iTunes Loses a Little DRM
May 30, 2007 8:49 AM   Subscribe

iTunes Plus has been released. Following EMI's announcement that it would begin offering its entire catalog DRM-free (and a barely-averted torpedoing of that plan), Apple has released an update to iTunes that offers DRM-free, 256kps AAC songs for $1.29. Entire albums are the same price as their DRM-laden counterparts. Those who have purchased EMI music can upgrade their files for $.30/song, $.60/album, or 30% of the album price. Currently only EMI is on-board, but Apple is perfectly happy to bring other labels into the DRM-free universe.
posted by mkultra (99 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Will someone please step in and tell me the reasons why I should be totally outraged by this? Without MeFi I'm lost.
posted by hermitosis at 8:58 AM on May 30, 2007


The music isn't $0.10? Seems pretty good to me though.
posted by chunking express at 9:02 AM on May 30, 2007


Well, hermitosis, you could be outraged by the fact that you're paying more for a DRM-free, 256kbs AAC song when Apple should be offering the cheaper 128kbs versions DRM-free. Or you can be outraged that Apple doesn't offer songs you purchase in the MP3 format. Or you can be outraged that DRM songs will still be sold. Or you can be outraged that your favorite band sucks.
posted by NationalKato at 9:04 AM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Proprietary format for $1.29 a song? No thanks. (I'm not outraged, just not interested.)
posted by rosemere at 9:04 AM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Proprietary? It's an AAC file. How is that more proprietary than an MP3?
posted by chunking express at 9:08 AM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Don't forget to be angry that Apple doesn't sell them in Ogg Vorbis format!
posted by mullingitover at 9:09 AM on May 30, 2007 [7 favorites]


Still no Ogg Vorbis support!!!

>:(
posted by mazola at 9:09 AM on May 30, 2007


Oh I forgot all about Ogg Vorbis. Yeah. I wouldn't hold your breath about that coming anytime soon.
posted by chunking express at 9:10 AM on May 30, 2007


At least it's a step in a better direction. Thankfully for the rest of us, he hackers will always fight efforts to limit our access and our rights to do as we please with things that we buy. I think the music corporations are just realizing it's a game that will never end, and DRM ends up just being a waste of their time & resources.
posted by janetplanet at 9:11 AM on May 30, 2007


You cads. My rage is both more powerful and intellectually superior to yours, as I demand FLACs with album art in PNG. Also lyrics files, in XML. And I would like a pony and a plastic rocket.
posted by adipocere at 9:12 AM on May 30, 2007 [6 favorites]


rosemere- AAC is an open standard, explicitly designed to be the successor to MP3. It just happens that the most common implementation of AAC is Apple's DRM-laden version.
posted by mkultra at 9:12 AM on May 30, 2007


Thanks, NationalKato.

I, for one, am outraged!
posted by hermitosis at 9:14 AM on May 30, 2007


Oh yeah. Totally Ogg Vorbis. Yeah. I totally need to convert all the music I have in the popular lossy and lossless formats to the rarely used Ogg Vorbis so I can complain too.

I joined emusic a few months back because I felt small (very small) pangs of guilt at not paying for music. It's a pretty good deal, they usually have something I want ripped at a decent variable bit rate.

This is a minor step for Apple. It's not a bad thing, but it's really not a good thing.

My rage is both more powerful and intellectually superior to yours, as I demand FLACs with album art in PNG.

Now that's some rage I can get behind.
posted by eyeballkid at 9:16 AM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


They should have just called it mp4 (which I know sort of exists too)... maybe then everyone wouldn't keep deciding and declaring that aac is, somehow, proprietary. Do people just decide one of the A's must mean Apple, as opposed to, you know, "Audio"? No one insists the M in mp3 is secretly Microsoft, do they?

Can you tell this annoys me way way more than it should?
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 9:20 AM on May 30, 2007


I'm convinced it's all a ploy by steve jobs to raise the prices on I-Tunes. 99 cents per song already seemed ridiculous.
posted by sourbrew at 9:21 AM on May 30, 2007


John Kenneth Fisher, your outrage is misdirected. Please see my previous post for some healthy outrage examples. Please rage safely.
posted by NationalKato at 9:23 AM on May 30, 2007


From Wikipedia, for your music purchasing reference (since iTunes doesn't let you search by label): List of musicians signed to EMI, list of EMI labels.
posted by aparrish at 9:27 AM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, shit, if I can get Kim Carnes DRM free, I don't know what else I would need.
posted by eyeballkid at 9:31 AM on May 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


I can buy a song for less than the price of a comic book or half gallon of gas, and I'm supposed to be mad? Nope.

Someone actually steps up and puts a nail in DRM in a major way, and I'm supposed to spit on the extra thirty cents? Nope.

