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iTunes, legal and cheaper

- Indians can access entertainment store now

Dec. 4: Is it a tweet, is it a post, no it’s iTunes!

Apple today finally launched its popular global digital-download platform, iTunes Store, in India, allowing Net users here to “legally discover and purchase” music and movies.

For those using Apple devices, life just got that much simpler — making entertainment cheaper, more accessible and available across platforms without hurting quality. Customers can choose from over 20 million songs available to purchase and download on the iTunes Store, an Apple statement said.

The Telegraph answers your questions.

What is iTunes?

iTunes is a free software by Apple, which can play songs and videos on your computer or laptop. For iPod, iPhone and iPad users, iTunes comes with the device and is available at the push of a button.

What is iTunes Store?

iTunes Store is part of all iTunes players where you can buy songs, movies or podcasts.

What happened now?

India and 55 other countries were allowed access to iTunes Store on Monday. iTunes is now available in 119 countries.

How do I download music or films?

Install the latest version of iTunes (a free player), register your personal details with a local address and credit card. No debit card, please.

What about quality?

It’s almost CD quality. With almost being the operative word (at 256kbps).

Can I choose my songs?

Yes, it has the much-needed single-push option. You are free to choose one or a few tracks.

Can I buy an entire album?

Of course.

Then how am I charged?

Depending on the popularity of a song (and release date), downloads are priced between Rs 7 and Rs 15. Entire albums can be downloaded for upwards of Rs 70. Rihanna’s new album, Unapologetic, for instance, costs Rs 150 on the iTunes Store while the CD version costs Rs 395 and in case of the deluxe edition, Rs 495.

How big is the selection?

Massive. Sony Music has made available almost half-a-million songs, which cover several genres and languages. “There is an incredible range out there. You can also find hard-to-find music. More digital stores the better because people are willing to buy music if it is inexpensive,” said Shridhar Subramaniam, president (India and Middle East), Sony Music.

Universal Music India has its entire catalogue online; over 100,000 film songs and 70-80,000 non-film songs. Universal Music Publishing covers 1.5 million songs.

What about Bangla music?

It’s all there, from Debabrata Biswas to Bhoomi. All major music labels have decided to simultaneously release their forthcoming titles on CD and digital formats.

What about movie bouquet?

Yash Raj Films has its entire catalogue right till Ek Tha Tiger “up there”. (You can buy Ek Tha Tiger for Rs 490 or rent it for Rs 120 for 30 days.) The same goes for other global majors like 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures. Price varies from title to title and on whether one is looking for HD or other quality.

Is iTunes Store the only option?

No. There is Flipkart’s digital store Flyte that allows digital download of music. and are two other popular contenders.

“There are several delivery systems in place but iTunes has to stand out because of its image,” said Achille Forler, managing director, Universal Music Publishing.

Can I stream music or videos on iTunes?

No. But users are allowed a 30-second preview of a song before downloading.

What can I expect next?

Streaming is the way forward. For long, there has been talk of Amazon selling in the Indian marketplace. Then there is Deezer, the French web-based music streaming service. But nobody knows when it will launch in India.

“In the last two years there has been an increase of digital outlets and I’m sure legitimate music streaming services will soon arrive,” said Adarsh Gupta, business head, Saregama.

Will iTunes end piracy?

Industry bigwigs are gung-ho about iTunes being the Brahmastra in the battle against piracy. After all, it makes quality music and movies easily accessible at a fair price. “We have blocked 300-plus (illegal) sites in the last few months and are pushing all the buttons to kill piracy. There are three kinds of buyers — those who still visit the store, those who order CDs online and the digital-download generation. iTunes Store will coexist with CDs,” said Devraj Sanyal, managing director, Universal Music India & Saarc.

Additional reporting by our business bureau