The first song I ever stole on the internet was Gin and Juice by Snoop Dogg. Imagine me, 11 years old, singing along to a song about alcohol I never drank and weed I never smoked, bopping my head to the beat and singing, "Sippin' on gin and juice!," while actually sipping on a Capri-Sun.
I wasn't raised to steal but, for whatever reason, stealing music was okay through my adolescent prism.
Stealing a few songs was a petty crime compared to the discographies I would later download as a teenager. By 14, I could have curated a museum of music. If the Feds ever opened the Winamp app on my Dad's Dell desktop, they would have sent me to jail forever.
I was meticulous with my library of pilfered music. I made sure every song had an accurate release date, every song was part of an album, every album had high-resolution album art, and so on. My obsession with my library grew to fantastical levels. If a song on Limewire was of bad quality, I'd ask my parents to take me to Best Buy so I could buy the album and rip it to my computer.
CDs became a hassle to me; I couldn't carry enough of them to satisfy my musical appetite. I wanted to listen to Linkin Park the moment their melody played in my head. This itch made me curious about the iPod, the device that claimed to have your entire music library in your pocket.
I had no idea how the iPod worked, but I thought I did. My experience with my own, stolen library limited my view of how an mp3 player could function. I thought the iPod was just going to be a hard drive with a basic interface. I thought I would need to create and organize a series of folders to hold the tens of thousands of songs I accumulated. The thought of reorganizing all my music made my head spin, so I never wanted to get the iPod.
Then Santa pulled up with the new iPod on Christmas and I was like, “Wow. Let's see what this is all about.” I was curious about the device but annoyed I'd have to do all this work. Most of all, I was young and ungrateful for my parents buying me an expensive device. I would later thank them, indirectly, by using the holy hell out of the iPod.
The morning after Christmas, I unboxed the iPod. I saw a CD and asked myself, “What the hell is this for? I need to install iTunes? Okay...” I followed the basic instructions and my life changed.
Everything worked and it was super easy. Oh my god was it easy. I imported my precious music library into iTunes with a few clicks. It synced with the iPod. That was it. All I needed to do was connect my iPod to my computer and new music would appear and deleted music would disappear. If I wanted to buy music, there was an iTunes store that connected to my new iTunes library.
I had never experienced such harmony between software and hardware before. The iPod wasn't a standalone thing, it was interconnected to iTunes and a massive online catalog of music.
In retrospect, this seems obvious because of the iPhone's ubiquity, but software and hardware companies were usually different entities; Microsoft made a killing licensing Windows to Dell and HP (and they still do). But, as the market cap of Apple would suggest, creating a seamless experience with software and hardware is really valuable.
People's reaction to reusables needs to be like my reaction to the iPod, which was: holy crap that was easy.
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