Apple shows a hint of panic over iTunes Store

“There’s talk coming from various sections of the music business that Apple iTunes Store will soon offer high-resolution tracks for sale, and that the introduction might coincide with the future release of three Led Zeppelin masters,” Bobby Owsinski writes for Forbes. “The unconfirmed details have the hi-res tracks in their full 24 bit glory encoded using Apple’s lossless audio coding, and priced a dollar more than the current lossy AAC tracks.”

“Supposedly, the hi-res track launch is in response to the fact that Apple is seriously concerned about how quickly download sales are diminishing, with Nielsen Soundscan’s Q1 report finding that downloads have diminished 13.3% over the same time last year,” Owsinski writes. “Apple missed the boat when it launched iTunes Radio, thinking that it was a way to increase download sales instead of realizing that people stream because they don’t want to purchase their music anymore. Now it’s faced with sales falling far faster than anyone ever anticipated as streaming gradually takes over the music delivery space.”

“Apple’s only chance is to introduce a true interactive streaming service, a Spotify-killer so to speak, in order to keep it’s total music market share from drastically falling,” Owsinski writes. “Just launching a me-too service won’t cut it for Apple though. It has to be something exceptional in order to make people switch from their current streaming service of choice. Let’s face it, Apple’s track record hasn’t been so good lately in that regard, but don’t count the company out yet.”

Read more in the full article here.

101 Comments

      1. Seriously??! A whole 2-3 CDs ripped into your music library. That’s it? Even my son that pays for Spotify and does streaming all the time has more than that.

        I have over 10,000 songs (Rock, Alternative, Jazz) that I have purchased over the years (mostly ripped from CD). Now that I don’t have to re-purchase because of scratched vinyl, broken cassette tapes, or damaged CDs, I don’t have a lot that I am interested in buying, especially from the current pop tunes (I didn’t say none, just not much). So yes, purchased downloads for me is in decline and I don’t stream music.

      2. 16,000 and counting here, mostly ripped from CD. It’s my limited free cash that stops me buying lots of music, I have concert tickets to buy as well, and they ain’t cheap these days; £450 for three Kate Bush tickets for example!

    1. I have way over a thousand CD’s encoded to Apple Lossless and there’s not much new I will buy. I have a tendency to pick up stuff I missed in the past. (Today’s boring, me-too & cliche rinky dink drum machine, Auto-Tuning to death, over normalizing distorted music is a barf fest to music lovers.)

      If Apple had offered Apple Lossless downloads I might have bought more. Time to get past compressed music.

      1. Oh come on! There’s vast amounts of fabulous, quality, well performed and written music out there, if your prepared to get off your ass and make a tiny nit of effort to find it. You won’t find it on mainstream radio, but you never have.
        I could write a list of a couple of hundred artists producing outstanding music, in a variety of genres, folk, blues, Americana, rock…
        The attitude of some here is so damned defeatist; ‘boo hoo, they don’t make any good music any more, boo hoo’
        It’s out there, more than you can possibly imagine.
        Two source suggestions; Uncut Magazine, and BBC 6Music via the Internet.
        And stop whining.

        1. Your mileage may vary of course. I do occasionally buy from some newer groups like Mumford & Sons but I and many here no doubt lived through one of the greatest era’s in music and really there’s not much that excites out there today. Not that there isn’t some good music being played as when we went to see the amazing Chieftains live. But the music will have to find me. I have no intention of lifting a finger to find it. My loss maybe but there are more important things in life, especially when you already own an abundance. The quest to find yet more good music will have to go on without me. If I stumble upon it the surprise is worth it.

    2. Look no further than Miley Cirus, Robin Thicke, and a whole host of rappers that glorify the Walmart society for the reasons why song downloads are plummeting. The music labels don’t have a clue what to promote. There is still great music being written and performed, but as long as the labels promote to the lowest common denominator popular, commercial music will remain a blight on our society.

      1. Go back to sleep, grandpa.

        (BTW, I don’t like them either, but your father/grandfather was saying the SAME thing about whatever bands you like, in the past..)

        1. Those Stephen Foster ballads are a blight, befogging the brains of our girls at piano, old Luther’s hymns no longer to be found. That blasted Virginia Reel is even worse, joying up the hands as to become useless at harvest. What is the world coming to?

        2. The issue is that it took talent to write and perform most of the music of the 20th century, but now it is simply formula antics and very little talent. What’s Miley Cirus known for? Sticking her tongue out, and it’s supposed to be sexy, or something.

