I reported yesterday a claim by Digital Music News that Apple was planning to stop selling downloads on the iTunes Store within two years. According to Re/Code, this is not true. Apple spokesperson Tom Neumayr has said “Not true.”
I can see a day when the iTunes Store no longer sells downloads, but we’re not there yet. Even though sales of music in the iTunes Store are dropping, I said in my article, “I don’t think this will happen in two years; maybe five, more likely ten.”
Of course, even if Apple were planning this, they wouldn’t admit to it now…
Apple is now preparing to completely terminate music download offerings on the iTunes Store, with an aggressive, two-year termination timetable actively being considered and gaining favor. According to sources to Digital Music News with close and active business relationships with Apple, discussions are now focusing “not on if, but when” music downloads should be retired for good.
Part of the debate is that paid music downloads still account for hundreds of millions of dollars, worldwide. According to an estimate revealed by music industry analyst Mark Mulligan at Canadian Music Week in Toronto, iTunes music downloads will still be worth $600 million in 2019, though that is down from peak revenues from $3.9 billion in 2012.
It’ll probably happen, but when? $600 million isn’t chump change, and the costs of maintaining the iTunes Store are spread across the different types of content.
Another wrinkle comes from recording labels themselves, especially independent labels. That group derives significant revenues from music download sales, and is expected to be express significant displeasure against any ‘premature’ shutdown. “It’s the past, not the future, but then you should know how the music business is,” one source noted.
There are labels that don’t allow their music to be streamed. Losing the iTunes Store would have a serious effect on them. Sure, one could say they have to catch up with the times, but it’s their right to be recalcitrant.
In any case, I don’t think this will happen in two years; maybe five, more likely ten.
I’ve gotten reports from several correspondents today saying that the Classical genre has disappeared from the iTunes Store. It is missing from the UK store, as well as stores in Sweden, Italy, Canada, and Australia – see the screenshot to the left – but in the US, German, and French stores, it’s still visible in the list of genres.
This is, of course, quite a problem for anyone who wants to browse for classical music, as well as those labels selling classical music.
I’m guessing this is just some odd database bug; there’s no reason why Apple would remove classical music from the iTunes Store. So rather than assume the worst, it’s best to wait and see when it gets fixed.
Since Apple has been selling audiobooks, which are provided by Audible, they have not allowed re-downloads of these books. I have long recommended to users to not purchase audiobooks from the iTunes Store for this reason. One hard disk problem, one iOS device crash, and you lose all your expensive content. Audible, on the other hand, has always allowed you to re-download your books from your library on their website.
This has now changed. As of March 3, according to an Apple support document, you can re-download audiobooks. Unfortunately, the procedure isn’t simple. Instead of audiobooks showing up on your Purchased list, with all the other content you bought from the iTunes Store (with the exception of ringtones and alert tones), you have to manually search for each audiobook to be able to download it. On iOS devices, the procedure is the same. In the iBooks app, search for an audiobook, and you’ll be able to re-download it.
The problem with this is that you’ll need to remember all the audiobooks you’ve purchased. I don’t know why Apple is making this so complicated; perhaps audiobooks will show up in your Purchased list in the near future. But it’s good to know that you’re no longer limited with this type of purchase, and, as such, I strongly recommend that users compare prices between Audible and the iTunes Store in the future (unless you’re an Audible subscriber, in which case books will almost always be cheaper from Audible).
This is going to change in iOS 9.3. The iBooks app in the current iOS 9.3 beta shows, when you tap Purchased, three sections: Updates (for updated books that you can download), Books, and Audiobooks. When you tap Audiobooks, you see a list of your books, with All Books, Recent Purchases, then a list of genres.
I expect that the next version of iTunes will also display audiobooks on your Purchased list, and allow you to view them the same way as on iOS.
It’s that time again. It’s a slow news cycle, so some websites are reporting a rumor that Apple will start selling and/or streaming high-resolution music. Rather than spend too much time deconstructing this rumor, I’ll point you to an article I wrote in June, 2014, which looks it why this is unlikely.
