Interesting fact: the music you are permitted to purchase on iTunes is determined by the country you live in. (Amazon also does this for its MP3 downloads and they they judge your location by your credit card billing address.) While Amazon lets you see foreign music if you go to the British (or other foreign) site, you can’t even see the listings for music you’re not allowed to buy on iTunes.
According to iTunes, this has to do with the contracts they’re able to sign with the various record companies; I would imagine that it’s the record companies who demand these restrictions. It’s nothing new. If you’ve spent much time in a foreign country, you know that DVD’s are programmed to run only in a particular region’s DVD players. Before that, the same was true of videocassette formatting. I’m sure the record companies are just trying to protect everyone from musical tastes that would be dangerous to the larger community.
But some stuff gets through and, very often, we are left with crap. Do you remember the band Rammstein? Rammstein is and always has been perfectly safe. After all, they’re the group that did a music video out of clips from a Leni Riefenstahl film. We didn’t get that information in this country because that would have made the band unmarketable here. The only “controversy” we were informed of was that the Columbine killers liked the band.
Since I’m no longer so young, I like to categorize Rammstein as “Dr. Seuss Death Metal.” This is what their lyrics seem like to me:
Would you kill your lovely wife?
Would you do it with a knife?
Would blood splatter here and there?
Would blood splatter everywhere?
I do not like green eggs and blood.
I do not like them, Sam, you pud.
When I was in Europe about a dozen years ago, I came back with CD’s of a similar band called Oomph! (The exclamation point is part of their name. It’s not an indication of excitement on my part.) When my brother heard this stuff, he accurately stated that they make Rammstein sound like sick little men, or something like that. For one, these guys can actually sing. And second, the music often has more than one or two chords per song. And third, their lyrics rise above a second grade reading level. iTunes carries all of Rammstein’s stuff but is missing a great deal of Oomph!’s. The innovative stuff is absent, like the prozac album. (I call it the prozac album because the band recorded a bunch of more cheerful songs and a pair called Dopamine and Seratonin.)
And then there are the bands iTunes doesn’t carry. There’s a Finnish group called Northern Kings and the only song iTunes carries from them is the one that isn’t in English. (The ones in English are all covers of American hits, mostly from the 1980’s. You’d think that kind of thing would sell if it were offered…) I encourage you to look them up on Youtube. If you’re into lighter music, go for “I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight.” “Take on Me” is a better introduction if you’re into heavier stuff. Except for R&B and Gospel singers, the U.S. music industry doesn’t give us much authentic musical talent like this. One of the Northen Kings’ singers has even released a serious recording of “Nessun Dorma.” Can anyone picture Lars Ulrich or Ozzy Osborne pulling off anything remotely similar to opera vocals, or even being able to handle a full song in Italian?
I suppose iTunes and the record companies must think that they can keep selling us garbage if they just spoon feed us recommendations, leaving us to never experience what else is out there. Just buy the stuff they advertise and everybody’s happy!
And if you think that sounds nefarious, ask yourself this: can you think of another industry where businesses choose not to offer their products for sale to the broadest possible market when it would cost them nothing extra to do so? It’s not like iTunes doesn’t have all this other music stored on its servers already.