Saturday, May 22, 2004

iTunes wish list

I wrote a few weeks ago about my lack of enthusiasm for having a bunch of credits for iTunes songs thanks to Pepsi. I just don't see tremendous value in what is available on iTunes. I'm not a "singles" kind of guy, and if I like a band enough to pay for their stuff, I'd still rather buy a physical CD.

But now Apple is looking to use iTunes as a platform to distribute out of print music.

Good move, Mr. Jobs.

Just think how much music has been produced over the years that is simply not available today. Stuff that was originally put out on LP that wasn't popular enough to get re-released on CD ... things that had very limited runs that you'd only find in used-record stores now ... leftover cuts from once-popular albums that have never seen the light of day ... alternate takes/demos/goofs (think R.E.M.'s Dead Letter Office) that fans of a given band would love to buy, but have no broad commercial market ... and so forth.

The financial risk involved in pressing, packaging, distributing and retailing a CD means that only material which record companies think will be popular enough to recoup all of those physical-product costs and turn a profit are ever released.

Take, for example, the new Deluxe Edition of Weezer's first album. The "deluxe" part is a second disc of demos, rare tracks, alternate cuts, etc. I bought it a few weeks ago and discovered that it's part of a series of similar "deluxe" re-issues from acts like The Who and Jimi Hendrix. Good stuff, but you won't see such re-issues for acts with more marginal appeal than Weezer (I have to figure theirs is a borderline profitable re-issue).

But cut the costs down to the $6 an hour you'll have to pay an intern to hunt down some masters, cut them over to digital and e-mail them to iTunes, and the financials suddenly start working in the favor of a track that might only sell 5,000 copies.

So this excites me.

Let me offer Mr. Jobs and the iTunes gang a few suggestions for out-of-print and rare stuff to go track down and offer up at iTunes. This, of course, is my own personal wish list. I welcome your wishes as well.

The Accelerators - Leave My Heart (album). These are The Accelerators from North Carolina, not the ones from Scotland. Leave My Heart is a fabulous record (produced by Don Dixon) full of songs about teenage girls, lesbians, inter-racial relationships, threesomes and more. I don't think it was ever put on CD. I have a cassette copy of it that I made in about 1984 from the LP that one of our gang had bought.

• Studio outtakes from The Replacements' Twin/Tone records - Legend says the boys broke in to the Twin/Tone offices one night, stole all of their early masters and tossed them in the Mississippi River. But I've got too many bootlegs that feature outtakes from Sorry Ma' to believe this. If Twin/Tone put 1,000 alternate cuts, outtakes, f*ckups, etc. from Sorry Ma', Let it Be and Hootenany for sale at 99 cents apiece, I'd buy every one of them.

• City compliations - How cool would it be to round up the homemade singles put out by bands back in the days before the "indie" revolution and organize them into cities and eras? I'd love to pick up tracks from all the Baton Rouge bands of the early/mid 80s, and it would be cool do sample what was going on in Chapel Hill, Seattle, Athens, Austin, etc. that never really broke out.

• "Deluxe" versions - In the mold of the aforementioned Weezer re-issue, I want a full disc's worth of alternate tracks, outtakes, demos and bonus material from the following: London Calling, My Aim Is True, Murmur, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, Texas Flood, Ramones, and I'm sure a lot more if I thought about it.

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