Maybe the labels just haven’t re-encoded it…

The iTunes Producer About Window

Have you ever wondered why one of your favorite albums you purchased on iTunes isn’t offered at 256kbps AAC with iTunes Plus? The reason could simply be that the label hasn’t re-encoded it.

As a publisher on iTunes, one of the tools you use to send your music to Apple is a piece of software called iTunes Producer. With iTunes Producer you import your music (through the original, mastered audio files or through a CD), encode it, and upload it directly to iTunes. iTunes Producer manages the library of submitted music through playlists for compilations, albums, and other collected works.

The latest version was released shortly after iTunes Plus was unveiled. The Readme includes this note:

What’s new in iTunes Producer 1.6 With iTunes Producer 1.6, you can now re-encode and resend your music for iTunes Plus. If you imported your music using iTunes Producer 1.2 or earlier, your audio is encoded at 128 kbps and not eligible for our new premium offering. iTunes Producer 1.6 will indicate which playlists need to be re-encoded and resent to iTunes.

One of the questions I’ve always had about iTunes Plus is how do we know if Apple isn’t simply transcoding their original 128k files to 256k? This answers that question.

Surely the publisher could do that – but at least Apple does not. And the publisher would need to work a little harder to do that: iTunes Producer will not accept MP3s or AACs. In fact, it seems that Apple has provided strict guidelines for sending them music – right down to how big the album art should be.

What’s also interesting to note is the information about the music that you can provide to Apple, but just simply isn’t being used yet (maybe because it’s so extensive that it’s a bunch of work that publishers just aren’t doing?). iTunes Producer includes fields for:

  • Liner Notes
  • Lyrics
  • Beats per minute
  • Credits for remixer, producer, engineers, and other performers
  • Where the album was recorded

If you can’t get an album in iTunes Plus from a label that’s already selling iTunes Plus music it’s likely that the label just hasn’t gone through the process of re-importing the music and sending it to Apple. I hope Apple has some information on how much better iTunes Plus music sells than the regular 128k music – I assume the answer is “much better.”

Oh, and by the way, iTunes Producer sends the music to Apple as Apple Lossless files.