        3. No, empirically more music sucks donkeys today more than ever before, just as the talent behind is hack central. Slick digital production does not make for great music necessarily. (BTW you snot nosed kid, you’ll be saying the same thing when your head clears above the over-normalized fog it’s in.)

    3. I agree that the market is saturated on the older catalogs. People will only re-purchase the same music so many times, so unless there is a new release by an artist they already know, Apple needs a streaming service to introduce subscribers to new bands and artists they may not have known previously.

  1. the musicians and labels need to kill off Spotify, Pandora, RDIO, etc. by pulling their music, unless they want to give it away for free. It takes over 2,000,000 streaming plays to pay for one guitar. It takes 10,000,000 streams to pay the sounds engineer. streaming is not a sustainable business model.

  2. Streaming services isn’t the only thing in need of an overhaul. iTS should be transformed and its services separated into modular entities, i.e., Theater, Music, Apps, etc., because the Store has transcended Music to become a hub for myriad products.

    Besides, the music industry is a failed model. It’s the only business I know of who caters to an audience who has the least amount of money to spend for its products and services.

    What the hell is the appeal of some 20-year-old musician who hasn’t even lived, being propped up by the record industry? There is a unending line of teens waiting for their chance in the spotlight and I can’t relate, at all.

    I’m old, I know. And I’ll get over it.

          1. Why would someone give you one star, if they weren’t a childish coward, who couldn’t be bothered to converse with you.

            Sorry-assed immature people on these boards anymore. This place has really taken a nose dive, since iPhone was introduced.

    1. Exactly. All these reality talent shows and a seeming bottomless pit of those who want instant fame & fortune only there’s not enough audience to support all the wannabe’s and have-nots, regardless of how talented.

        1. Sure, many of them will lead sorrowful lives having gotten so close to their objectives (of “money for nothin'”) and then “reality” sets in as the market proves fickle and unsupportive. Kind of a cruel joke.

      1. The real it talent shows prove another point. There are thousands of people out there with talent greeter than many of those who get promoted by record companies and producers. Many of them don’t have the looks, or a famous last name, or some other avenue to notoriety, so they go unnoticed, like Paul Potts and Susan Boyle.

        No, these days it’s not talent. People who can barely sing or speak coherently are promoted and made into “stars” because they have the looks, or the connections to become famous. And it shows in the “music” being peddled these days.

        Janis Joplin wasn’t famous for her looks or her tabloid lifestyle. She was famous for her musical talent and a once in a century voice. It was the same for Jimi Hendrix, who really perfected, if not invented modern electric, rock guitar. Jim Morrison was a pretty boy, alright, but his dark poetry belied his “prettiness”. Listen critically to “This is the End” and it stills speaks to life today. Snoop Dogg, Miley Cirus? Not so much.

        1. Yep. Producers have all kinds of production techniques to literally make anyone sound good. So it all boils down to a manufactured product and physical appeal for pop music these days. That and a rink dink Casio drum machine or pie tins for drums and Auto-Tune set to 11 with inane repetitious lyrics and me-too sound. And frankly all C-rap sounds the same. There are talented people out there but music is no longer as commanding as when we had fewer distractions back in the last century. When an album came out in the 60’s it was a big deal. Now, not so much. More like a yawnfest. In my old age too I have become hyper-picky.

      1. I’ve left out hundreds of musicians. But I’m talking now.

        The point is subtle I know, but Millennials are jaded, being over exposed to instant gratification.

        John Lennon came from a different time.

        How’s about you give us an example of a modern-day 16-year old Lennon?

            1. There are none. The 60’s to early 70’s was a time of naiveté and the (temporary) defeat of commercialism. The plastic and artificially popular rock stars of the 50’s, like Elvis, and the manufactured boy bands of the early 60’s, like the Beach Boys, were displaced by an unpretty, unfamous, ragtag bunch of musicians who played dance halls in places like SF’s Broadway district. These artists were counter-culture in a very real way, and the music industry viewed them as upstarts and enemies. But their success could not be denied, and the Woodstock concert, where 500,000 young people spent 3 days in the rain and mud to hear what became a free concert turned the music world on its head. Their audiences viewed them as authentic and real, in contrast to the made-for-TV, squeaky-clean, plastic creations the music industry was pushing a the time.

              By the late 70’s it was all over. The music industry had embraced and extinguished that counter-culture spirit, and trotted out its own, artificial version of “real” artists.

              Hunter S. Thompson addressed it as only he could:

              The “wave speech” is an important passage at the end of the eighth chapter that captures the hippie zeitgeist and its end.

              “Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era—the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run… but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant.…

              History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.

