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May 10, 2005 3:36 AM   Subscribe

Did Frank Zappa invent the iTunes music store?
from zappa.com:
"Every major record company has vaults full of (and perpetual rights to) great recording by major artists in many categories which might still provide enjoyment to music consumers if they were made available in the right way. MUSIC CONSUMERS LIKE TO CONSUME MUSIC . . . NOT PIECES OF VINYL WRAPPED IN PIECES OF CARDBOARD."
posted by Silky Slim (29 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
And you know people just laughed at him. That Zappa...
posted by ancientgower at 3:48 AM on May 10, 2005


Years ago when record companies first started "thinking ahead" about downloadable music the assumption was that this was the way to make all of the limited appeal titles sitting in the vaults available to the public again. I remember hearing that hit music would NEVER be available online since that would interfere with record stores. Downloadable music (with artwork) was thought to become the haven of the obsessive record geeks that write letters to labels complaining about certain titles being out-of-print.

I'm still waiting for the unavailable stuff to see the light of day again. I want my Durocs, Thought, Trees, Danny and Dusty, Get Smart, Peter Ivers, etc etc on CD!
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 4:41 AM on May 10, 2005


Nothing new under the sun: In the days of 78 rpm discs, and I think right up until the 1950s in the UK, some record companies would press up a few copies of anything in their archives for personal use on request, at a very reasonable cost. It was like a (very hard and brittle) hard-software iTunes, and I'd guess Zappa was aware of it.
posted by shetlandic at 4:52 AM on May 10, 2005


The subscription model suggests he invented eMusic.com in its earlier iteration, which actually predeced iTunes music store.
posted by bugmuncher at 5:10 AM on May 10, 2005


No Zappa on iTunes so I suspect the answer to your question is no.
posted by effwerd at 5:14 AM on May 10, 2005


I forgot about that. That's a great link. Thanks.
posted by shmegegge at 5:14 AM on May 10, 2005


in the link zappa proposed "to acquire the rights to digitally duplicate and store THE BEST of every record company's difficult-to-move Quality Catalog Items [Q.C.I.], store them in a central processing location, and have them accessible by phone or cable TV, directly patchable into the user's home taping appliances, with the option of direct digital-to-digital transfer to F-1 (SONY consumer level digital tape encoder), Beta Hi-Fi, or ordinary analog cassette (requiring the installation of a rentable D-A converter in the phone itself . . . the main chip is about $12).

but frank was also a practical man who understood that artists - like himself - needed to get paid.

All accounting for royalty payments, billing to the customer, etc. would be automatic, built into the initial software for the system.

zappa was a visionary, but he obviously did not anticipate the introduction of the internet that would allow "customers" to bypass these financial controls.

the innovation introduced by iTunes was to make zappa's vision a practical reality by compromising portability to ensure that consumers pay for what they download.

as zappa observed:

Art is making something out of nothing and selling it.
posted by three blind mice at 5:45 AM on May 10, 2005


MUSIC CONSUMERS LIKE TO CONSUME MUSIC . . . NOT PIECES OF VINYL WRAPPED IN PIECES OF CARDBOARD.

I love ya, Frank, but a lot of us like the pieces of vinyl wrapped in cardboard, too. Sounds like he's never been to a record fair.
posted by jonmc at 6:44 AM on May 10, 2005


I suspect he's saying that's not really music consumerism, as much as music fetishism. As a music fetishist, I tend to agree.
posted by aaronetc at 6:54 AM on May 10, 2005


Zap was probably speaking generally...record fairs are all well and good, but to the vast majority of consumers these days, records have been consigned to the same dump as cassettes, 8-tracks and wax cylinders.

/ not me, though
posted by The Dryyyyy Cracker at 7:02 AM on May 10, 2005


i remember reading this in dead tree format in Zappa's autobiography (written with Occhiogrosso) & thinking that it was brilliant. Sam Goody stores at one time played with a point-of-purchase model of this; you picked your tunes & out spit a cd with some art work & all royalties paid. Cost more than a standard cd though, and different record cos. wanted more royalties for more popular artists.

eMusic (as said earlier) beat iTunes to the market and is more attuned to Zappa's model. You can get a lot of obscure material there. iTunes is a great player but a shitty source of QCI
posted by beelzbubba at 7:08 AM on May 10, 2005


I prefer the vinyl wrapped in cardboard.

Music is and never has been solely about the music and iTunes is as much about the iPod as it is about music.
posted by lacus at 7:24 AM on May 10, 2005


Sam Goody stores at one time played with a point-of-purchase model of this; you picked your tunes & out spit a cd with some art work & all royalties paid.

Are you thinking of Personics? I have a tape from that service that I got at Tower Records. They went under in record time IIRC.
posted by jonmc at 7:26 AM on May 10, 2005


I love ya, Frank, but a lot of us like the pieces of vinyl wrapped in cardboard, too.

