COLUMN: Well, I took the plunge this week and decided to upgrade about 50 or so albums in my iTunes library to the updated “DRM Free” option now offered by Apple for many popular albums/songs found in their store. Unfortunately, this has turned into one of the worst ecommerce experiences with Apple outside of an exploding MacBook battery.
Since I was setting up a new 2TB RAID array (1TBx2 “mirrored”) to move my library to from the old, and now full, 1TB RAID (500GBx2 “mirrored”), I thought it best to update the albums on my original drive to make sure they were all “good” before moving them to the new replacement storage device. While Apple’s “come on” in the iTunes Store made it attractive, the actual procedure proved anything but simple, or fun.
The come-on is pretty fair, an offer to upgrade my entire music library of previously purchased music now available on “iTunes Plus.” The cost is $0.30 a song, and 30 percent of the current album price, and $0.60 per music video (remember some albums on iTunes came with a music video, sometimes as a pre-order special).
Basically, when you login to the store, you will find an option in the right account box to upgrade to DRM-free music. The system looks at your library and past purchases and presents a summary of total songs, the songs purchased individually (i.e., singles), and albums. A big round button “BUY ALL” entices you with the total dollar amount to just do it.
Once I decided to “buy all” is where the adventure began. For the past three days I tried doing just that, only to get an email from the iTunes Store saying the system was unable to complete the purchase because one song/album could not be upgraded, and I should go back to the upgrade page and would now be able to buy the DRM free versions. Unfortunately, when I would go back and hit the buy all again, nothing would happen.
So, finally, today I thought “what the hell” and decided to try upgrading individual albums from the list provided on my personalized upgrade page, perhaps I would find the problem album (the store, sadly, doesn’t provide any feedback such as “here is the album you cannot upgrade, click to remove from your list”). I got through about ten, when I hit a problem again: apparently a Michael Penn album was “no longer available for upgrade and may be available in another part of the store.” After a moment the screen refreshed once the pop-up went away, and the album was no longer there. About halfway through the download of the first ten albums, I got a “timeout” error from the iTunes store, and then later an error saying “credit card processing is unavailable, try again later.” Then on the next batch of upgrades, I got an “the iTunes store is unavailable.” The latest error I just got (while writing this), is “Could not purchase ‘iTunes Plus Upgrade’. The network connection timed out” “of course, I have a home office with the fastest available hard-wired FIOS broadband connection, and so the timeout is entirely on their side of the stream.
I can only conclude that either a LOT of people are switching to DRM-free, or that Apple’s store is not keeping up with the growth in providing music, iPhone apps, video rentals, and the like.
Is it worth the hassle? Well, I can hear the difference in quality, particularly in some of the older albums I purchased on iTunes years ago. And being able to copy them onto whatever media device I happen to be using (I have about five iPods, a PSP, a Samsung device, a cellphone, a Yamaha recorder, a notebook, etc.) will be nice. This makes having to worry about running out of computer authorizations for my purchased music/videos an unnecessary worry.
Of course, I have to be able to actually get all the DRM-free albums. Sigh. I just tried again to do the “buy all” to save from manually clicking another 25 albums, but keep getting the “timeout” error. Doh.
I waited a bit and tried again, and on the next attempt I got another popup saying my purchase for “all” items had already been placed and to log into my account. No email confirmation, no alert. Whoa. Okay, so I logged into my account (click your email top right of iTunes store), and then there was a new box at top “You currently have items available for download to iTunes. 351 items. Download now.” Okay. Clicked the download, and it started. Finally.
While I love Apple, this has to be the most non-intuitive and painful process in buying anything from them EVER. Where’s the Genius Bar when you need it.