But you tell me there's no option for Steve Jobs to personally deliver my favorite songs on vinyl, with custom album artwork by the reanimated remains of the deceased artist of my choosing, and I'm saying RIP OFF! I DEMAND MY RIGHTS!

The system sucks.
posted by JWright at 9:35 AM on May 30, 2007


Baby steps. It's like when the Warsaw Pact countries starting letting citizens day-trip across the border. One day it's a couple of Trabbies in the slow lane and by the next weekend you can't drive a vehicle down the autobahn for all the wide-eyed gapers. In this case it's taking a bit longer. I see EMI getting a bigger piece of the iTunes pie and the others will have to follow suit in order to compete. At some point, and likely quite suddenly, the RIAA is dead and all the hurf durfers are feeding at the DRM-free butter trough. Piracy doesn't disappear but a lot of the momentum and goodwill behind it evaporates. That Stevie also gets a $.30/track price hike is gravy.
posted by Fezboy! at 9:38 AM on May 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Proprietary format for $1.29 a song? No thanks. (I'm not outraged, just not interested.)

Quick, someone call some people over at Fraunhofer and let them know their patents expired.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:43 AM on May 30, 2007


Definitely a step in the right direction - I'll now be somewhat more inclined to just buy the few tracks that I'm interested in hearing (or have been recommended, or want to find out what they're like) rather than just downloading the bands entire back-catalogue from a torrent...

I haven't RTFA yet, but can you offset the purchase of individual tracks against an album? e.g. buy a few tracks to get a feel for the album, decide you like it and buy the whole album for a slightly reduced cost taking into consideration the tracks you've already bought. I suspect not.
posted by Chunder at 9:44 AM on May 30, 2007


Are they doing some sort of easy way to upgrade from the DRM versions to the plain AAC files? I've got a couple of thousand tracks from iTunes (shutup shutup shutup shutup shutup) and would rather like to make them actually work with Tangerine.
posted by public at 9:45 AM on May 30, 2007


Chunder - You can.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:49 AM on May 30, 2007


(Note to self: Learn to read.)
posted by public at 9:52 AM on May 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Chunder, yes, you can apply track purchases to albums. This is relatively new, I think. It may also not apply universally.
posted by feloniousmonk at 9:56 AM on May 30, 2007


And a reminder that iTunes DRM free music will have your iTunes account name embedded in it. Just saying in case you start sharing your DRM free music with your friends.
posted by jaimev at 10:07 AM on May 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Any chance that, with this version, Apple has fixed the numerous problems with Vista and iTunes?
posted by deafmute at 10:12 AM on May 30, 2007


It's cracks in the giant annoying dam folks. Sorry, but NK is wrong. not an outrage, this is a great step in a good direction. No DRM means more rights for us (like playing our purchased music in non-supported players).

Go Apple!
posted by Dantien at 10:17 AM on May 30, 2007


I've been waiting for this. 128 kb/s is a big reason why I haven't bought much on iTunes.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:23 AM on May 30, 2007


I haven't tried it yet, but this should be good news for those of us who have XBox360's, since the latest update for that offers AAC support. I'm fairly sure that Squeezebox owners are in the same boat.
posted by mkultra at 10:26 AM on May 30, 2007


So my favorite band still sucks?
posted by Sailormom at 10:31 AM on May 30, 2007


>Proprietary? It's an AAC file. How is that more proprietary than an MP3?

Its not, but the idea of a drm free purchase is that you can use it anywhere. Most players don't support aac, so its another shrewd move on apples part to keep people buying ipods. This is what happens when your music distributor also sells a player.

This would be mildly interesting if they were 256 or higher MP3s. Convertign to mp3 after the download is a huge sound quality loss. Toss in embedded names and I'll give you a big 'no thanks.' When this tanks Jobs et al will just tell us the market has spoken for DRM products.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:35 AM on May 30, 2007


Thanks, damn dirty ape. Yes, I was wrong to call AAC proprietary, but I guess I formed that impression from seeing that only iPods play that format. (What other players support it now?)

eMusic manages to distribute DRM-free mp3s at 190 kbps VBR. I can't see any technical reasons why Apple couldn't do the same.
posted by rosemere at 10:47 AM on May 30, 2007


Anybody ever use allofmp3? I read all about how they were going under, that they had all sorts of legal actions and police raids against them & that credit card companies were going to stop allowing their transactions or something... but the site looks the same as it always did. I thought the site was going to go down in seconds but they seem to be sticking around.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:48 AM on May 30, 2007


Amazon's music store is going to have the EMI stuff as plain MP3, so it might be worth waiting for.
posted by smackfu at 10:48 AM on May 30, 2007


Most players don't support aac

The iPod, which has something like 75+% market share, does. So do an increasing number of other players.