Which makes you vinyl-and-cardboard consumers. You may also be music consumers, thus enjoying consuming music, but most of the latter are not the former, which was his point.
posted by soyjoy at 7:35 AM on May 10, 2005


Silky Slim, why the question’s in both of your posts? this could be posted to askme.

The subscription model suggests he invented eMusic.com in its earlier iteration, which actually predeced iTunes music store.
a visualization of the original cover art, including song lyrics, technical data, etc., could be displayed while the transmission is in progress,
People today enjoy music more than ever before, and, they like to take it with them wherever they go.

Looking at the year of this, I’m betting the popularity of the Sony Walkman cassette and cassette players being widely used then sprung his idea. Because the idea’s sale is having a larger access to record specific songs from so your musical tastes could travel "wherever you go."
posted by thomcatspike at 7:41 AM on May 10, 2005


So wait, Zappa would've been pro-DRM? Somebody call Boing Boing!
posted by fungible at 7:43 AM on May 10, 2005


I prefer the vinyl wrapped in cardboard.

i'm with lacus and jonmc on this one.

when it comes to a surface for cleaning weed, i-pods don't make it.
posted by three blind mice at 8:13 AM on May 10, 2005


when it comes to a surface for cleaning weed, i-pods don't make it.

But the shiny back of the iPod makes a nifty surface for cutting coke.
posted by lacus at 8:36 AM on May 10, 2005


So, what have we learned? Potheads like albums, cokeheads like iPods. Drunks prefer 8-tracks, since they make sturdy coasters.
posted by jonmc at 8:50 AM on May 10, 2005


good point lacus. when they start selling i-pods with a mirrored surface this will probably be the reason.
posted by three blind mice at 9:00 AM on May 10, 2005


Potheads like albums, cokeheads like iPods. Drunks prefer 8-tracks, and everyone hates compact cassettes.
posted by three blind mice at 9:02 AM on May 10, 2005


Actually, an empty cassette case is second only to an empty plastic M&Ms container for discreetly storing rolled joints...or so I've heard.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:19 AM on May 10, 2005


And coffee drinkers prefer CDs. Because of the, you know, cup holder.

This is interesting -- although obviously even eMusic.com had precedents (mainly forgotten, though I might think of one or two as soon as I hit post), beginning not all that long after the advent of the web, hardly anybody in 1983 would have thought of digital distribution of content -- let alone to mass consumers.

As for Personics, aren't there still versions of that in some record stores, but run by major labels?
posted by dhartung at 9:25 AM on May 10, 2005



Are you thinking of Personics? I have a tape from that service that I got at Tower Records. They went under in record time IIRC.
posted by jonmc


I don't think so. The output ws cd. Late-80s. There was a wall-mounted kiosk, smaller but similar to MUZE, from which the music could be selected. The limit was much smaller than today's 700mb & the output was .wav or .cda. Seems to me, it cost about $14.99 and the average "full price" cd was $12.99.

I know it wasn't at our local-deceased-Tower, it was at some mall store I would never have bought anything from anyway. The selection was pathetic & I thought then about the clean-ness of Zappa's model (having just read it around the same time). But I also thought, oh yeah, like they'll ever get phone line quality up to digital standards. Hah!
posted by beelzbubba at 10:57 AM on May 10, 2005


I'm guessing it'll be a while before the really obscure stuff is available via iTMS or similar. The lawyer & admin $$$ required to negotiate the digital distribution rights post-hoc would, in many cases, exceed the amount you'd make from selling it...
posted by lbergstr at 10:58 AM on May 10, 2005


The subscription model suggests he invented eMusic.com in its earlier iteration, which actually preceded iTunes music store.

Funny - Zappa's entire catalogue seems to be available at eMusic. DRM-free even....
posted by squalor at 11:33 AM on May 10, 2005


Silky Slim, why the question’s in both of your posts? this could be posted to askme.

i think that's called a "Rhetorical Question". i could be wrong.

notice zappa talks about consumers making tapes of the incoming music to take with them wherever they go. it's remarkably similar to itunes customers burning their own cd of music they've purchased: the resulting cd is drm-free and can be taken anywhere in a cheap, portable disc player, much like a 1983-era walkman. unlike a cassette, it can also be copied further with no loss in quality.
posted by Silky Slim at 1:25 PM on May 10, 2005


MUSIC CONSUMERS LIKE TO CONSUME MUSIC . . . NOT PIECES OF VINYL WRAPPED IN PIECES OF CARDBOARD.

Zapp is right on. This statement is a variation of the one you hear in every Marketing 101 course, "People buy don't buy drill bits because they want drill bits; people buy drill bits because they want holes."

In other words, never confuse the result the consumer wants with the particular means the consumer uses to achieve that result.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:06 PM on May 10, 2005


It's curious and frustrating to realize that iTunes doesn't even come close to being such a system. Vast swaths of music remain locked up indefinitely in record label vaults, released to the public in fits and dribbles of those antiquated units called "albums." Just imagine how glorious it would be to have full access to the Abbey Road vaults....
posted by kjh at 5:16 PM on May 10, 2005


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