iTunes Japan music cards — worth the effort?

My friend Ryan pointed me to an article about getting iTunes Japan music cards from online retailer jbox. I’d be tempted if only I weren’t so turned off by iTunes itself.

It’s the digital rights management — iTunes-purchased music can be played only on iTunes, and I’m not fond of the iTunes interface. Winamp has spoiled me rotten by taking so little real estate on the view port of my monitor that iTunes just feels bulky by comparison. Winamp also takes up less memory. The fact iTunes files can’t play on Winamp — not without some intervening conversion — is an inconvenience I’m not willing to accommodate.

When JHymn stopped working, that pretty much killed my patronage to iTunes. Now when I fire up the application, it’s to listen to the 30-second previews.

If I could buy directly from the iTunes Japan store, I could probably get over the DRM hurdle, but I can’t. Purchases on iTunes must be made with a credit card from the country of origin, and while it’s possible to buy iTunes Japan music cards from Amazon, they can be sent only to addresses within Japan. I may as well just buy a CD from Amazon if that’s the case.

That, and jbox marks up the cards as well.

So when it comes to getting digital music from Japan legitimately, there are more than enough hurdles to send me to BitTorrent. The US market does not address my needs as a consumer, and the Japanese market does too well on its own to consider global expansion, not that such efforts in the past has yielded meaningful results. (For the majors, at least — indie artists seem to do fine.)

It’s bad enough DRM makes legitimate music downloading a chore. A lack of interest by media conglomerates in globalizing their content compounds the situation.