Convertign to mp3 after the download is a huge sound quality loss.

No, no it's not. With most music, you can't tell the difference. And spare me your hurf durf about your awesomely fine-tuned ears.

Toss in embedded names and I'll give you a big 'no thanks.'

I'm curious why this bothers you. It's not stopping you from doing anything but hiding your piracy tracks.
posted by mkultra at 10:51 AM on May 30, 2007


It certainly isn't apple's problem that other players don't support AAC. What exactly is stopping them from adding that feature, since AAC is not proprietary?
posted by odinsdream at 10:54 AM on May 30, 2007


rosemere writes "eMusic manages to distribute DRM-free mp3s at 190 kbps VBR. I can't see any technical reasons why Apple couldn't do the same."

It would be nice if the format were lossless. I will pay money for lossless files, but not for lossy files which, added together, cost the same or more as a CD, which doesn't have any compression. Why is the technology driving the quality down, rather than up (rhetorical)? I also want to buy CDs without DRM; how about that?

Most of the music I buy these days is "underground" and straight from the artist/distributor, and there is no DRM. However, none of these artists are making much money. Still, I spend money on them rather than sharing files to get their music, and they get a bigger percentage than if they were with a major label.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:57 AM on May 30, 2007


Most players don't support aac

Microsoft's Xbox360 and Zune support AAC. Philips makes players that support AAC. Wireless and some car stereo systems play AAC.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:03 AM on May 30, 2007


Allofmp3 has been a gem, but nowadays there's no way to pay them. I've heard www.mp3stor.com is really good, and can be funded via paypal. Check out the Ry Cooder, Ernest Ranglin & Erik Truffaz - sweeeet.

Songboom has a list of dodgy East European or Russian music stores that made me very happy.
posted by algreer at 11:04 AM on May 30, 2007


I'm still not to excited about this deal:

1) EMI is bleeding heavily, and this is an effort to shore up their failing business. If they are lucky, they'll be bought up by someone that will float them cash and keep the lights on. You can't predict an industry change off of one flailing label's actions.

2) The download is still not of the quality many of us would like. Some of you saying you can't tell the difference doesn't mean that some of us can't or that we shouldn't want the highest quality digital rendition of our music.

3) I can buy most albums for $10-20 and receive between 10 and 20 tracks per album. That means that buying the album on CD is often less expensive than buying a download. In today's online ordering world + brick and mortar stores, I can have any album I want in a day. I receive the full album (and I believe in listening to a full album to appreciate a band's work - if you hate most of the songs, usually the band sucks). I also receive the album art and liner notes, and I get the CD. I rip the CD anyway I like, including in lossless format. Thus, for the most part, CDs are still superior to downloads.

Given all of these reasons, I, and a lot of people I know, have very little use for iTunes with or without DRM.

Now, tell me they are offering lossless music in a standard format with no form of DRM or other such crap for $1 a song and from all companies, and maybe - maybe - I become more interested.
posted by Muddler at 11:04 AM on May 30, 2007


What exactly is stopping them from adding that feature, since AAC is not proprietary?

Nothing, and a lot of them have. I just tried an unmodified iTunes Plus track on my Sony Ericsson W810i music phone, and it worked perfectly.

but the site looks the same as it always did.

It may do, but their credit card processor recently cut them off. Meanwhile MP3 Sparks, which is in no way connected to allofmp3 seems to have a working credit card account with the same processor.
posted by cillit bang at 11:05 AM on May 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


No, no it's not. With most music, you can't tell the difference. And spare me your hurf durf about your awesomely fine-tuned ears.

Yes, yes, you really can tell the difference. Just because you either don't have nice enough equipment to hear the fragments, or don't know what to listen for... Well.

It ain't "magic ears" on his part. I'd be happy to let you do a blind listening test on my Shure E4s, or the Sony cans I use while working on music. It's plenty there in both (though I will say I can't always tell on the shitty $20 beater headphones I use from time to time.)

The basic principals involved in lossy compression, and going from lossy compression to more lossy compression are 1) simple and 2) not up for debate.

(I agree with the other bits of your post, it's just this one that's a bit wrong-headed.)
posted by sparkletone at 11:06 AM on May 30, 2007


I'm sure the artists are thrilled about the increased royalties they will get from these more expensive songs. Wait, what's that? Oh Apple and EMI will keep all the extra money? I guess stripping the DRM from other people's songs is an expensive process.

/me waits for Amazon.com's service.
posted by acetonic at 11:07 AM on May 30, 2007


mkultra writes "spare me your hurf durf about your awesomely fine-tuned ears."

Spare me your scorn. Maybe you'd notice more if you bought a book and the print were out-of-focus.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:07 AM on May 30, 2007


I don't believe that most people really think AAC is some Apple-locked format. But I also don't think most people know what AAC is at all. What they do know is that .MP3 is "the one that's free from restrictions and plays anywhere." So I think, JKF, that it's not so much a misconceived bias against .AAC so much as it is a wariness about anything not .MP3.