              My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights—or very early mornings—when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L. L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder’s jacket… booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the toll-gate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change)… but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that…

              There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda.… You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning.…

              And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.…

              So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

            2. That was excellent. Thanks for painting that picture.

              I loved Bill Graham and his Filmore venue. QuickSilver, Airplane, the Dead… reading your comment made me think of Burdon’s San Franciscan Nights.

            3. Hunter, I’m sure we unknowingly shared that Treasure Island tunnel on some of those nights. I was in the old, topless, banana yellow Austin-Healy chasing your taillights across the sparkling blackness of San Francisco bay in those wee hours, fleeing bleak reality at 100 miles per hour. RIP, my old friend. I’m sure you and Hemingway are partying hard together, wherever you are.

            4. Brian Wilson has been compared to Mozart on neurological grounds: both had an ability to think one melody whilst playing another, a rare ambidexterity of cognition.

          1. I have seen some wickedly smart musicians who are six and seven years old who play piano and violin as though they were five-times their current age.

            It remains to be seen if they make a full time profession out of it.

        1. Jim Morrison, Joplin, Dylan, Hendricks, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and a whole host of ancient musicians had something relevant and important to say. The model then was that a group or a writer became popular because of their artistry and commentary of life and issues, was picked up by a music label, and everyone made a ton of money. Today, someone with a famous last name and/or a pretty face is picked up by the music companies, made popular through outrageous behavior, and everyone makes a ton of money from their music sales. Catch the difference?

          1. Catch the difference?

            How in anyway does what you’ve written contradict what I wrote above?

            I specifically stated, I was talking about the modern musician. I wasn’t talking about ancient musicians.

            In fact, you just regurgitated what I said in an earlier post.

            1. I was not specifically asking you that question. I was agreeing with you, and adding to what you said, and asking the general audience if they caught that difference. Yes, paranoid was the right word. 🙂

          2. @GRDualie @Zeke @botvinnik
            Was John Lennon at 16 Mozart? Was Mozart at 16 Mozart? To be a Mozart requires a fullness of time, a resounding social judgement, hardly accessible to any person young at this moment. Using that framework, ‘modern-day Mozart’ must refer to a body of meaningful work, at least one generation removed. As for today’s kids, we can but place bets.

            1. I think you’re overthinking this.

              We’re using Lennon and Mozart as examples of musicians who achieved notoriety in their time, that will stand the test of time, I’m sure.

              I’m certainly not comparing the two, or their musical abilities, innate or otherwise.

              However, one of them died penniless and was buried in an unmarked grave.

              We argue as to whether one or both murdered by overzealous fans.

            2. I still remember going white hearing the radio tell of John Lennon’s having been shot dead…the same radio that had just played ‘Starting Over’, a new song of his. I had to gasp at the cosmic cruelty. As with Mozart (and Schubert), only the good die young?

              These fellows bequeathed some very fine constructions, tools to help the likes of us better tolerate existence, such as it is.

            3. No better way to describe it for me either, “going white”.

              He was starting over, wan’t he? Life was new again. He was learning to cook, do the shopping, bonding with Sean. Making public appearances.

              He was a chrysalis inside the Dakota.

            4. Actually, Mozart was Mozart at 16. At 18 he was employed by the Salzburg court as a musician and composer.

              His sister wrote this about him at the age of 5:

              “He often spent much time at the clavier, picking out thirds, which he was ever striking, and his pleasure showed that it sounded good…. In the fourth year of his age his father, for a game as it were, began to teach him a few minuets and pieces at the clavier…. He could play it faultlessly and with the greatest delicacy, and keeping exactly in time…. At the age of five, he was already composing little pieces, which he played to his father who wrote them down.”

        2. How about Jake Bugg, on his second album, at nineteen.
          Or Laura Marling, three albums into her career at twenty-three.
          Or Lorde, a number one album at sixteen.

  3. I think this article misses a few issues. This issue is actually bigger than just Apple. It’s nice to hold up Spotify and Pandora as models, but neither of them make money and that can’t sustain itself long term. Apple can easily adjust its model to something more similar to Spotify/Pandora or both, but that’s really not going to solve the issue. The only way I can see through this is by placing more emphasis on advertising as that seems like the only compensating revenue stream. There’s anecdotal evidence that Apple sees this as well as they have been moving recently to build up their digital marketing team.

  4. Apple is the world’s biggest music retailer. They passed up wal-mart years ago. I think they probably know more about how to sell music than some random financial pundit.