It’s worth noting that, since then, Apple has released a new Apple TV. That device only handles audio at 16 bits and up to 48 KHz. So if Apple were planning to start dealing in high-resolution audio (generally considered to have a bit depth of 24 bits, and sample rates higher than 48 KHz), you’d have thought this device would be able to handle such audio.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple eventually does bring high-resolution audio to the iTunes Store and to Apple Music, but the only way they can do this is if the data doesn’t count against users’ mobile data caps (or static caps too, for those people who don’t have unlimited internet access). Even then:
the ambient noise surrounding listeners when they’re mobile would eliminate any such quality.
If you use a laptop, and your battery dies quickly, check and see if you accidentally left iTunes open on an iTunes Store page, even in the background. Look how much CPU it uses to simply display a front page, and rotate graphics in the carrousel at the top of the page (the display is from iStat Menus):
Lest you think that a lot of the CPU that iTunes is using is to play that Allman Brothers song, here’s what happens if I switch out of the iTunes Store.
Together, iTunes and coreaudiod, which processes audio played by iTunes or other apps, use about 7% of CPU.
So don’t leave iTunes open on an iTunes Store page in the background if you’re using a laptop.
The iTunes Store has some hidden features. One of them is power search, which provides more options than the standard search. If you use power search, the results can offer an interesting feature to find alternate versions of songs.
Here’s an example. If I go to the iTunes Store power search, and select Music, I can search for a song. Below, I searched for Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower.
As you can see, if you click the arrow button next to the price of a song, you get several options, one of which is Other Versions.
If you choose this, you’ll see a list of alternate versions of the song. First is other versions by the same artist, next is a list of “More Versions,” by others.
Note especially the Preview All button, which lets you listen to 30- or 90-second previews of all the songs in either list. So if you’re looking for different versions of songs, this is a great way to find them.
So use this link for the power search and start browsing for more versions of your favorite songs.
iTunes used to have a Power Search feature, but it has been removed from the iTunes app (though you can still access it this way). Power searching is really useful when you want to home in on something in the iTunes Store, App Store, or Mac App Store.
In the absence of a real power search, you can search another way: with Google. A Google search works because Apple has Web pages for all its iTunes Store content. With Google, you can search for more specific keywords and use quotes to search for specific phrases.
Perform a search like this (replace the terms in brackets with the item you’re searching for):
[artist] [title] site:itunes.apple.com
You can add other keywords, such as the name of a record label. So, if you wanted to search for Steve Reich’s album Music for 18 Musicians on the ECM label, you could run the following search:
"steve reich" "music for 18 musicians" ECM site:itunes.apple.com
(The quotes narrow the search to the exact phrases that are quoted.)
Google returns a lot of results, the first of which should be the album you’re looking for. You’ll see results from several countries, so look at the URL: after itunes.apple.com, if you see /us/, that is a U.S. store page; /gb/ is for the UK; /de/ for Germany, and so on.
Click a link in your search results to open its iTunes Store Web page, complete with a View in iTunes button that you can click to open that “page” in the iTunes Store.
You can also use the same technique to search for apps, using keywords, specific app names, and more.
Last night, the iTunes Store was down for me for a while. I was in the middle of downloading something (the 8-hour version of Max Richter’s Sleep), and I saw that the downloads had stopped, with one file showing “Processing File.”
I couldn’t access the iTunes Store, Apple Music, or my iCloud email account for about a half hour, and when these services were available again, I found that I couldn’t restart the downloads; that I kept getting a message saying “”There was an error downloading your purchased music. An unknown error (-50) occurred.”
Interestingly, the error wasn’t unknown, and there’s a simple fix for it, but the dialog would be a lot more helpful if it explained what to do, or linked to this Apple support document.
The error was caused, it seems, at least in my case, by a bad download. If the connection times out, and the download hasn’t correctly finished, it gets corrupted. All you need to do is delete any files in the Downloads folder that’s in your iTunes Media folder. If you haven’t set this folder to be on an external drive, it will me here:
OS X: ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Downloads (The tilde (~) refers to your Home directory.)
Windows Vista: \Users\username\Music\iTunes\iTunes Media\Downloads\
Windows 7 and Windows 8: \Users\username\My Music\iTunes\iTunes Media\Downloads\
Windows XP: \Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music\iTunes\iTunes Media\Downloads\
Just go to that folder and delete everything it contains. Quit iTunes and relaunch it, and then choose Store > Check for Downloads. Things should work again.