But much as I'd rather just see them selling .MP3's, it is still a step forward, and I hope DDA is wrong in thinking that "When this tanks Jobs et al will just tell us the market has spoken for DRM products."

I'm curious why this bothers you. It's not stopping you from doing anything but hiding your piracy tracks.

I can't speak for DDA, but personally, I don't really like any restriction that isn't there for a physical CD. I'm not seeding the torrents for the latest studio releases, but why is unreasonable to want what I get with the CD -- even if it's a feature (like no personally identifying info in my music tracks) that I never much use? And there are features I do use with the CD that I give up here: If I want lossless, I can turn the CD into that. If I want .mp3's, I can do that. They're not charging me any less for accepting new restrictions are they? So why will I welcome them? I may put up with them for the convenience, or for the "buy one track instead of 15" but that doesn't mean they aren't an annoyance.
posted by tyllwin at 11:09 AM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


That first part is poorly phrased. Audio fragments aren't always the result, but it really is easy to tell the difference between the first gen. and second gen. compression on all but the highest bitrate settings. Similarly, it's trivial to tell the difference between lossless and a compressed file at all but the highest bitrate settings.
posted by sparkletone at 11:09 AM on May 30, 2007


Spare me your scorn. Maybe you'd notice more if you bought a book and the print were out-of-focus.

That's why I listen to Books On Tape while reading along. It makes for a super high 1024kps experience so I can actually feel words.
posted by jmd82 at 11:13 AM on May 30, 2007 [5 favorites]


(I meant the first part of my previous post... erm, in my previous post.)

I don't believe that most people really think AAC is some Apple-locked format.

This is untrue in my experience. The "Apple + acronym with A's in it" thing is a simple enough leap to make. Add in Apple's deserved or not reputation for file format lock-in...
posted by sparkletone at 11:16 AM on May 30, 2007


This also adds to the proprietary confusion:

Apple Lossless data is stored within an MP4 container with the filename extension .m4a. While Apple Lossless has the same file extension as AAC, it is not a variant of AAC, but uses linear prediction similar to other lossless codecs such as FLAC and Shorten.
posted by smackfu at 11:35 AM on May 30, 2007


Given the current situation at EMI, this is a brilliant PR move, and the timing is impeccable - I imagine Apple still hasn't renegotiated it's deal with Universal this year, and this cuts off a lot of the leverage Doug Morris accumulated by playing "tough guy" with Microsoft's Zune. and to charge more for non-DRM music? talk about turning the current paradigm on its head.

still, i think this cross-promotion is a day late and a dollar short. i don't think this will improve emi's market share, despite their strong publishing catalogue in american/latin markets, as they still have a very weak A&R department, and i'm surprised apple would go out on this limb. they must anticipate a lot of independent support. after all, wouldn't independent artists want their music non-DRM, but also at a higher price so they can get a bigger slice?

i'm very curious to see how amazon prices out their non-DRM music. this story is just beginning.
posted by phaedon at 11:36 AM on May 30, 2007


And I would like a pony and a plastic rocket.

I can't help with the plastic rocket part, but you might be able to get ponies if you ask here.

One day it's a couple of Trabbies in the slow lane

Any lane a Trabi is in is by definition the slow lane.
posted by oaf at 11:41 AM on May 30, 2007


Some of you saying you can't tell the difference doesn't mean that some of us can't

In a double-blind test, even you probably can't tell the difference on all but the very best audio hardware. If you doubt it, you're probably the kind of person who buys $50 audio patch cables—the kind that keep the thetans from getting into your precious audio equipment.
posted by oaf at 11:49 AM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


I have signal cables that cost more than $50, and were totally worth it.

Okay that's because they're 50' long
posted by flaterik at 12:02 PM on May 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


In a double-blind test, even you probably can't tell the difference on all but the very best audio hardware. If you doubt it, you're probably the kind of person who buys $50 audio patch cables—the kind that keep the thetans from getting into your precious audio equipment.

Dude.

The Thetans don't keep themselves out of my signal, I have to do something!

Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't some secret agreement between, say, Bose, Monster and the Church of Scientology.

More seriously, the bitrates involved in the transcode do matter some.

For non-transcoded files, above 192kbps or so, I have trouble hearing much of a difference.

However, if you're transcoding from one of Apple's shiny new AAC files down to a 128kbps mp3, I'm going to be able to hear the difference. Sorry!

If you're only going from the 256k AAC to a 320kbps mp3 and the source file is good enough, I'm probably only going to be able to hear it on higher-end gear, or tell when I look at a frequency or spectral analysis of the file. But the difference is still there.

