iTunes Radio

Two Years Ago.

How could they monetize this? Why is Genius limited to my iTunes library? Let me hit Genius on a track and use the entire iTunes Music Store to make that playlist, not just what’s in my library. Genius Radio. Maybe you only let me listen to a track once, like Lala did, but make it very easy for me to buy that track immediately.

It looks more likely that streaming may never come to iTunes, at least not the way we know it today. It won’t be called streaming. It’s simpler to call it radio. On Pandora you pick an artist and listen to their station. Same thing on Rdio and Last.fm. On future iTunes maybe you hit the Genius button on a track you like and listen to Genius Radio, sourced by over 18 million tracks from the iTunes Store. You’re bound to hear a bunch of stuff you might like enough to download. It’s the best automated music discovery tool I can think of.

Spotify Does iTunes’s Heavy Lifting

I usually don’t link to forum threads, but this thread on Macrumors about iRadio makes the point I was thinking of writing about.

Originally Posted by aheying7
As a high school student, I can say everyone I know quit using iTunes and uses Spotify exclusively now. That’s what Apple needs to compete with, NOT Pandora. In other words, you should always be able to pick the song like Spotify.

Artofwarfare
As a college student, I agree with you completely.
Something weird I’ve found: I listen to a lot of music on Spotify on a free plan, and about once a week I find a song I like so much that I buy it on the iOS music store just so I can listen to it on my iPhone. So Spotify basically is doing all the work of convincing me to buy the song, but then Apple is the one collecting the money when I decide to buy it.

Spotify serves as music discovery, but it’s not making the money. Apple is.

Music Recommendations

John Siracusa is on this week’s Unprofessional talking about music and recommendations.

Him and the hosts discuss the ugly truth about music recommendations from friends: They don’t really work. They’ve stopped recommending music to their friends because almost all the time they aren’t followed up on. “You gotta check this out” is code for “I like this a lot and you probably won’t like it as much as I do so just ignore what I’m telling you.”

My friends’ tastes vary widely and recommendations from them that hit are rare. Even in 2013 I don’t really know where most of the music recommendations I enjoy come from. I hear new music on music podcasts, or in movies, or I read about it on a blog, or it was recommended through iTunes Genius and Last.fm. In some cases I’m still hearing new music I like on the radio.

This is the problem with social music services. They’ve banked on this idea of “listen with your friends” and it doesn’t work. My friends aren’t good at knowing what I like. They’re good at knowing what they like. Sharing tracks is my least used feature on Spotify. When someone shares a track with me it’s because they’re playing games. The last track someone sent me on Spotify was Holding Out For A Hero. I can’t let that slide, so I have to respond with something equally silly – like Let’s Hear It For The Boy.

The ultimate music recommendation service would be like if Last.fm became more Twitterized.1 I want there to be a site where I can post music to a wall, and follow other people with similar tastes (who probably aren’t my friends) and check out what they like. That’s what This is my jam is trying to be. I haven’t checked it out in a bit. I wish I could skip the player and have music from people I follow go directly into the Spotify inbox.2

Once in a great while music recommendations from friends work. This morning Joel told me I should check out Disasterpeace’s Atebite and the Warring Nations. At just a $1 I couldn’t resist. I probably wouldn’t have heard about it any other way.


  1. It’s boggling to me why Last.fm doesn’t send me an email each week saying “here’s what people are listening to” or “here’s what your friends and neighbors are listening to.” Last.fm should be this glue between every single music service (iTunes, Spotify, Rdio…even Winamp can be set up to scrobble) and recommendations from friends or whoever else you choose to follow. But the site’s functions have gone largely unchanged since 2005 or earlier. Following someone still requires they follow you back

  2. There is a This is My Jam app for Spotify, but it doesn’t work like that. It shows me my jams. I just want a feed of jams from people I follow. TIMJ doesn’t do that in fear of “duplicating” the TIMJ website experience. But I don’t want the website experience. I want something better. 

“Why Google Music’s New ‘Scan And Match’ Is Not Enough”

More discussion on walled gardens, but this time for music services:

Why can’t we have nice things — by which I mean why can’t we just, like, pay for music somehow and have it forever, rather than forever fretting about what we put in each walled garden? Really, what we need is “one big database,” or some other solution for tying music to people regardless of service or device.

This sounds like “why can’t we have one walled-garden, not a bunch of walled-gardens?” Who would control and own that music garden? Who would maintain it? Who would control the standards? Who would improve on it, or would we not, and let it become something that never iterates?

Each of these companies, Apple, Google, Rdio, Spotify, wants to be the garden. I’ve thrown in with Apple, who already sees itself as the internet’s world’s music source. iTunes has been the #1 music retailer since 2008.

At least Apple thinks they have a cultural responsibility. Remember what they said in their Mastering for iTunes documents?

