Digital Music: Things That Need To Change OR An Open Letter To Apple

It’s 2006 and the recorded music industry has come a ways with digital downloads kicking and screaming. Apple deserves a lot of the praise, but there are still some things that need to be done before iTunes can be less of a database of music and media files and more tuned into the way that people organize and listen to music. Apple should consider this a list of resolutions to make iTunes better.

In iTunes 6 we were given the option of encoding music in VBR AAC, but there is no way to confirm if something was encoded as AAC VBR in iTunes, not the way we can see if something was encoded in VBR MP3. iTunes should tell us this information, especially considering how weird it is that we were first told that AAC is automatically VBR, that it “brings true VBR audio encoding to Quicktime“…now it’s not and we have to hit a checkbox?

iTunes and the iPod needs to support more file formats, particularly Vorbis and FLAC, particularly considering how popular they are with indie artists. iPods can play whole TV shows now, surely they can play .ogg files. Maybe they don’t support Vorbis and FLAC on purpose to lock us all into MP3, AAC and Apple Lossless. If given the option of encoding in Vorbis, with its gapless playback, I would probably switch in a heartbeat. This probably doesn’t matter because…

iTunes and the iPod need to support true GAPLESS PLAYBACK! You can half-ass it in iTunes by setting your crossfade option to 0 seconds, but it doesn’t quite work very well. Granted, since iTunes 6 it seems to have gotten better, and neither mp3 nor aac incorporate gapless playback either (although Apple Lossless is gapless, iTunes still manages to screw it up). Still, if you want to listen to a continuos dance mix album on your iPod and dance like the silhouettes and cell phone users on the iPod commercials, you can’t without any hiccups. I suppose you can use that brief moment of silence to catch your breath or maybe watch where you’re going. Apple’s solution to this is to release and encourage 1 track ripping and downloading. That’s crap. If gapless playback never gets fixed then Apple can be cited for the reason there are no concept albums 10 years from now.

We need a “Featuring” tag. If I hadn’t started listening to a bit more hip-hop than this wouldn’t have even come to mind, but apparently hip-hop is real popular with the kids these days anyways. It’s not all hip-hop either. For example, my sister lent me the new Herbie Hancock album. Every track has a different artist; there’s “Herbie Hancock & John Mayer” or “Herbie Hancock & Trey Anastasio” and so on for 8 more tracks. This bloats the iTunes and iPod browse functions. I don’t care what happened when they were writing songs, the CD spine says this is a Herbie Hancock album, that’s how it should be tagged. A featuring tag would let us organize music the way it should be without compromising search functions or other information we might want to put into the “Comments” field.

BTW, the new Herbie Hancock…it’s no Watermelon Man.

Not just an iPod thing, but a general hard drive thing too…please start advertising storage space correctly as 1,024 megabytes = 1 gig, not 1,000 megabytes = 1 gig. Years ago this didn’t matter so much, but you’re confusing the hell out of people with the inconsistencies. Now if somebody were to buy a 60 gig iPod they must be really confused when seeing that there are only 54 gigs available. When 100 gig iPods come out 8 gigs will be missing. And when it comes to iTunes and the Finder, which is right?