My ears are not special. I have not finely tuned shit. My equipment is not ZOMGMAGICK. Hell, I don't even have a swank stereo, just a couple pairs of sufficiently nice headphones, some crappy ones, and a car stereo.

Transcoding is bad for you, m'kay.
posted by sparkletone at 12:10 PM on May 30, 2007


"If there was some sort of secret agreement..." that should be.
posted by sparkletone at 12:16 PM on May 30, 2007


I don't really like any restriction that isn't there for a physical CD.

Watermarking the song isn't a restriction. It's not hindering you from doing anything.
posted by mkultra at 12:18 PM on May 30, 2007


What exactly is stopping them from adding that feature, since AAC is not proprietary?

Well, it may not be "proprietary" for some meaning of the term, but it is patent-encumbered and requires a license to distribute an encoder or decoder. (Yes, I know MP3 is patent-encumbered also. Yes, I know you think Ogg Vorbis and Ogg Theora are covered by submarine patents.)
posted by enn at 12:21 PM on May 30, 2007


If it's not plain-jane mp3 then I'm really not interested.
posted by bshort at 12:23 PM on May 30, 2007


Yes, I know you think Ogg Vorbis and Ogg Theora are covered by submarine patents.

I thought I heard... singing, sir...
posted by sparkletone at 12:26 PM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


My two year old Nokia phone supports AAC. I think most newer Nokia phones do. On the other hand, none of them support the Zune format.
posted by iviken at 12:28 PM on May 30, 2007


For people worried about AAC support, you can simply right click and rip the 256kbps AAC track to a 192kpbs MP3 track if you fiddle with your iTunes prefs a bit.

Also, this is great because for $10, I converted my dozen or so EMI artists over and now I'll be able to convert those to MP3 and ditch the AAC files if I want.
posted by mathowie at 12:36 PM on May 30, 2007


oaf writes "In a double-blind test, even you probably can't tell the difference on all but the very best audio hardware. If you doubt it, you're probably the kind of person who buys $50 audio patch cables—the kind that keep the thetans from getting into your precious audio equipment."

On my *stock stereo* in my Toyota 4Runner I can hear the difference. At low bitrates, the degradation of high frequencies is audible. At higher bitrates, the compression of dynamics is audible, particularly when compared to the non-compressed original. At the moment, I have powered $100 Altec Lansing computer speakers connected to my computer with an onboard soundcard, which is unfortunately my home stereo. I can hear the difference on those as well. I've done live sound professionally, but mostly on cheap systems doing whatever I could to get something decent out of it. My hearing has been slightly damaged from practicing drums and running sound without protection. And I can still hear the difference.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:43 PM on May 30, 2007


Audio fragments aren't always the result, but it really is easy to tell the difference between the first gen. and second gen. compression on all but the highest bitrate settings.

The files are in 256kbps, and AAC is accepted to be of slightly higher quality than MP3 at the same bitrate. I can accept this argument with the older 128kbps stuff, but this is pretty far along the curve toward audiophile quality.
posted by mkultra at 12:44 PM on May 30, 2007


On my *stock stereo* in my Toyota 4Runner I can hear the difference.

Wait, are you recompressing lossily compressed music a second time, with a different compression algorithm? If you do that, you're going to get the auditory equivalent of YouTube video.
posted by oaf at 1:20 PM on May 30, 2007


The files are in 256kbps, and AAC is accepted to be of slightly higher quality than MP3 at the same bitrate. I can accept this argument with the older 128kbps stuff, but this is pretty far along the curve toward audiophile quality.

Right. But when you then transcode that 256kbps file down into a 128kbps mp3? You're going to be able to tell it's degraded from the 256, no question.

When going from the 256kbps file to, say, a 320kbps mp3, you might not be able to tell at all without doing a spectrum (or frequency) analysis, but you theoretically might be able to hear it on good enough gear.

That's what I'm saying.

My original statements regarding being able to hear quality loss assumed you were going from the 256kbps AAC to a lower-than-that bitrate mp3.
posted by sparkletone at 1:21 PM on May 30, 2007


oaf writes "Wait, are you recompressing lossily compressed music a second time, with a different compression algorithm? If you do that, you're going to get the auditory equivalent of YouTube video."

No, I didn't say that. I am talking about 1st gen compression.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:28 PM on May 30, 2007


oaf writes "In a double-blind test, even you probably can't tell the difference on all but the very best audio hardware. If you doubt it, you're probably the kind of person who buys $50 audio patch cables—the kind that keep the thetans from getting into your precious audio equipment."

