How Many Songs Are In Your Pocket?

The portable MP3 player continues to be the hot item for those who want music on the go. I was talking to a teen the other day wearing a wristwatch MP3 player she takes on her walks. She showed me how it stores & plays about 60 songs and does everything but tell time.

"Cool", I said, "That's a lot of music."

"Yeah, it's not an iPod, but good enough for me now." She explained apologetically.

Why was the 60 song capacity such a disappointment? I can't even name 60 songs.

Well, the iPod is the undisputed king of all MP3 players and it holds a lot of music. I got my first real demo from my 16 year old niece last Christmas. Her cute and wanting little sister threatened to enter the work force early to obtain her own. Every kid wants one bad, but read on, these gizmos aren't cheap!

The iPod has caused the rebirth of Apple Computer, Inc., which has sold over 10 million units as of Q1 2005, with annual sales growing at a respectable 525 percent! I haven't seen that kind of growth since the invention of toilet paper. Apple has also become an industry-leading innovator in selling music online from their iTunes website.

Take an iPod Tour

The iPod Shuffle is the baby of the family, offering 512MB of space, which can hold about 120 songs and set you back $99.00. But everyone must ask themselves in the mirror, "Can you show your face at a party packing only 99 songs?" If you're not sure, better buy a little insurance in the form of the 1-gigabyte Shuffle, which can hold 240 songs. ($149.00) Your peers will recognize that you're in the iPod game, albeit entry level.

For some, 240 songs barely scrapes the surface dust of their collection, coercing them to consider the iPod Mini which can hold 1,000 songs ($199) or the 6GB Mini, which holds 1500 songs. ($249) I noticed that Apple is still using diminutive adjectives for this product level, and I guess the message is that the "Mini" is for a puny music collection that is tiny and rather small-ish. So be careful when giving this one as a gift.

"Here son, I got you an "iPod Mini" for your birthday!"

"Thanks Dad, but what do I look like, a baby? It only holds 1500 songs! They'll laugh at me! "

"But son, my generation needed a moving crane and a 3 man crew to bring in a machine that could play that much music."

"I thought you loved me..."

If your unsure of the size of your child's music library, the "regular" iPod is the way to go. ($299) Everyone on this level is "normal" and "common" and no one can be singled out for ridicule. Perfect for a young teen! And 20GB of space gives you that benchmark 5,000 songs, which is probably considered usual and customary in a world economy that had a ten-year run at emptying the product off the digital shelves of the record industry for free.

Granted, there are many who would beg for death rather than leave the house with so many songs left behind on their 'big' computers. The 60GB iPod Photo ($449.00) would be the choice for them. It can hold 15,000 of your favorite songs, or 25,000 of only your best looking photos. I keep my 25,000 photos in bins out in the garage. (Admittedly, they're a little bulky to carry around, and I have difficulty with retrieval when I desire to look up a particular birthday or holiday memory.)

But if you're buying any of these for your kids birthday, better up their allowance, or put them to work down at the mill because these iPods are specifically designed to download from the iTunes website for 99 cents a track.

Napster

Napster began hollering "Do the Math!" from the sidelines with a spot during the Superbowl. They spent $2.2 million to ask the question, "How much does it cost to fill up your player?" The spot is no longer on the company website, but it showed a guy in the Superbowl stands holding a sign that read, "Do The Math"

iTunes + 10,000 songs = $10,000.00

Napster + MP3 player = $15.00 per month

It appears like Napster wins the championship of MP3 players hands down! Napster has a million songs that you can download day and night for only $15.00! (I wonder if they paid for all those.) But there was a sentence printed in the ad, that was so small I didn't catch it on my father-in-law's big screen which takes two houses to contain. They only flashed it for a moment so it must not have been important. I looked it up later: "Subscription must be maintained to continue to access songs downloaded from service." Turns out, with Napster's service, you're not buying, but rather, you're renting the music. You can't burn them onto a CD and you can only use them on certain MP3 players. When you quit paying the $15.00 per month, the music disappears...no matter how long it took you to download it all. If you want to buy a song from Napster, it will cost you... drum roll please... 99 cents!

So is the real math?

iPod = Napster?

So my music loving friends, here is how I add up the numbers:

For $9900 you can download 10,000 songs from either Napster or iTunes and own them. Or for the same price you can download an unlimited amount of songs from Napster for 55 years, but you can't leave them to your children.

Rick David writes a humor column called, "Don't Laugh It Could Happen To You" for http://sandiego.merchantamerica.com

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