheap, and—drum roll, please—legal. At first, it was a Mac-only enterprise: these days, its doors are open to Windows fans, too. And it’s not just for music lovers in the United States any more, as the Store opened its doors in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom in mid–2004, with storefronts in the rest of the European Union and Canada selling songs a few months later. Here’s a look inside the store, and how to shop it.
The iTunes Music Store is a super-simple music download service that has the backing (and the song catalogs) of five big music companies, plus an increasing ...