…though it may not be apparent because there may not always be a physical, tangible master created in LP or CD format, the iTunes catalog forms an important part of the world’s historical and cultural record. These masters matter—especially given the move into the cloud on post-PC devices.

AURoundTripAAC – A/B Testing

If you missed the Mastered for iTunes tools that Apple released at the beginning of this year you should take a look and grab the AURoundTripAAC Audio Unit if you want to test if you can hear the difference between your source material and the resulting encoded file.

My results were about what I expected. I did VERY well hearing the difference at low bit rates.

16kbpsaac

16kpbs is like shooting fish in a barrel. If I bump it up to 96 things get a little tricker for me:

96kbpsaac
96kpbsaac

So I think 256kpbs AAC files will be just fine for my listening.

Want to be fooled into thinking you’re adding fidelity to your 44/16 audio files?

There’s an app for that.

The app can make your lower quality music sound pretty good once you have it properly configured. However, it wont help your lossless files. Even though the change in sound quality was minor, I could definitely tell the difference when BitPerfect was disabled. If I had used better audio equipment and was more experienced with the settings, I’m sure the sound difference would’ve been even greater with BitPerfect enabled.

$9.99 app that pretty much does what Audio Midi setup does, and will end up making your audio worse.

Streaming Music’s ‘Flavor of the Month’ Problem

Good argument on how streaming music services face sustainability problems as they add more advertising and face competition from new services.

But I’ve been sticking with Spotify, even with the obnoxious ads, because it works better to me. Discovery happens on Spotify. Listening happens in iTunes.

Spotify is now #2

But the gap of income between Spotify and iTunes is huge.

Sean Parker:

“If we [Spotify] continue growing at our current rate in terms of subscriptions and downloads, we’ll overtake iTunes in terms of contributions to the recorded music business in under two years.

Daniel Ek has been promoting Spotify as a complement to iTunes, not a replacement. Seems like that’s just the way to get a foot in the door.

DELETE ALL THE SONGS!

NPR Music’s Bob Boilen uses iTunes Match and has deleted the local copy of his iTunes library.

I’m not sure why people are doing this. When I signed up I decided not to delete anything because the service was still new. I still get mismatches and some album tracks not getting matched from time-to-time. What’s been really great about iTunes Match is having my music with me on my work computer without having to bring an iPod. But at home, my local copy is still taking up space on my drive.

Maybe that’s the point—to free up hard drive space. But I don’t really mind. It’s not hurting anybody.

$9.99 for 99 Beethoven Tracks

Pretty good deal. And Mastered for iTunes.

Here’s something new, too. At least with this album, Mastered for iTunes is declared in the metadata:

Masteredforitunes beethoven

EMI Classics has been making a BIG DEAL about Mastered For iTunes. I assume that’s because classical listeners are still picky about lossy downloads. But this model works pretty well for classical music because it’s much less expensive to produce a 99-track download than it would be to make a box set of eight CDs.

Another stickler—grouping data isn’t filled out. I like being able to do this:

classicalbrowsing

There can be only one iTunes track

Bobby Owsinski got some Mastered for iTunes questions answered directly from Apple representatives.

“Mastered for iTunes” is only an indication that a hi-res master was supplied; it’s not a separate product. There will always be only one version of the song on iTunes at the same price as before. “Mastered for iTunes” doesn’t mean you get to charge more, or that iTunes charges you more. Everything is like it was before, you just supply a hi-res master so it sounds better.

Which would indicate that anybody using iTunes Match is getting the Mastered For iTunes version of tracks. Good news if you thought you’d have to repurchase all those Pink Floyd albums for the Mastered for iTunes magic.

Also on sound quality:

Speaking of the sound quality, iTunes is now using a completely new AAC encoder with a brand new algorithm and the sound quality it produces is stunning. It provides an excellent encode if you use a few common sense guidelines (more on this in a bit), and if you do, the result is almost impossible to hear (at least on the music we listened to). I mean, there we were, mastering engineers Eddy Schreyer, Gene Grimaldi plus myself, listening in this fantastic listening environment, and we literally couldn’t tell between the source and the encode most of the time.

Mastering engineers, people who do this professionally for a living, have trouble identifying a 24/96 studio master from a 16/44 AAC file. Meanwhile, read any of the comments on these types of articles and you’ll find comments from people who think they have golden ears and demand FLAC, high-resolution downloads.

Why? Because higher numbers are better. It’s science!

They did the math, but they didn’t use their ears.

iTunes Remote on an iPad

Years ago a setup like this for wireless control of music throughout your house would cost you thousands of dollars, and that’s ALL it would do. Now it comes on every iPad.

  • iTunes Remote on an iPad
  • Related: It’s clear that the Airplay strategy isn’t for you to buy an Airplay capable audio receiver, but to buy an Apple TV and hook that up to what you use in your living room. For that reason I’ve long since abandoned this setup.