I am no high-end audiophile... I use a pair of mid-range sony SL-71s (less than $50 i think) with my ipod, and have a mid-range denon bookshelf system at home... I generally can't hear much change between 320k and 256k, but I absolutely can hear the difference btw 256k and 128k mp3's or aac's... and it's for that reason that i still buy cds and rip 'em as i see fit, rather than purchasing off itunes.. so for me, this is at least a step in the right direction, but as someone else said, paying more for it is ridiculous. i won't download music until its cheaper than a cd, with the same restrictions and at the same quality. (yes, i may be waiting a while).
posted by modernnomad at 1:28 PM on May 30, 2007


Apparently once you sign up to iTunes Plus, you stop seeing standard price tracks listed. All available songs become $1.29. Nice one, Apple.
posted by phaedon at 1:38 PM on May 30, 2007


Apparently once you sign up to iTunes Plus, you stop seeing standard price tracks listed. All available songs become $1.29. Nice one, Apple.

I think that's a preference you can change. I can't say, as Software Update hasn't popped up yet.
posted by oaf at 1:44 PM on May 30, 2007


This thread, I dunno. It's like listening to a buncha' samurai barking about whether you should use a Kamakura or Muromachi katana to partition a cantaloupe. Please. You badasses are the freaking elite of the wired world, the Thermopylae 300 of early adoption, the blasé digerati: "Ogg Vorbis," "256kbps," "DRM," wtf pfui. The vast numbers who use iTunes, who rip WalMart-sought Keith Urban CDs and scunge Maroon 5 off Limewire are peasant soldiers by comparison, wearied by dim years of browser wars, spyware and RIAA ululations, armed only with converted farm tools and aging iMacs.

So if Apple can sell this in to them, the scorned masses yearning to hear free, Apple wins the peace of a thousand years. An iPod in every pot. Jobs drinks exquisite tea from an empty cup. And you, killers all, shall keep cursing, keep gleaming on the keen edge of trend curves.
posted by Haruspex at 1:59 PM on May 30, 2007 [14 favorites]


I think that's a preference you can change. I can't say, as Software Update hasn't popped up yet.

You can dig around the preferences and turn iTunes Plus off completely, but you can't have it both ways at once. It's a ruse to get everyone who buys one iTunes Plus track to buy them forever more, puffing up the statistics of people who prefer non-DRM.

Also you can run Software Update from System Preferences.
posted by cillit bang at 2:20 PM on May 30, 2007


So if Apple can sell this in to them, the scorned masses yearning to hear free, Apple wins the peace of a thousand years.

Actually, I have applaud this move on both EMI and Apple's part. Regardless of whatever possibly crass motivations they have, this is a very definite step in the right direction. And I think it will be extremely popular with the average iTMS user. Particularly any one who has, or knows someone who has, been bitten by activation problems.

Furthermore, I have no problems what so ever with 256kbps files. Lossless would be nice, but there's not significant enough storage, bandwidth or demand to make it worthwhile (yet). Hell, 256kbps is nice enough that I'll be going from no iTMS ever to occasional use. In fact, with regards to quality, these files are nicer than the ones I currently create for myself, as I choose file size over quality and go for 192kbps mp3s.

Though one of these days, I should strap on my samurai sword, hook LAME up to iTunes and get it create V0 VBRs instead...
posted by sparkletone at 2:33 PM on May 30, 2007


It's a ruse to get everyone who buys one iTunes Plus track to buy them forever more, puffing up the statistics of people who prefer non-DRM.

Do I need to score an 11 on a cynicism test before I'm allowed to participate in this thread?

Anyway, I now understand why Apple was so rigid about the "one price, with no exceptions" thing before. The iTunes Plus mode is just awkward. It was never offered explicitly to me, and I found it through a tiny tiny link on an album page. I'm not sure if anybody will get to it unless they are specifically trying. So I'm guessing this will "artificially" deflate the non-DRM numbers.

I wish they'd come up with a better interface, but maybe this is the best that can be done with the situation.
posted by Llama-Lime at 2:33 PM on May 30, 2007


Apparently once you sign up to iTunes Plus, you stop seeing standard price tracks listed. All available songs become $1.29. Nice one, Apple.

If I remember the wording of the popup box I saw earlier, it asks you if you'd like to make iTunes Plus the default for when you go to iTMS for music. I believe I hit no, as it's always available from the main page of the regular store.

And I'm assuming all this can be changed from your account page, if not the iTunes preferences.

But when you make an assumption, you make an ass out of u and mption, so...
posted by sparkletone at 2:38 PM on May 30, 2007


sparkletone writes "Lossless would be nice, but there's not significant enough storage, bandwidth or demand to make it worthwhile (yet)."

Lossless compression is possible, though it's not as efficient as lossy. There is ample storage and bandwidth. Perhaps not enough demand, but if gold CDs could command double the average price of regular CDs, then the demand is surely there, just not tapped.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:46 PM on May 30, 2007


Haruspex writes "So if Apple can sell this in to them, the scorned masses yearning to hear free, Apple wins the peace of a thousand years. An iPod in every pot. Jobs drinks exquisite tea from an empty cup. And you, killers all, shall keep cursing, keep gleaming on the keen edge of trend curves."

