Maybe I'm too much of a sentimentalist, but when I read that Apple is dropping its iTunes Allowances program on May 25, it made me feel sad.
The idea behind Allowances was simple—parents could automatically put money into a dedicated online iTunes account (pictured) for their children each month so the kids could buy whatever music they want for their iPhones, iPods, iPads or computers. What a great way to show your children some responsibility and give them a bit of freedom to build their own digital music libraries as they grow and figure out the kinds of music they like.
My daughter Hannah got her first iPod while she was in middle school and she loved putting music on it from NSYNC, The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Broadway shows. So I set her up with an iTunes Allowances account, at $10 a month, and let her pick and choose what she wanted to buy and download.
As a parent, I felt good knowing that she was expanding her personal music catalog and learning to appreciate new music as she and her friends discovered it. My parents did the same for me whenever they'd bring home new records and play them on our old Lafayette Electronics turntable, amplifier and speakers. That's how I learned about Bob Dylan, The Band, Jimmy Hendrix, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Joan Baez, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Miles Davis, Willie Nelson, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Frank Sinatra, Buddy Rich, B.B. King, Vanilla Fudge, The Fugs, Jefferson Airplane, Leon Russell and others. Hey, my parents had eclectic and varied musical tastes. That's a good thing.
I really liked that Hannah could make these musical decisions on her own, without having to ask me to buy her some songs on a regular basis, as she did before I set up her account. And I think she liked having that kind of autonomy, too.
If I hadn't had a daughter who used Allowances in the past, I may never have thought twice about Apple's April 14 announcement that the service will end. But with the ending of the program, I feel sad for the kids who won't get a similar chance to get some well-earned freedom through Allowances.
Apple wants users to transition to its more recent Family Sharing program, which lets up to six people in a family share each other's iTunes and other Apple purchases through separate accounts. But Family Sharing offers no autonomy, even to just buy some music. Instead, each time a child under 13 wants to buy a music track, the system's default Ask to Buy feature sends a request to the parent, giving them a chance to approve or deny the child's purchase request. Ask to Buy can be set up for any child under 18 on a family's Apple account.
That's no fun and it certainly doesn't show a parent's trust in their child.
The iTunes Allowance program will be missed and its ending is unfortunate. Bad move, Apple.