CULTURE

Greek music fans, too, can now get it on the Internet

Launched in Greece late last month, Apple’s iTunes Music Store has, despite the lack of publicity, already drawn a considerable number of local customers for online music purchases at a cost of 0.99 euros per song. iTunes Music Store, an established venture in the USA, UK, Germany and France, with some 700,000 songs – and rising – available for purchase is currently expanding its operations in the European Union. Commenting on the venture in an interview with Kathimerini, Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of applications, noted that both quality and quantity would be maintained for the service’s European expansion. Besides Greece, the online music store has also just been launched in Austria, Belgium, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain. Apple intends to keep expanding its online music store’s catalog on a continual basis. The service will include a thorough selection of material available on local independent labels. To cull this harder-to-pinpoint material, officials of the Luxembourg-based iTunes Music Store Europe are combing their way through Europe in search of deals with independent labels. Approximately 60 percent of Greek music productions are carried by independent labels. As for the level of technology needed to use the iTunes service, Cue rated a 64k (ISDN) connection as satisfactory. ADSL connections, which are currently being introduced to the Greek market, still at a relatively high cost, remain the ideal channel for the iTunes service, Cue noted. Even though the new venture’s advertising has been limited to Internet media, a considerable number of local music fans turned to the service for purchases during its first week of operations here. Artists ranked among the service’s top 20 in Greece include Anastacia, DJ Tiesto (who spun discs as a musical backdrop during the opening ceremony at the Athens Olympics), Bjork (another performer at the opening ceremony), Megadeth, Vanessa Mae, Mario Frangoulis, Evanescence, Prodigy and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. iTunes works well with Windows and Macintosh, and is compatible with the portable iPod players which, more recently, have proven immensely popular among the country’s youth. Greek artists found on the service’s catalog, following a quick look, include the rebetika and old-school Greek legend Vassilis Tsitsanis, Stavros Xarchakos, Paschalis Terzis and Elli Paspala. Users of the iTunes service can compile their own selections of tracks, as well as entire albums at feasible prices. At a time when the global music industry is reeling in an unprecedented fashion from the impact of music piracy, and seemingly unable to stop new technologies from gnawing into its vast profits, the Internet, or the medium that generated the sector’s woes, is offering a partial solution to the crisis. A well-organized online music store based on the philosophy of just under a euro per song, or a dollar in the US market, and entire albums for lower rates, iTunes appears to be the industry’s answer to its crisis. During its first year-and-a-half of operations, the iTunes Music Store venture has sold approximately 150 million songs and, moreover, tapped a previously unknown market. Apple’s initiative has prompted similar moves from its major competitors. Two decades ago, in 1984, Apple, a company that was founded by charismatic computer mogul Steve Jobs, launched the world’s first personal computer featuring a graphics interface, the renowned Macintosh. More recently, Apple introduced the iPod, the portable listening device with the capacity to store some 10,000 songs. A top seller among a variety of consumers, from high school students and company executives to regular music fans, 2 million iPods have been sold over the past three-month period. Since the device’s launch approximately two years ago, iPod has sold 6 million units. The combination of iPod, the iTunes program, and the online music store not only seems to be reviving the ailing music industry, but, more importantly, revising the way music is distributed and listened to. The recently launched iPhoto iPod device has taken an additional step. Besides storing thousands of songs, it also carries pictures. As Jobs himself says, it is all part of the «digital lifestyle.»