I can already buy WAVs (uncompressed, of course) from a legitimate distributor of the music I like. I prefer buying the CD to get the artwork. Apple can do what it wants. It won't change what I want.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:54 PM on May 30, 2007


And I would like a pony and a plastic rocket.

Dear Buddha...
posted by Sandor Clegane at 3:02 PM on May 30, 2007


Lossless compression is possible, though it's not as efficient as lossy.

Well, yeah. In this case, I have little doubt Apple would go with their own Apple Lossless stuff, and we'd get "ZOMG FLAC" whinging on top of the Vorbis stuff.

But even compressed lossless files aren't the order(s) of magnitude improvement in file size that lossy files are.

I suppose people with average-sized, and small, music collections might be able to handle lossless right now. I sometimes have trouble remembering that not everyone's collection is as stultifyingly large as mine, or that of several people I know.

And I'm not sure, but while sufficient bandwidth exists, I wonder what Apple would have to raise the price by to cover an iTMS worth of Apple Lossless files being bought at current rate-of-sales. I'm guessing it would make me cringe to think of it.

While I've not seen anything definite, I'd be willing to bet that most of Apple's share of the iTMS price of a file goes to bandwidth...

In general, you're right. There's demand now, and it's certainly possible, but I don't think sufficient demand exists to offset the other factors.
posted by sparkletone at 3:06 PM on May 30, 2007


I think one of you boffins should invent a new compressed format that sounds as good as FLAC but squeezes down as small as an mp3.

I'll make some coffee.
posted by chuckdarwin at 3:07 PM on May 30, 2007


I can tell the difference between compressed and uncompressed, but honestly I don't really give a fuck. I'd be more likely to buy the iTunes Plus tracks to get rid of the DRM than for the increased quality.
posted by danb at 3:08 PM on May 30, 2007


I'll still buy CDs and rip them to lossless, then throw the disks in the back of my closet, but...

Back in the Napster days the record companies were fond of saying "you can't compete with free." The thing is they didn't try. Then along came iTunes and someone actually made an attempt to compete with free by providing an option to buy music online, and they had some success.

However the option was still 256k+ mp3s which would play on anything, and you could do anything with, or even lossless if you wanted, against 128k AAC that (although this is improving) didn't play on much and was locked down with DRM. Even ignoring the price, the free option was far, far better. That weren't competing on price or product.

With this step I think (after how many years since Napster?) record companies might have a product that compares to what people have been getting for free. Decent bitrate, no DRM. Good luck to them.
posted by markr at 3:10 PM on May 30, 2007


Forget bitrate for a minute, how about higher bit depth? We're still stuck with 16 bit sound in this day and age when we could and should be listening to 24 bit sound everywhere. How about some lossless (or even high datarate lossy) 24 bit tracks?
posted by Potsy at 3:15 PM on May 30, 2007


256k AAC is really pretty good. I listen to Radio Paradise in the 128K AAC+ format, and to casual listening it's about as good as the 192k MP3 stream that they used to offer. (they had to drop it because their free mirror stopped supporting 192k format.) From the relative quality of the 128k stream, I'd think 256k would probably be about as good as 320Kmp3... ie, damn good. And AAC is a reasonably well-supported format. Not all players will do it, but iPods definitely do, and most computer software players have AAC decoders, if you don't like iTunes.

I would, however, suggest against transcoding to mp3, as you get all the accumulated errors of both formats. You'd be best to listen to it in the native AAC instead.

Overall, I find this frustrating, as they're almost there. What I want: true CD-quality music, ideally in CUE/FLAC format so I can recreate my own CDs if I want them. (any lossless format would be acceptable, but CUE/FLAC is just really convenient.)

I can get this product now by going to Amazon or to a physical music store. I have to take the time to rip it, but I'm getting high quality "lossless" (all digital formats involve loss, but CDs are pretty damn good), in a perfectly portable format that works with everything. Most CDs have no copy protection, and the few that do are easy to crack.

That's what they're competing with; excellent, ubiquitous, digital music on plastic disks. For electronic download, since they don't have to provide me anything physical, I want it to be less expensive. I don't think that's unreasonable. If they price it at $1/track, $10/album, I'll happily buy music I like. If they price it at $5/album, I'll buy anything I vaguely enjoy at all. Instead of 'do I buy music this month?', the question would become 'how much music do I buy this month?'.

