Thursday, September 02, 2004

THE GATESKEEPER'S OFFERING: Honk, honk, here comes Mr. Toad, as Bill Gates Online Music store opens, albeit in Beta form at the moment. The editorial suggests that they've just got some guys from coding to write about music - like this, where they explain what they think is "alternative":

The label "alternative" has come to be the trash compactor of sorts for music that's hard to pigeonhole into a specific genre. It melds an exhaustive list of styles: rock, country, pop, punk, metal, electronica, R&B, rap, hip-hop and even spoken word. Lyrics go from introspective and emotional (Aimee Mann) to immature and catty (blink-182); artists range from pin-up worthy (John Mayer) to, well, alternative (Good Charlotte); the music ranges from soft and lilting (Death Cab for Cutie) to hard and loud (The Deftones). Perhaps this is the draw of alternative music -- a little bit of everything, usually underscored by guitars and steady drums and basslines. Whether you want to drown in melodic pop or pound out your sorrows to some '80s metal, there's a band or artist ready to help.

Basically, in other words, they've just wedged everything they couldn't think of a home for into alternative, but mostly it seems to be "whiney teen music" - the front page teaser for the "genre" suggests it's "blink-182, Hoobastank, Linkin Park"; a hole down which nobody would willingly put a face, surely?

The site is slathered in low-rent advertising, too - Atkins Diet banners keep leaping out at me - and the whole experience suggests that MSN Music is akin to the CD section of your local Asda, while iTunes would be more like HMV back in the 80s when they were a record shop. There's a sense that music is just stuff to be shifted - of course, Apple don't really care about the music, either, but at least the acknowledge that their customers do. We're surprised that Microsoft haven't tried to compete on price - presumably expecting their monopoly position to do the work for them.

In a nicely-timed spoiler move, Apple has launched an iTunes affiliate scheme at the same time.


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