Apple and U2 working on non-piratable ‘interactive format for music,’ sources say

“U2 and Apple are apparently collaborating on a new, “interactive format for music”, due to launch in ‘about 18 months,'” Sean Michaels reports for The Guardian. “Bono spoke to TIME about a new tech scheme which ‘can’t be pirated’ and will reimagine the role of album artwork.”

“Although initial reports compared the project to Neil Young’s Pono, or to Apple’s early DRM-restricted FairPlay files,” Michaels reports, “Billboard reports that this is a bit of a misunderstanding. ‘It’s not a new format, but rather a new way to package and present an album,’ said an unnamed source ‘with knowledge of the situation.’ ‘This is focused on creative advances, versus shifts in technology.'”

Read more in the full article here.

“Apple has tread this path before, in the music and film industries, through its iTunes LP and iTunes Extras formats,” Andrew Flanagan reports for Billboard. “iTunes LP, introduced in 2009, gave labels and artists an extra creative arm for the presentation of digital albums, with exclusive material like interactive artwork. iTunes Extras offered similar functionality for films, with exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes materials.”

Flanagan reports, “The forthcoming new product from Apple and U2 can be expected to further LP and Extras in significant ways — in the TIME feature, Bono mentions that the format will be television-ready — though exactly how can be left, for now, to the imagination.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related article:
Apple and U2 working on secret project to save the music industry – September 18, 2014


    1. Oh but gosh, then they’d have to work hard for a living! The prior spoiling precedent of riches by vinyl records and sitting and watching the money rolling in is over. That was then, this is now. Oh well I’m older now and don’t care about music the way I used to anyway.

  1. This is one my few skeptical moments on an idea to market music from Apple. Most people just want to listen to music conveniently, not peruse artwork, lyrics, video’s or what have you except maybe a cursory look. It certainly won’t stop online music pirating (which I don’t do).

    1. Yep. Mind you, I remember listening to a record album while reading the cover and liner notes, but that 30+ years ago, when I was a kid and the only entertainment in my room was a record player and a radio. I listened to my music that way because I didn’t have a choice. These days, music is something you listen to while you’re doing something else.


    1. Yeah I agree. I don’t sit sit down to listen to music. It’s in the background of my other activities. Spotify is perfect for me at $10/month. I no longer want to buy music just like I don’t want to buy movies. I don’t listen to old CD’s or watch old DVD’s…they just collect dust.

    2. You and pretty much everyone else. This is why I laugh at the attempts to move to greater bit rates and other “high fidelity” formats. You don’t need perfect sound if you’re listening in a car, or riding your bike through the wind, or walking around the house doing chores. Those formats appeal to an audiophile minority that take music much seriously than the general public.


  2. I remember chatting years ago with David Pogue about the concept of eBooks as applications. The same ideas can be applied to ‘albums’ of music:

    You have to enter the serial number for your copy of the application in order to be able to run the book the first time. What happens after that was left up in the air.

    One idea is that the application keeps a copy of the serial number with itself as a method of identifying who bought the book. If it gets pirated, you can go back to the source. The problem with this option is that the source owner can say ‘someone stole it from me’.

    Another idea is for the eBook app to access the publisher’s server EVERY time for verification of ownership. If some pirating is going on, it can be tracked. Opening a pirated book can be stopped.

    The eBook could be encrypted and the serial number is the key. Etc. It’s open to brainstorming.

    David Pogue decided to follow TidBITS’ lead and simply provide DRM-free books. Eventually, O’Reilly Media set up their own piracy prevention system, which Pogue now uses.

      1. Every time I hear “can’t be pirated/copied” I have to laugh.

        There is nothing that can’t be copied, the quality of the copy can be questionable.. but nothing is “safe” from copying.

      2. Oh yeah. I could come up with a dozen apps at least. The most popular may be Audio Hijack Pro.

        From my POV, the single best way to lower music pirating is to STOP treating customers as default criminals. This new format, whatever it will be, is in effect just more of the same distrust of people. The automatic response, of course, is to act like the crook the music ‘industry’ expects you to be.

        Lots of businesses, including TidBITS mentioned above, have proven that treating your customers with respect equates to LOW piracy of their media. It’s so simple.

