To Pimp a Butterfly

I promise this has a tech angle.

One of the most-anticipated new albums this year — Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” — was released a little earlier than anticipated: today, instead of the scheduled March 23 release date. I had preordered the album earlier this month, so I downloaded it right away. Apparently, this was accidental, according to reporting by Lars Brandle of Billboard:

Seems the early release also came as a surprise for some of Lamar’s inner sanctum. Anthony Tiffith, the CEO of Top Dawg Entertainment, which represents Lamar, was less than impressed. He tweeted. “I WOULD LIKE 2 PERSONALLY THANK @Interscope FOR FUCKING UP OUR RELEASE… SOMEBODY GOTS 2 PAY 4 THIS MISTAKE !!!! #TOP”

Tiffith has since deleted that tweet, but kept a few others indicating that he wasn’t happy with the early release. A few hours later, Apple switched the album back to preorder status, and Spotify buried the album deep inside search results. Then, another couple of hours later, I guess all parties involved figured the album was as good as released, so the iTunes copy was put back on sale, and Spotify stopped deep-sixing it.

This debacle revealed why I choose Spotify as a way to augment my local library instead of replacing it. Instead of hiding the record, Spotify could entirely revoke access to it, but Apple can’t remove my local iTunes files. Score one for the old-school local library.

However, this situation also reminded me of just how maddening the iTunes preorder experience continues to be. I’ve preordered a fair amount of albums — because I am apparently an idiot — and something goes wrong every time. A few years ago, I didn’t get the notification that my album was available to download until nearly a day later. On another preorder, I had to do the repeated sign-out-restart-sign-in-reauthorize dance to get it to download.

With today’s release, I am unable to download “The Blacker the Berry”, which is odd because it’s the first single from the album and was made available for download when I preordered. It simply says “Purchased” beside the song, in place of the “Download” button, and does not appear in my purchase history. I’ve tried every trick I can think of, and nothing is working, so I’ve put in a request with iTunes support.

The iTunes Store was supposed to be the saviour of online music. It was supposed to be the legal version of Napster: easy access to millions of songs that can be bought and downloaded with one click. But it’s this kind of shoddy user experience that makes it needlessly difficult to keep supporting artists.1 What’s particularly bizarre is that iTunes is Apple’s most prominent software product for Windows. One would assume Apple would work their hardest to bring the best user experience possible to these potential customers, but the results don’t support that.

By the way, the album is fucking great. You should buy it.

  1. I also recently purchased a few gifts for some friends that didn’t use the credit I had on my iTunes account. ↥︎