Why iTunes Needs an “Album-Only” Enema

How the “Album-Only” restriction on iTunes is getting out of hand and ruining the experience of true music fans…and what you can do about it. I’m a huge fan of U2. I’ve listened to them since I was a sophomore in high school, when I purchased the Achtung Baby album after hearing One and Mysterious […]

How the “Album-Only” restriction on iTunes is getting out of hand and ruining the experience of true music fans…and what you can do about it.

I’m a huge fan of U2. I’ve listened to them since I was a sophomore in high school, when I purchased the Achtung Baby album after hearing One and Mysterious Ways on the radio. I love that album as much as any album in the pantheon of music. It means so much to me because it was the album that essentially got me through high school, and as corny as that sounds you know what I’m talking about.

Now I have nearly every one of their albums, with the exception of a couple early ones. (I think they hit their groove with War and have been kicking butt ever since). Anyway, I own all of their songs from that album on that have been released on albums. I dutifully purchased each CD, lovingly took care of them, and can’t say that about any other band. I’m a U2 guy, through and through.

When iTunes came out, I burned all of my CDs onto my computer and now happily use that as my jukebox. I currently have 17 albums in my iTunes U2 library, including an audio copy of the Live in Sydney video that is one of the best concerts ever, performed the day after Adam Clayton almost quit the band (probably the best version of One ever, if you like that song). So, as you can see, I have a lot of U2 music.

Recently, iTunes released a new U2 album called U218, made up of 18 greatest hits…well…15 greatest hits plus three new tracks. These three new tracks are the ones that I want(of course), but guess what? You can’t get the three new ones without buying the entire album. Even worse, you can easily purchase the other songs ala carte, one by one, if you want to. Not so with the new songs.

U218

This sucks. I’ve been a U2 fan for over 10 years, legally own all their music, and now I have to re-purchase an entire album of songs I already own just to get three new songs? That’s wrong, just plain wrong, and it’s as plain as day to see.

I’m not the only one feeling the pain. Here’s a couple comments from the U218 album page:

“Finally have the opportunity to get the only song off this album I actually want – The Saints are Coming – and it’s a freaking Album Only thing! What the hell? I’m not going to spend $20 for 17 songs that I don’t want just to get the one song I do want. Come on iTunes, sell it as an individual song!”

And another:

“It really irritates me that I have to buy the whole album in order to get three new songs. Any true U2 fan should already have all these songs. Really don’t care if I sound cheap but give me a break. Quit playing games and release the three new songs so I can buy them”

I don’t know how widespread this problem is on iTunes, but I have seen several other cases of it. Part of me wants to complain to Apple, and part of me thinks it’s probably not them…it’s probably the music industry bigwigs. I’m confident to say that from what I know about Steve Jobs, he would rather give true music fans the ability to purchase only those songs they don’t own rather than have to keep buying the ones they already own over and over again. With his efforts to keep the pricing scheme easy and fair for people, he’s proven that he’s on our side…I hope.

So what can we do? Well, if you’re experiencing the “Album-Only” pain, too, let’s join together, get this message out on the blogs, and see real change happen. So, instead of commenting below (which is OK, of course), go spread the message through your blog. If we’re loud enough we can get change to happen!

Because I want some new U2 for Christmas…baby, please come home.

Published: December 2nd, 2006

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