I love my Itunes (notice how possessive I am)! It's the only way I purchase music. The interface has some pretty good features. It allows me to play my library of song in "Party Shuffle" mode which randomizes the songs in my library and plays them back with typical overlap that radio stations usually do in their back to back style. I like other features and am frustrated with others.
One frustration is how my choice of songs is limited to those which have been given permission to be sold by the artist/record company. I have, as those who know me well, an eclectic taste in music. This diversity in taste often leaves me frustrated when I am not able to pay for the music that I really want to listen to. And claiming that my tastes are eclectic is not intended to be an arrogant position in anyway. There are many who could claim a far more eclectic musical palate than mine. I do not aspire to be more eclectic – or less for that matter. However, there are many who would readily agree that for as much as my taste might be eclectic in some way, it is just plain poor taste. To those of you who feel that way, let me remind you that I have rarely if ever criticized your narrower scope in musical selection as a negative quality. And I can hear the voices lining up who would seek to tether me to a fondness of 80's music, for instance. This is nothing more than a thinly disguised attempt to justify their own narrow musical selections with the suggestion that I have in essence narrowed my own and falsely labelled myself as open. This is petty and frankly unsettling since it reflects the prevailing cultural tendency toward musical homogeneity – a puzzling site of power indeed. But this one portal or access point (Itunes) that I use to engage with recorded music serves me well most of the time but rather poorly when the borderlands of my musical palate find penchant to be explored. So it is that I have been limited-controlled if you will. But clearly it is my choice to use this interface. So some would say I am limited by limiting myself. Is this really the case?
In order to understand this better we are drawn inevitably to my selection of Itunes as the vehicle to access the music I want to listen to and find important. There are indeed a plethora of other options that could allow me access to music – some could conceivably allow me more access to those pieces of music that Itunes does not allow. I could purchase CD's, attend concerts, listen to certain radio stations (on Satellite radio let's say). Each of these options, as I hope is obvious; themselves exercise a limiting or controlling effect on my access to music. I could also choose to download my music through 'free' file sharing sites which arguably might not be restricted to the limitations of the corporate agenda imposed by Apple. Not only is this option a contravention of the social and legal parameters that exist in our society but this option clearly makes my musical choice limited to the condition that someone else out there must have been willing to share the very same piece of music I want to listen to. Again this reinforces that problematic notion of homogeneity in music selection. In essence then the choice of Itunes must be seen as presenting a complexity of problematic aspects that, while not being similar, can be just as problematic.
Now we return to investigate the premise presented above: some would say I am limited by limiting myself. We can observe then that when it comes to accessing music in general and specifically the music I want to listen to and especially not just the music they want me to listen to, there is no other choice than to be limited and limiting. In other words, anyway you look at it I am controlled into controlling myself with the controlling apparatus with which I access music. I can to a measure control which control I will allow to control me but in the end I am still controlled. But this is not nearly as neat and tidy as it seems when I write it as it is above. There are many forces which confound this apparatus, none of which I suspect most of you are interested in wading through if in fact you have made it this far. Save to say that this apparatus (Itunes) is itself under some sort of control under which I would also then inevitably fall.
A few interesting questions can then arise out of these proposals. Am I listening to the music I really want to hear? Can I really know if music exists that I want to hear but cannot listen to? Can artists actually exist that are not somehow tainted by the homogenizing reality of our present (musical) culture? What kind of music is being overlooked, forgotten, or suppressed? And the most important one of all: With the drop in oil commodities will the per song cost of $0.99 be reduced?