    -jcr

      1. Another win for psychology over physiology. Our ears cannot tell the difference but our ego says different.

        As we get older, the high frequency capability of our ears drops off. This supposed Hi Res 24 bit music ‘plays’ to our belief that more is better but it can only improve the high frequency response of a player in the range beyond any human capacity to hear it.

        1. I have purchased “Sergeant Pepper” in LP mono, LP stereo, 4-track, 8-track, cassette, CD, iTunes, iTunes+…I ain’t doin’ it again for 24 bit, or 2 jillion bit. Those four limey bastards have made more money off me than Steve Jobs.

        2. Sorry, can’t agree. I’ve spent 50 years involved with auto racing and attending live rock concerts, 30 years working in high noise industrial environments, and all of my life using firearms. My hearing is crap even with hearing aids. Even so, I can hear the difference between a CD and an iTunes track.

            1. Absolutely not true. Once concert, or even one space shuttle liftoff (for those fortunate/unfortunate enough to be much closer than the public stands) is extremely unlikely to permanently damage your hearing.

              The loudest sound the public is likely to hear is a 12 gauge shotgun blast at close range (standing next to the shooter is louder than being the shooter) at about 150 dB or so. Even at that, a single event will very likely not cause permanent damage.

              Do a bit of research. The impairment (up to certain limits) and duration of the impairment is directly proportional to the duration of the event and the loudness of the event. It takes lots and lots of exposure even at 100 dB to do permanent damage to the average person. And unless you’re in front of the speakers at a Stones concert you’re unlikely to go much beyond that 100 dB value.

              Yes, LONG TERM or Very Often REPEATED exposure to any sound above about 85 to 90 dB will likely cause hearing loss. But to say that a single Stones concert will cause permanent loss is just BS (unless you’re sitting *right* in front of the speaker stack throughout the concert).

            2. You’re offering up the old conventional wisdom. What I’m referring to is a new five-year study:

              http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/talking-back/2014/04/14/just-1-rock-concert-or-football-game-may-cause-permanent-hearing-damage/

              A single exposure to loud but not deafening noise may be enough to precipitate irreparable harm to nerves in the auditory system.

              Scientific American dtd April 14, 2014

              Studies over the past five years in animals—with some evidence now coming from human research—are starting to overturn conventional wisdom about hearing loss.

          1. I’ve been going to concerts for over forty years, and been buying music for the same amount of time, and it’s pretty much impossible to tell the difference between a 256Kb download and a CD, a CD and a ripped 350Kb are indistinguishable from one another. I’ve played Lossless and 350Kb files of the same song back to back, through UE TripleFi 10 Studio IEMS, and couldn’t tell them apart.

        3. My digital music purchases, should they include 24-bit offerings will be passed on to my progeny.

          I may not be able to appreciate the high-quality, but my grandkids will learn how.

          There is more than one way of looking at the world.

          1. It’s not just dogs, I hear, er, uh, read about.

            Kids too, have a much higher dynamic range than their parents and use that to their advantage with unique ring tones and alerts that go unnoticed by the elderly.

    1. Actually Apple already has all the music in high res. In there possession. The problem is delivering it to the public in a downloadable form without using too much bandwidth.
      All songs on iTunes start with 24bit 96kHz resolution studio masters. Same with movies too.
      For more on how Apple masters there songs read here:

      Click to access mastered_for_itunes.pdf

  5. Somehow I don’t think Apple is panicked over music downloads. The whole iTunes empire exists to provide content to buyers of Apple hardware. That is where Apple’s money comes from.

  6. Maybe…Just maybe…Slower sales are due to lack of quality, interesting & new music available from recording industry artists & not iTunes? Selection of quality music today is at an all time low…

  7. They can’t say that they didn’t have enough warnings. Sadly being used to out manoeuvring the incumbent On this occasion as the incumbent they spent too many years writing off streaming without it seems recognising that one day with a little lateral thinking someone would get it right. Not alone mind I note we don’t hear MDN parrot their mantra any more about people wanting to own their music as if that were set in stone. Just worried that Apple might suffer elsewhere too if they dont restart thinking different.

    1. Who got it right? Do you believe a streaming music service is going to unseat Apple?

      What ever Apple does next, it will be a model for others to emulate.

      Napster didn’t fail because it lacked advertising.

    1. Like you, I listen to what I consider good music, from my own collection. Top Forty is filled with one-hit wonders, to me anyway.

      Although I must admit Adele was powerful stuff. So I bought four of her singles.