BTW, asking for ogg is just silly. Get it in a lossless format and you can make all the different kinds of lossy compression you want. Foobar2k has an incredibly powerful automated rip/conversion function that will transcode an entire library with almost no user intervention. Give it a bunch of source files, point it at a destination, and start it running. A few hours to a few days later, depending on your source size and how many CPUs you have, you have a shiny new library in aac or ogg or mp3 or whatever the heck you want.

I'm tempted to buy some tracks from Apple on this one just to show support for the no-DRM idea... but at those prices, even if do, I'll just toss the AAC tracks and download FLACs instead. :)

They're almost there... it's so frustrating that they haven't quite gotten it right yet.
posted by Malor at 3:35 PM on May 30, 2007


I dont want to spoil the party but this thing has some
SERIOUS privacy issues
posted by BillsR100 at 3:36 PM on May 30, 2007


How about some lossless (or even high datarate lossy) 24 bit tracks?

SACD hasn't set the world on fire.
posted by smackfu at 3:37 PM on May 30, 2007


Well, yeah. In this case, I have little doubt Apple would go with their own Apple Lossless stuff, and we'd get "ZOMG FLAC" whinging on top of the Vorbis stuff.

I don't think you'd get too much whining... it's easy to transcode from one lossless format to another, and equally easy to make oggs. Myself, I'd just like CUE/FLACs because that makes it very easy to burn perfect copies of the original; that's how I store my electronic library, so I have backups in case I screw up an original CD.

Apple Lossless would, however, be acceptable. CUE files are nice, but not really necessary. You can still make CDs with the lossless tracks: they'll sound just as good. The problem is that the stuff like CD-TEXT is lost, and the tagging is often a little wonky if you want to re-rip them for some reason. I don't see this as a big problem, just an inconvenience.
posted by Malor at 3:47 PM on May 30, 2007


how about higher bit depth?

The way AAC and ATRAC and I think MP3 work they have potentially very high dynamic range (which is roughly equivalent to bit depth), so with a 24-bit source and a decent encoder it should be preserving a lot of that information.
posted by cillit bang at 3:50 PM on May 30, 2007


For the record, I was joking about the Ogg. Heh.
posted by mazola at 3:50 PM on May 30, 2007


sparkletone writes "And I'm not sure, but while sufficient bandwidth exists, I wonder what Apple would have to raise the price by to cover an iTMS worth of Apple Lossless files being bought at current rate-of-sales. I'm guessing it would make me cringe to think of it."

Well, I work at an ISP, and we have to pay for bandwidth, hence so do our customers. let's say a 3 minute song in lossless format comes out to 10MB (being generous). If the song costs $1, then 100 songs come to $100 and would use ~1GB. Wholesale bandwidth is far, far less than $100/GB, and even retail is at most $5-10GB, in small volume. I imagine Apple pays far less than the retail rate. Wholesale CDs are still more expensive for retailers than online sales of lossless files.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:08 PM on May 30, 2007


it's easy to transcode from one lossless format to another, and equally easy to make oggs

Well it's not that simple. Apple Lossless is proprietary, and had to be reverse-engineered to be playable in anything but iTunes.
posted by smackfu at 4:19 PM on May 30, 2007


Forget bitrate for a minute, how about higher bit depth?

iTunes will happily play 24-bit AIFF files, but your iPod... Not so much.
posted by sparkletone at 7:55 PM on May 30, 2007


I don't believe that most people really think AAC is some Apple-locked format.

I think most people don't even know what AAC is. They think all digital music is MP3.

But, here is what I hear from almost everyone (YES, almost everyone) as their reason for not buying an iPod, or at least holding off:
"I don't want to have to buy all my music from the iTunes store! I have tons of CDs already and don't want to pay for them again!"

When I tell people they NEVER have to buy anything EVER from iTunes, and they can put ALL their CDs on the iPod, they think I am lying. It takes a lot of effort to convince them. I don't know where that belief comes from.
posted by The Deej at 8:06 PM on May 30, 2007


I dont want to spoil the party but this thing has some
SERIOUS privacy issues


Just replace those atoms with "steve.jobs@apple.com".
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:51 PM on May 30, 2007


The NYT gets in on the bitrate silliness.
posted by sparkletone at 10:44 AM on May 31, 2007


Plus music is $1.39 in Canada. Not sure why we're paying a $0.10 premium.
posted by howling fantods at 1:04 PM on May 31, 2007


Plus music is $1.39 in Canada. Not sure why we're paying a $0.10 premium.

1.39 CAD = about 1.30 USD.

Their servers seem to be overwhelmed...I've been trying to download a few albums since last night, and iTunes is using about 95% of my processor, but only 0.05% of my bandwidth...so far I've managed to download 3 songs out of 45.
posted by malocchio at 3:27 PM on May 31, 2007


Well, sure. But DRM'd songs are still $0.99 here.
posted by howling fantods at 9:55 AM on June 1, 2007


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