Social Hedonism and Deconstructing iTunes Plus

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This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat on KCRW.

A few weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal announced that promoters, Bulldog Productions, were touting a special five concert series to be held in East Hampton, New York. The series, called "Social," features superstar performances from Prince, Dave Matthews, Billy Joel, James Taylor and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Tickets will only be sold as a group, and the price tag for these five nights is, unbelievably $15,000. Tickets are available to the public, but you must be approved first.

The exclusive event, for one thousand lucky ticket-holders, will be held at The Ross School starting July 14. The promoters insist the concerts will include luxurious lounges, art galleries, and gourmet cuisine. And yes, the parking is free.

It's the ultimate status symbol for middle aged rock 'n roll hedonists, and the super wealthy, on their summer retreat. If sold out, the concerts could generate $15 million.

Though the shows are not for charity, The Ross School will get a venue fee in support of their Scholarship Fund. As for the artists, they'll probably earn seven figures for their day's work and the lion's share of the cash will go to the promoters.

But if you still counting your millions, one penny at a time, this next story might interest you. It's been over a week since the launch of the new iTunes Plus tracks on their web store, and the early reviews are mixed.

Standard iTunes files are lower quality sound files embedded with digital rights management code. ITunes Plus are higher quality music files. They cost 30¢ more, sound brighter, and are ideal for those with good stereo systems. But if you're playing music back on an inexpensive system, chances are, you'll hardly notice the difference.

With standard iTunes music files, you are forced to limit migration to no more than five hardware devices, due to DRM. So, if a family of four shares your music collection, and each of you has a laptop and an iPod, you wouldn't be allowed to share your standard music files. But the new iTunes Plus files do not have DRM, so you can move your music easily between as many hardware systems as you like. This freedom does come with a few limitations. Every iTunes Plus file is embedded with your name and account number, so if you put those files on sites like Bit Torrent, they are trackable.

The other concern is that iTunes Plus tracks are Advance Audio Code or AAC files. These AAC files do not operate easily with the majority of non-Apple players. Apple argues that AAC files sound superior.

One option to avoid these challenges is to buy DRM free CD's, and put your music anywhere. Or if you prefer to live only in the digital world, Amazon will be offering DRM-free, MP3 music files soon and eMusic offers them for indie artists right now.

But no matter what, you can be sure that the debate on digital music files is not over.

This is Celia Hirschman for On the Beat for KCRW.