I was supremely disappointed by today’s Apple announcements and the biggest source of my disappointment is with iTunes LP. Apple is trying to market this as a new type of digital “album” of sorts in which they include video content, album art, and lyrics. That all sounds great until you think about two things: 1) The price and 2) the mortality of the format.
Some iTunes LP albums are going for over 50% more than the cost of a regular iTunes album but how is a few low quality music videos and some pictures going to justify the cost? I could buy a CD for the price of the iTunes LP album and even less if I buy it used.
For the price I would assume that Apple was finally going to release their music in Apple Lossless. Unfortunately, you’re paying a premium over the regular iTunes album for the EXACT SAME FILE. iTunes LP files are still lossy 265kbps AAC files which will soon be considered inadequate quality when hard drives become big enough so that lossless will become mainstream. AAC will not last forever as a format and is a pathetic master. I still buy CDs to this day because I want the ability to re-encode my entire library if necessary to a different format if the market demands it. I also buy CDs because they still sound so much better than any lossy format.
To add fuel to the fire, Apple has the audacity to name these ripoff albums, iTunes “LPs.” Please do not insult my musical sensibilities. For me, the acronym, “LP,” will always stand for “long-playing” vinyl record. LPs are supposed to be an event. You have to prepare for them, not just double click on a file and be done with it. You have to have the cleaning solutions, the record player, the large floor speakers, a preamp, an amp, and a big-ass chair to melt your body into to enjoy an LP. There will never be a replacement for the event of playing an LP. The scratch of the needle, flipping the record to get to the second half of the album, and fiddling with the amp and preamp will never be replaced by anything digital.
Even CDs are more of an event than any digital format. I was excited to see that Norah Jones replaced John Mayer at today’s conference and was even a little excited that she had an iTunes LP album out already. After looking at the additional content (a couple of bonus tracks and some low quality music videos) my excitement vanished. I had bought “Come Away With Me” for $10 and even had the honor her Norah Jones signing my copy of “Not Too Late,” which is now one of my most prized possessions. Now imagine trying to get Norah Jones to sign a copy of your iTunes LP album. Yeah, it doesn’t really translate.
I appreciate that Apple and the record companies are trying to do something to rejuvinate music industry in a time when physical media is dying but this particular attempt is half-hearted at best. I know Apple would love to sell lossless music but the labels are still hesitant. Until the labels can get over their fear of abandoning physical media, iTunes LP will continue to be just a gimmick. It seems that Apple and the record companies have forgotten what what LPs were originally about: music.