    2. So look outside the top 40, for Christs’sakes! There’s more quality stuff out there than you could possibly keep up with each month, I could easily buy twenty or thirty new albums every month, by new and recent artists, from all over the world.
      If I had the money.
      It’s there, go and find it, it’s not difficult.
      If I can, anyone can.

  8. Apple has removed CD drives from all their computers effectively saying, “no music or video on physical media is welcome here”. Does the iTunes store compensate for not supporting physical media? I don’t think so.
    iTunes is increasingly messy and unpleasant to use additionally, high bandwidth internet is far from ubiquitous. This combination results in new ways to exclude customers and will cause profit problems for the music and video content producers.

    1. Ever heard of an Apple superdrive? You can buy one of them for $79 if you have the urge to have a disc drive for your Apple computer. I have one and rarely use it. I use my blu ray drive a lot more for blu rays. Once I get the content in a digital form the discs just sit there unused.
      Apple removed CD and DVD drives because most people rarely use them. Just like they removed floppy drives. I remember the huge uproar that cause too. But seriously who remembers floppy drives now?

  9. First of all, these are all completely baseless rumors. I would not be surprise at all if Apple announced increased iTunes sales at their next event.

    Next, lossless CD quality music would be a welcome addition to the iTunes store. But “hi-res” 24-bit audio, not so much. Apple’s not they type of company that would trick it’s customers with pseudoscience. There is no human being who can pick 24-bit audio over 16-bit audio with greater than 50% accuracy, despite what some so called “audiophiles” say. 24-bit audio is only useful for mixing and mastering, and offers now advantage to listeners over 16-bit audio.

    1. I can hear the difference quite clearly. I use audio equipment that is much higher quality than most people.

      24 bit does not increase bandwidth, sample frequency does.

      Eg 44.1Khz sample frequency gives a bandwidth of 20Hz to 22.05 KHz. 88.2KHz gives 20Hz to 44.1 KHz and so on. Also the file size is doubled.

      24 bit vs 16 bit word length gives a much more accurate recording due to transitions between samples is much less.

      Basically, higher sampling rates give greater bandwidth and bit depth increases the accuracy of the recording as well as greater dynamic range.

      Pretty well all digital recordings are made at 24 bit / 96 kHz these days with classical / acoustic (jazz for example is often done at even higher rates.

      All these producers, engineers, musicians would not be using these higher rates if there was no benefit as it increases the cost of recording as the equipment and materials used are more expensive.

      Your average household stereo or home entertainment systems isn’t very good so they won’t hear much difference between 44.1/16 and 98/24. But if your kit is halfway decent then the improvement will be very noticeable.

      1. Mostly correct.

        The *audio* bandwidth scales as the sample rate and the Nyquist rate is twice the audio bandwidth. However, for non linear sounds (such as explosions or gun blasts or a sharp “rim shot”) it takes a sample rate 17 or more (not two as with Nyquist) times the audio bandwidth to accurately model the sound. (I was part of a DoD study about sample rates of non linear events that bore this out.)

        For the digital bandwidth the higher the bit depth the greater the digital bandwidth (even though the audio bandwidth does not increase). A 44.1/16 system will use two thirds the digital bandwidth of a 44.1/24 system. The 44.1/24 system will require more expensive components (even if you ignore the requirement for significantly better D/A components).

        Further, evolving standards such as UHDTV, HDMI, etc.are supporting both higher sample rates and greater bit depths per sample.

        For me, the ultimate goal is to recreate a system demonstrated to me a couple decades back. It was a sound room specifically set up by one of the high end, big name audio houses to demonstrate their very high end audiophile equipment for consumers with more money than they know what to do with. In the room they had me sit in a specific chair with a blindfold on (led in blindfolded) while they payed lots of different kinds and volumes of music and other sounds. The amazing thing to me was that there was ZERO background noise from any part of the audio system. When the sounds were not playing I could hear the blood running through my ears. It was that quiet even though all the equipment was still turned on. Additionally, I could not tell where the speakers were placed — not one. Now THAT was some sound system. I still can’t afford a similar system, but I can dream.

  10. Yeah, here’s the thing. If streaming is truly killing off music sales, then it’s not just Apple that will be affected. So will all the brick and mortar stores that sell CDs, like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy. So will Amazon, who sells both physical CDs and downloads. Hell, so will the music industry in general, both the labels and the artists.

    So… Are there a lot of articles about how the music industry in general is in trouble? Or is this just more “OH NOES APPLE IS DOOOOOOMED!!!!!11” horsesh*t?

    I mean, as the biggest player in music sales, and one that operates their music store solely to help sales of their music players and phones, I’d say Apple has the least to be worried about here.

    ——RM

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