Every so often a reader will ask me to put my psychic abilities to the test and foretell the future. In this instance, Mark Patrick writes:
When can we expect to purchase Apple Lossless from iTunes?
To which I can truthfully reply:
I have no idea.
I can say, however, that if those handling the Beatles music were to remaster the group’s recordings in significant ways and Apple Inc. really did gain exclusive rights to distribute the Beatles music online, that would seem the perfect time to bump up the encoding quality of music sold by the iTunes Store.
After all, most people over the age of 35 have a hunk of the Beatles catalog in one form or another and it’s going to take something special to make them buy it again. Remastered versions that strip away the 60s gunk — much as centuries of soot and grime were removed from the Sistine Chapel to reveal Michaelangelo’s work in its original brazen glory — might be just that something special, provided that Apple doesn’t add its own layer of funk by releasing that material as 128kbps AAC files.
One would hope that Apple would up the encoding quality across the board — beginning with the classical and jazz departments, where the most finicky listeners tend to congregate.
Ah, but Mark’s not done. He’s a man with a mission and reveals that mission in the next few phrases:
Why should I buy from iTunes? With a CD I get: automatic backup, a plastic disc cover, a paper with information and sometimes lyrics, the best possible music quality that i can buy. Granted iTunes is very convenient. I have just about 200 CDs (not many by anyone’s standard collection). But I’m already having trouble storing just these few. Downloading is the future of music. When Apple goes to Lossless, I’ll definitely make more iTunes purchase. But for now, no thanks!
To which I also reply:
I have no idea.
If, indeed, you prefer the quality of CDs and their packaging, why change? Sure, iTunes is more convenient in that you can have new music Right Now and you can buy tracks
a la carte
rather than as part of an album, but it’s not terribly inconvenient to order CDs from Amazon, wait a couple of days, and open a package. If storage is a problem, rip the CDs as Apple Lossless files and throw the discs under the bed.
And I wonder if maybe — at least to this point — Apple hasn’t simply decided that it makes more sense to cede the “quality over all” portion of the market to those selling physical media and instead concentrate its efforts on the Great Unwashed — people like me who enjoy the convenience of the iTunes Store and find the quality of its wares good enough.
Makes sense to me, particularly given what people are willing to listen to. For example, I just dashed over to the iTunes Store and today’s most popular album is the soundtrack from
Music and Lyrics, the Hugh Grant/Drew Barrymore vehicle in which Mr. Grant performs the majority of the songs. Points to HG for having an unexpectedly decent voice but, oh my god, the music is so dreadfully ordinary. Pan down the list of the Top 10 albums and it’s more of the same old, same-old.
And that’s the way it’s always been. The majority of people consume junk food music. It has a pleasing familiarity going down the first time, but, over the long term, it’s not good for you.
And this isn’t confined to pop music. Look at today’s top classical albums. Sting is in the number two spot.
Singing tunes from the 16th century
accompanied by a
! Andrea Bocelli holds down spots
holds three of the spots in the top 25 albums. While Ma deserves every spot he’s gained for being among the best in the business, he’s there — like Sumner and Bocelli — not because of his skill, but because he’s known to iTunes’ aforementioned target audience, the GU.
And jazz? Need I say more than that Harry Connick, Jr. (an extremely accomplished musician whose appealing mug also happens to appear on the big screen) is number
and that Miles’
Kind of Blue
remain in the top 10? (Don’t get me wrong, these are wonderful classic jazz albums that everyone should own, but they’ve been played to death.)
Given the kind of music that sells large at the iTunes Store, is it any wonder that Apple hasn’t rushed to issue Apple Lossless versions of its inventory?
But you tell me. Would the iTunes Store selling music in the Apple Lossless format compel you to purchase more music (or any music at all if you’ve been holding out)? Would you pay more for music encoded this way? My guess is that there aren’t enough of you to make a difference to Apple’s bottom line.
But what do I know? I’m no psychic.