  3. Before most commenters here jump on the bandwagon slamming DRM as a concept and fight against piracy as a general principle, I’d like to mention something from a musician’s perspective.

    When you are in a band that has, after years of practice, songwriting and club performances, finally signed a record deal and at least have your CD out, you get the feeling that you have finally arrived. It is a great feeling for a struggling musician. And then, when you discover your album on Bit Torrent (or its precursors, such as LimeWire, Napster or similar), you get the most depressing sinking feeling that all that patience, commitment, persistence and hard work on building that career has been brazenly stolen from you. It is difficult to describe the feeling, but I think it is quite similar to when a pet you love and had grown up with dies.

    I know how much resentment even the mention of DRM stirs around here (and elsewhere), but there has to be a way to prevent ordinary thieves from stealing other people’s work. Nobody seems to have a problem with companies issuing ID cards and locking their doors to anyone but those who are authorised. We all lock our homes and cars to prevent others from walking in and stealing our stuff. Somehow, though, DRM never became an acceptable way of protecting someone’s private property.

    1. I hear you and sympathize. Most people don’t really want to steal music and are happy to pay a reasonable price for it. Most people want to support artist, but have seen over many years that record label fat cats skimmed all the cream off the top and left many artists will little or nothing.

      DRM has traditionaly treated music buyers like criminals and disallowed perfectly legitimate uses of purchased music.

      Music sharers have been shown time and again to also be the ones who spend the most money on music.

      1. I love how bands (for example Lars of Metallica for example) Bitch/whine/moan/complain about music piracy, sue fans etc.

        Yet discuss how THEY PIRATED MUSIC BACK IN THE DAY in interviews.

        And i’m with Noibs below, i’d rather have the CD and create my own digital files. MP3/Flac/whatever

    2. So is your goal to make music or to get rich and spend the last half of your life relaxing on a beach? If you are an artist, then the solution is to play more live performances. They don’t have to be big elaborate affairs, but you do have to meet the people.

      Lower the piracy rate by selling only live recordings at your shows and tell people that the studio tracks are on iTunes.

      If your goal is to sit on your ass doing nothing most of your life and collect a royalty check from the hit single that some corporate label decided to push hard, then we have no sympathy for you.

      1. Mike,

        When you create something unique and original (say, an iPhone), you will likely consider it theft when somebody took your iPhone and started cloning it. Of course, you can still sell your iPhone in your stores, but if someone else is selling clones elsewhere (or cloning them for free), you’d feel robbed.

        Fifteen years ago, I did a CD with my band. We sold most of our discs at our gigs, until one day it popped up on LimeWire. From that moment on, our disc sales (at our gigs) dropped steadily.

        I’m not sure you realise how much effort goes into producing a studio album. Live performing is comparatively easier and less time-consuming: you show up for the gig, you play your tunes, you pack up and go. Studio requires significantly more effort and practice; little mistakes in performance (wrong notes, slightly off-key singing, slightly sloppy, off-beat rhythm) are perfectly forgivable in live performance, but cannot be tolerated on a studio CD. Top-tier musicians practice their instrument many hours every day (including weekends); the time and effort invested in this is usually equal to, if not more, than an office worker. I have done both, so I know.

        Our CD never brought significant revenue for us, but it felt nice to receive some sort of return for the countless hours invested in producing it. When that modest stream dropped to a trickle and eventually disappeared (and it happened rather soon after CD came out), we were devastated.

        More importantly; thousands of people had obtained music they did NOT pay for. Regardless of what you may thing of “lazy greedy musicians”, the fact remains that we worked hard to create a product, which was then stolen by others.

        1. What was the name of the band and the CD?

          I’m not just curious, but very respectful of your musician’s insight. Most people who comment on music piracy, file sharing, DRM, etc. haven’t got a ****ing clue about what it takes to be a musician, to put it nicely. And musicians who do comment on this subject are usually so famous and successful that their opinion probably doesn’t apply to the 99.9% who are still trying to be successful. Meanwhile, the tsunami of idiotic excuses for not paying for recorded music continues.

