I'm still a big fan of iTunes. I haven't tried Napster, Urge or eMusic as I've been perfectly happy with Apple's program ever since I downloaded it two years ago. However, an annoying new feature has come up with its latest version, 7.0. Whenever you pull up your music library, a sidebar taking up 3/4ths of the screen appears plugging the iTunes Music Store. Why is this an annoyance? Well, first and foremost, since you can't close the sidebar, you can't escape it. I believe a music library is a private collection, a spot away from the music store. So what's the need for constant advertisements and plugs?
To provide a better visual, let me describe what I see whenever I pull up a song in my iTunes library. When I listen to "This is a Fire Door Never Leave Open" by the Weakerthans, I see a graphic for Left and Leaving, the album that it comes from (and available in the iTunes Music Store), along with a list of the Weakerthans' other albums, the most downloaded Weakerthans songs and a list of what other listeners to this record bought. When I pull up a song from a release that's not available in the store (like Schatzi's "Death of the Alphabet"), the sidebar advertises the latest big releases (Keith Urban, Rod Stewart and Lloyd Banks in this case) along with most popular songs and albums ("Maneater" by Nelly Furtado and The Crane Wife by the Decemberists in this case).
So what's so bad about this? If you've ever seen Dave Chappelle's skit imagining the Internet as a real place, here's how it would go in this case. Pull out any CD from your CD collection and put it in your stereo. Whether you like or not, an advertisement for that CD, other catalog titles and popular other tracks immediately pop up and covers half of your CD player. You can't hide this advertisement, so you just kind of deal with it. How I deal with this is wondering where my privacy went.
This annoyance is about as irritating as whenever you hit up Amazon, browse its store and return to it. You were curious about a Raffi song title, but didn't have any more interest other than the name? Well, the store is convinced that you're really interested in all things Raffi and alike. When you come back to the site, there's three or four recommendations for similar items all displayed very prominently at the top of the page.
Why I bring up these complaints is that there is no sense of privacy with listening to music through these ways. While it might be helpful that someone is always recommending more music to you, this is coming from a source which is totally phantom. Plus, this phantom source is observing everything you're looking at. I know the Internet is not a private place, but is it too much to ask for some privacy when it comes to listening to music?
(UPDATE: Fellow reader Bill gave me the heads-up on the View --> Hide MiniStore option. That rocks, but my feelings on the subject of privacy remain.)