Remember iTunes LPs? Don’t worry, a lot of us had forgotten about them. Launched in 2009, the iTunes LP was a format that encouraged iTunes patrons to buy entire albums by adding in video documentary extras, bonus tracks, liner notes, and sometimes even fancy interactive elements. It was the iTunes download equivalent of the Enhanced CD, and meant to help sell complete albums in an age where users could simply buy the two songs they like off of it for $0.99 each.
It looks like this somewhat forgotten feature is fading away. According to a report from UK site Metro, Apple sent a letter to music producers which states that, “Apple will no longer accept new submissions of iTunes LPs after March 2018.” What’s more, the letter says that sales of currently-available iTunes LPs will be phased out over the course of the year. “Existing LPs will be deprecated from the store during the remainder of 2018. Customers who have previously purchased an album containing an iTunes LP will still be able to download the additional content using iTunes Match,” it says.
The impact on you: iTunes LPs don’t seem to be very popular. Wikipedia has a good list of all the iTunes LPs available, and there are plenty of big names there, but it’s a tiny fraction of all the releases from the last eight years. The music industry has moved away from purchases entirely, opting toward the “all you can eat” subscription model of Apple Music or Spotify.
Some sites, including the original report from Metro, have surmised that the letter telegraphs Apple’s move away from music purchases entirely, but that may be a bit of a leap. While it certainly makes some sense for Apple to put all its eggs in the Apple Music basket, there’s nothing in the letter to suggest that Apple will stop selling music, either by track or by album. Only this enhanced album format is on the chopping block. Streaming and subscriptions may be the future of digital music commerce, but sales aren’t dead just yet.