Lyrical developments

For anyone who’s ever thought Jimi Hendrix was singing, “’scuse me while I kiss this guy,” this is good news.

Gracenote —the company that currently supplies track information for iTunes—has signed licensing agreements with dozens of the world’s music publishers, including majors such as BMG Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group, and Sony/ATV Music Publishing. That agreement gives Gracenote authorized access to the lyrics to more than a million songs. And that’s potentially good news for anyone who uses iTunes.

Currently, if you want to get the lyrics to songs in your iTunes library, you have to use a separate software app—such as Harmonic, pearLyrics, or Sing that iTune! —that’ll search out lyrics to whatever song is currently playing in iTunes and copy those words into that song’s lyrics field (which you can find by highlighting a track, hitting Command-I, and going to the Lyrics tab).

But those programs have a couple of problems: First, they rely on Internet lyrics databases, which aren’t always licensed by music publishers and aren’t always accurate. Second, those apps only download the lyrics to the currently playing track; to get lyrics for all the songs in your library, you’d have to play them all.

Gracenote hasn’t yet announced an agreement with Apple to make lyrics available in iTunes. But the company has announced that it’ll launch a “lyrics service later this year enabling digital music retailers… legal access to an accurate and comprehensive lyrics catalog.” Hmmm … “Digital music retailers…” Apple’s iTunes Music Store…

I don’t think I’m making a huge speculative leap here.

If Gracenote does ink a deal with Apple to supply lyrics to iTunes, those lyrics will be more reliably accurate (not to mention more legal) than the lyrics we can get today from Harmonic, et al. And chances are Apple will find a way to incorporate those lyrics into iTunes more thoroughly than today’s one-song-at-a-time solutions. Bottom line: Much as I like the lyrics widgets we have now, I can’t wait for Gracenote to get into the act.

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