Is iTunes Irrelevant?

But that’s just daily routine, the streets are cooped fiends / Whether the hoops or the booth, brothers shoot dreams / Better choose the right scheme / Cause you could think you’re cool with your nice things, but get wiped clean for ice creams when the lights beam…”  Joey Bada$$ – Daily Routine (1999)

Let me take you through my daily routine, in pretty stark contrast to Joey’s.

Every day from Monday to Friday, I wake up too early — sometime around 6:45 a.m. Thankfully, I don’t actually get rudely awoken by the buzz of an iPhone or shrill of an alarm, I actually rise in the dark mornings by natural means. Natural means is getting shaken to semi-consciousness by my dad, proceeding to being rudely awoken several times over the next 20 minutes, before I finally get out of bed. The students out there with me in the game know it’s tough.

After a quick breakfast of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, or otherwise some OJ, I get in the whip for a 25 minute mob to school. Living in LA, driving is truly a part of life that I cherish most — a car ride is a space of free time to think and listen to music (especially early mornings and late nights). Back to when I actually get in the car, I immediately turn on my phone’s bluetooth to connect my music to the sound system… and then I open the Soundcloud app to play music.

I believe this is an age where most young people realize that listening to music on the radio is an absolutely ridiculous form of in-car entertainment — in my eyes, I can’t choose what I listen to, I’m bombarded by advertisements every ten minutes (give or take), and when I change the station after an ad hits (yet again), the next station is either on an ad or playing the very song I just heard on the previous station. My one exception to the no-radio rule is listening to 89.9 KCRW, which is a sect of NPR in LA, and which broadcasts interesting news stories, breaking news, and some great music (shoutout Jason Bentley with ‘Morning Becomes Eclectic’). I also greatly enjoy Satellite Radio, but my car doesn’t have the technology; still, in a decade, when SAT replaces the radio, I bet kids tune in, as it is a viable alternative with variety and no ads (my personal favorite is the Bruce Springsteen-only channel).

So now that I’ve ruled out music from the radio, what are the other choices, how about the iTunes library?

What I’m starting to believe, at least pertaining to my habits and the tendencies of my friends, is that iTunes has lost it’s use as well, especially when considering the majority of my time listening to music is in the car. From a broad perspective, it’s been about 13 years since iTunes was created, and free online music has been around since before then. Obviously, taking the time to go on the iTunes store, buying a singular song for either $0.99 or $1.29 or a new album for over 10 bucks, downloading that song into your iTunes library, and at long last syncing it on to your phone to use in the car, is really an outdated process that requires unnecessary time, effort, and money. In the past, programs such as Limewire, Frostbite, and Youtube–>MP3 kept the iTunes library relevant even in the presence of free online music. In today’s world, using iTunes instead of free alternatives (now embodied by Soundcloud, Spotify, Hype Machine), doesn’t make sense in the slightest.

Taking a look at Spotify, Hype Machine, or Soundcloud, you’ll find free music platforms without the need to download the music, instead enabling the user to stream songs directly to be played. Not only that, but the use of “Starred” in Spotify or “Likes” in Hype Machine and Soundcloud, along with playlist features in general, have essentially replaced the iTunes playlist. Aside from the fact that using an app like Soundcloud in the car requires data usage, I find it far preferable and more convenient to use these apps over the old man of iTunes. Adding in the use of Social Networking, which connects your own likes and playlists to your friends and a broader musically-driven audience, and finally considering the ability to post your own music without any difficulty or payment, Soundcloud to me has completely replaced iTunes in my day-to-day life.

So with that being said, I guess an interesting question is if I feel that I’ve lost anything by no longer using iTunes as my primary medium of listening to music? Yes, absolutely. It’s interesting, listening to Soundcloud is like reading the New York Times every morning: it’s up to date, it’s constantly evolving and growing, there’s always more material to choose from. In contrast, iTunes is an enormous compilation of rock and jazz dating back a half-century to present day electronic music, and it’s really the platform for established artists who are selling their albums to an audience that is willing to keep buying. I’ll admit, sometimes I fully realize that I can listen to a complete album online for free, but I’ll buy it on iTunes anyway so that I can have it there as a representation in my permanent library, and partly as a means of supporting the artist. But even with this argument in hand, Spotify has taken over as an essentially free alternative, as I can get music released under record labels even more easily than I can on iTunes (just be sure to play the next song a second before the end, I hate listening to ads).

To me, iTunes is already irrelevant, after I’ve moved on and found the world of free, online music, and even more importantly its intertwinement with social media. If it’s not irrelevant on a larger scale for everyone, give it five more years and we’ll see what happens.

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