February 27, 2009
As an iPod concierge, former Apple employee doesn't fall far from the tree
AUSTIN, Texas — It's not often that someone's job, as they explain it to you, is one you never knew existed. But Jessica O'Connell is used to explaining her latest gig to family and friends: She is an iPod concierge.
O'Connell, who once worked in tech support for Apple's Austin offices, has been a longtime fan of the music device. Over the years, she's collected an iPod Shuffle, a black iPod Classic, an older-generation white iPod and an iPhone.
She even spent time designing custom iPod cases for bands including Green Day and for the city of Austin. But the iPods got smaller, and it got harder and harder to keep up with the size changes and variety of cases.
One day, while loading music into iTunes, the program that funnels music into an iPod, O'Connell wondered if people might not pay her to perform the tedious task of loading up their CD collections, which can take hours.
Her business is not quite a business yet, but she'd like it to be. In October, she set up a Web site (ipodconcierge.com) and started putting the word out that she was an "iPod loader," someone who could come to your house and import CDs to an iTunes library on your computer.
O'Connell says she's kept busy not only loading digital music into music players, but also tutoring clients on iTunes, helping them back up their hard drives and creating custom playlists for weddings.
She usually charges about $1.50 to $2 per CD imported from someone's own CD collection. She can also download movies, TV shows and other iTunes content for clients with their account information and permission.
Despite the tanking economy, O'Connell hopes her clients (most live in Austin's more affluent areas) will continue to use her services. "I'm hoping it's one of those frills that won't get cut," she says.
It might not just be a matter of economics: She's found that many people receive an iPod or iPhone as a gift, then spend months dreading the day they'll have to open it up and learn how to use it.
They'd rather pay someone else to deal with the technology and time of getting a music collection into that little music box.
O'Connell is happy not just to import an entire collection but to prioritize. She advises clients to start by picking their favorite 50 or 100 CDs. She's happy to help separate the junk from the essentials.
"I wanted to be a DJ when I was in my 20s, wondering what I was going to do," O'Connell says. "This is getting back to being a DJ. I talk about music all day."
One client was interested in Miles Davis but had no idea where to start.
"We downloaded 'Kind of Blue.' I showed them how to go to the (iTunes) store and buy it."
It won't take much to push O'Connell's little iPod business into the black — her only expenses have been her Web hosting and domain-name registration. And O'Connell loves it.
She grew up listening to AM radio in the '60s, and her parents were always listening to Sinatra, musicals like "The Sound of Music," the Beatles.
It's a funny way to get into the music business.
"It fits me," O'Connell says. "And this is it, man. I love it."
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