Not satisfied by the ill-gained obscene profits resulting from the wholesale rip-off of musicians and songwriters, the corporate bullies at Apple have now come after the likes of you and me. The paltry compensation of fractions of pennies to musicians and songwriters for digitally streaming their wares is well documented. For example, it takes over a million song plays per month for an artist signed to a major label to make minimum wage ($1,260/month) in royalties.
In a most insidious form of Internet highway robbery, under the guise of one of its almost daily iOS operating system upgrades, the corporate thieves at Apple made off with most of my private music collection after breaking and entering in the dead of night. They stealthily kidnapped thousands of songs that if played back to back would fill up more than five days of continuous listening. Gone was all of the music not purchased at their store, i.e., all of my own CDs that I bought and spent hours transferring to iTunes so I can listen to them on my phone, whenever the hell I want.
But in a sadistic twist, they left the album jackets for the stolen music behind, floating like foggy, grayed out ghosts in ether-space. When you click to play one of these tunes, an error message pops up to taunt you: “Item Not Available. This item can’t be played.”
Why not? Who gave Apple the right to prevent me from playing my own music? The problem is Apple not only has a virtual monopoly on the instant download market but they control the keys to the devices that we use to play our music on. After recovering from the shock of this huge loss and repeated searches to figure out what the hell happened, I learned that Apple would return access to some of my stolen music as long as it was something included in their catalog and I selected songs one by one and agreed to only listen via connection to their version in Apple Cloudville. OK, so let’s add blackmail to the list of charges.
Why would a successful megacompany be interested in such mean-spirited petty thievery, musical kidnapping, and blackmail you ask? It’s not as if they are fencing the hot tunes in a dark alley somewhere. Actually, just as Volkswagen blatantly cheated their way around emission controls to make loads of extra profits, it all boils down to calculated corporate greed.
This artful pickpocket scheme is part of Apple’s strategy to take over and expand the lucrative content streaming business. Last year Apple bought out up-and-coming Beats Music as a direct challenge to Spodify, the leader of the music streaming industry. Apple is aggressively pushing their new service, Apple Music which allows users unlimited access to their huge library for a fee of $10/month. There are rumors that they are trying to buy-out Time Warner, which in turn owns Homebox so they’ll have an opportunity to spread the streaming market to TV as well as music.
On one level, this doesn’t seem like a such a bad deal – the ability to stream a shitload of music for a year at the cost of purchasing about 6 or 7 albums. But as vast as it is, and contrary to their claims otherwise, Apple does not offer every album ever recorded, especially older, harder to find selections. And the problem with streaming whenever you listen is having access to a reliable wifi signal. Streaming data over a broadband connection is slow, expensive, and oftentimes frustrating. And of course there are still lots of places in the world where neither wifi nor broadband signals are even available.
But what make me angriest is the sheer gall on Apple’s part to sabotage a perfectly functional operating system so that it specifically prevents you from listening to your own music and essentially forces you to fork out for streaming. If Apple wants to roll with streaming technology, that’s fine. Put out your product and the let the marketplace decide. But this is a clear case where a mega rich corporate monopoly is making decisions that enrich their coffers at the expense of individuals’ rights. Maybe it’s time to break up technology and communications monopolies too, not just the big banks. Bernie, are you listening?