The problem with iTunes is that in the world of increasing bandwidth and wifi everywhere, nobody wants to have a limited selection of music to choose from — better to have the entire library of music available online all the time.
Let’s think about music media history for a moment. First there were LPs, then there were cassettes, then there were CDs, then there were compressed audio files such as mp3s.
But it seems clear that now a new generation of technology is upon us. The entire notion of personal music collections is being overturned by the internet revolution: why keep around a copy of what I can access instantly anywhere all the time? Why bother downloading and carrying around some small number of songs I can squeeze onto a flash drive, when in fact, pretty soon I can just stream pretty much any music I want off my mobile device connected to wifi or a 3G network?
Steve Jobs and Apple are stuck on the Napster-era business model of download-a-song. But that time is gone. Apple makes its money selling really cool looking hardware and software, not media.
Google Music is set to launch later this year, and you can bet that it will feature a seemingly infinite library of music at your fingertips for nothing. Sites like Grooveshark and LyricsG are already doing just that. Pandora is similar, although they don’t allow you to play a particular song on demand. Rhapsody is in the business of offering the celestial jukebox on the road (via mobile apps) and at home for small monthly fees.
If Apple wants stay alive in the coming media revolution, it needs to rethink the download-a-song mentality of the late 1990s. I think everyone can remember what a revolution it was to simply download songs you would have otherwise had to buy in a record store. But extending this further, downloading individual songs you might want to listen to in the future is just about as backwards today as going to the record store was ten years ago. I know that whenever I want to listen to a particular song, I can just get it off the internet at that moment — I don’t need to squirrel away a collection of songs for future use, I’ll just make sure I’m plugged-in to the net everywhere.
In the meantime, you will be well-served by surfing onto LyricsG and Grooveshark. At LyricsG, you will find song meanings, lyrics, YouTube music videos, and a ton of music that you can play for free with little advertising clutter and a great lyrics search engine. Grooveshark offers a large collection of streamable music on a nicely designed Flash-powered website which you can stored your playlists in.