Pop Culture Irony: Steve Jobs, iTunes, and his Love for HiFi Audio

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Steve Jobs the man, the legend, the visionary introduced us to innovations like the iMac and iPhone. He revolutionized the way music is bought, stored and listened to with iTunes and the iPod. Great entrepreneurs and marketers know that if you solve a problem, you create a market and stand to make a lot of money in the process depending on how big the problem, and here lies the genius of Steve Jobs. If you were a major player in the music industry at the time, the problem was huge. Disruptive changes in the 2000’s brought on by the Internet like Napster’s pirated music and CD burners triggered the music industry players, record labels and musicians to run for the hills. Declining album sales incited panic and were largely caused by high school and college kids saving the “new music fund” money and just downloading a song or two thousand maybe. As an answer to this ‘mix CD’ phenomenon, the industry took aim at music pirates and Napster with lawsuits and arrests.  Where the music industry saw a problem, Steve saw an opportunity. Jobs presented the perfect solution for the music industry and artists. He replaced the “free music” pool with .99c digital downloads and gave us all the chance to be the tech-trendy cool kid with an iPod.

 

Fast forward to the present – one could say we were all bamboozled. We basically gave up “free” low resolution mp3 digital downloads for .99c low resolution digital downloads to be played on my generations’ version of the Walkman. While both the Walkman and the iPod are good examples of advances in technology in pop culture, everyone can all admit that they were mass marketed products that were more cool than great sounding audio replicating devices. Artists, producers, musicians and engineers spend hours precisely creating sounds that are meant to touch the listener and nowadays that is compressed and transferred to an iPhone or iPod that utilizes headphones that prioritize form over function. The intricacies of the hard work are lost in translation. How did we get tricked into accepting this substandard format of music? Did we trade quality for convenience? Or can we just blame it all on ignorance?

 

To us, the answer is obvious. You have no idea what are missing when you’ve grown up with discmans, which, by the way, still produce better quality sound than digital music files. But when comparing digital to analog, you may not even believe you’re listening to the same song. The grand irony in all of this is that Steve Jobs could school us all on the difference in a major way. As a closet audiophile, Jobs was a huge fan of vinyl and grossly preferred wax over digital formats. So Steve give the masses access to cheap, but lower quality music, while enjoying no less than best for himself. Kind of elitist, no? But then again, that kind ethos has propelled Apple into the brand it is today. What are apple users if not, some shade of elitist. Have you spoken to a Mac user lately? They are total snobs about their preference over PC, and in fact, this conundrum is being furiously typed about on a MacBook Pro. You win, Steve.

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