      2. One more thought. Since the beginning of recorded music (not just audio recordings, but long before, when it was just down), music was consumed in two ways: in public live performances, and recorded on some sort of a medium, to be replayed later. Before audio recordings of live performances became possible, music was published in written form, so consumers could by it and play it by themselves. You can still do this; there are stores that sell sheet music (most commonly for piano and voice) for most contemporary hits. In other words, for a very long time, people who wrote music had enjoyed two streams of revenue from it. So, the solution to “play more live performances” does NOT correspond to the reality that consumers of music want to enjoy it both LIVE, as well as recorded. To suggest that the recorded part of music should be essentially written off as free promotion for live events is to ignore centuries of history of music industry. Let us not forget, there are plenty of musicians who for valid reasons do NOT perform live and only produce recorded music. With this suggested model, such musicians (and their music) would cease to exist.

        1. Agreed. Six out of thirteen Beatles albums were released after they stopped touring, and a seventh (Revolver) was released only three weeks earlier. I do not consider their work between 1966 and 1970 to be “sitting on their asses.” Some music does not lend itself to live performance.

          Other music (a large Mahler symphony, for example) requires such enormous resources that a live performance cannot make money under modern economic conditions. Without the sale of recordings, that music would simply disappear along with the orchestras that perform it.

    3. The solution is to license the person listening to the music and not the music itself. If a person loses control over their music (pirated or stolen) they lose the license and cannot play it again. Stolen copies could be sampled by your music player software and then deny you to play it if you had no license.

      You also then could sell your license to a tune if you didn’t like it and someone else could enjoy it since the licensing fee had already been paid.

  4. I buy all my music on CDs and I keep the CDs. No exceptions. I have a big library. Then I copy the music, in Apple Lossless form, to a media hard drive connected to a dedicated Mac running iTunes with Family Sharing enabled. From there the binary bits are fed to a high-end digital to analog converter/preamp and from there to bi-amped studio monitors for home listening. My iPhone is the remote control.

    If Apple’s new concept is massively DRM’d, then there’s no way that the regular music bits would be allowed to stream to a standalone DAC because then you could obviously capture those bits and make a copy.

    Thanks but no thanks. A big step back.

    1. I do the same thing and pretty much feel the same way. It may be a bit late in the game to put the non-DRM wild horses back in the DRM barn. Convenience still matters and ease of use. Draconian methods to get to media need no longer apply.

  5. Is this their way of making sure bands that are ACTUALLY creative to discourage them from sampling, again? This band almost sued a smaller, more innovative band out of existence because of how they sampled their music. This band, U2, they are anti-Fair Use, and this upsets me because my comic uses images from other sources, and I could have my site easily shut down because of anti-fair use people like these.

    1. Your point falls flat on its ass when you say *almost sued*, meaning they didn’t sue.
      And plenty of bands have done the same to others who’ve sampled chunks of their recordings and released songs with no attempt to give credit or pay for the right to use the rightful owners.
      Perhaps you belong to the ‘property is theft’ school of thought?
      And fair-use is fine in print, for quoting a passage to make a point; that is nothing at all like stealing significant riffs and vocals in order to make money, just taking a sample or two and sticking it over some generic beats on a laptop really isn’t that creative, it’s leeching from the genuinely creative, the sitting down and writing lyrics, writing the music, spendings hours, weeks on studios trying to make those lyrics and that music work together.
      I see that you say your comic uses images from other sources, and you could be shut down as a result. Good! I’m not against fair use, but to use other’s creative work as part of your ‘comic’ just shows you to be a lazy parasite lacking the creativity to produce something that is genuinely your own.
      I despise people like you who openly advocate the theft from others in order to promote yourself.

  6. There are a couple if issues here. First, on anti piracy (DRM), it has to be reasonable and allow fair use — whatever that means in customers’ minds — or it won’t be successful. Plain and simple.

    Second, on interactive albums. People listen to music. The idea of album art and extras is outdated for better or worse. I used to love looking through liner notes and pictures. Two problems. Older people don’t have time or interest to do that like they did when they were teenagers. And younger people have ADD and don’t care.

    Net/net: this is a nonstarter that will fail.

  7. It sounds like bono’s retirement investments didn’t work out as planned and that’s why we’re all now being spammed with this unwanted promotional material.

    Any bono the bozo partnership is bound to fail.

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