Posts tagged with "itunes"

Tuning into the Curious Design Decisions of iTunes Radio

Last week, I listened to Jared Leto from Thirty Seconds to Mars talk about his hometown of Los Angeles. He talked about, and then played, the songs that remind him of the City of Angels and other songs that have inspired him as a musical artist. It was great to listen to, not just as a big fan of Thirty Seconds to Mars but as someone who has just spent over two months living, studying, and working in Los Angeles.

So where did I listen to Leto and these songs? iTunes Radio.

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Apple Adds NPR News Channel To iTunes Radio

Apple’s iTunes Radio has gained a news channel today with the addition of NPR, as first reported by re/code and confirmed on NPR’s All Tech Considered blog.

Digital streams of Morning Edition, All Things Considered and hourly newscasts will be available on a new 24-hour streaming NPR channel on iTunes Radio.

“What you hear today is just the start of what’s to come,” said Zach Brand, NPR’s vice president of digital media. Later this spring, the channel will expand to include streams of our member stations from across the country.

iTunes Radio, launched alongside iOS 7 in September, allows users to listen to free, ad-supported streams of songs that are automatically suggested by the service or collected in stations curated by music experts and artists. The new channel, available for streaming on iTunes Radio for iOS 7 devices and computers running iTunes, marks an important milestone for Apple in diversifying the offer of its iTunes Radio service, thus far focused on promoting music content with direct integration with the iTunes Store for purchases — iTunes Radio is built into Apple’s Music and iTunes apps, which have buttons to quickly purchase a song from a stream.

NPR will offer both pre-programmed and live shows; at the moment, it’s displayed as a station in iTunes Radio next to music stations created by customers or curated by Apple. Since the launch in September, Apple has been trying various experiments with iTunes Radio for music content: the company regularly hosts “First Play” stations with previews of upcoming albums from popular artists, and it recently launched a special station with audio streams of iTunes Festival at SXSW.

Apple is believed to be considering a dedicated app for iTunes Radio in a future version of iOS, which could give the company more flexibility for separating user-made stations and curated sections, or music content from news, interviews, and other audio content. Currently, the entire iTunes Radio service lives in a dedicated page of the existing Music app for iOS.

Apple’s expansion of iTunes Radio could also be particularly interesting for CarPlay, the company’s initiative to bring iOS apps and services to car infotainment systems with a dedicated interface and iPhone integration. In initial demos, Apple showed how CarPlay could stream songs off iTunes Radio through an iPhone, but news channels and other audio content could easily fit into the same vision with the unified iTunes Radio service.

NPR’s new iTunes Radio channel is available here.


Use The Hidden iTunes Store Power Search

The iTunes Store used to have a Power Search link in its page footers. You could choose to search specific types of content, and enter search terms in appropriate fields, such as Artist for music; Author for books; Actor for movies; etc. With iTunes 11, this link disappeared, but there’s still a way to get to it.

I had forgotten about this tip shared by Kirk McElhearn. If you want a faster way to access Power Search in iTunes using AppleScript, Doug Adams shows you how.

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Apple Releases iTunes Festival 5.0 with New iOS 7 Design, SXSW Streaming

Apple pushed version 5.0 of its iTunes Festival app on the App Store today, updating the app’s UI for iOS 7 and the upcoming iTunes Festival at SXSW, which starts next week on Tuesday, March 11.

The app, which can be opened on iTunes or the App Store through this link, isn’t however available for download at the moment. While the link redirects to the app’s iTunes page that shows updated screenshots, icon, and changelog, the app can’t be downloaded, as iTunes returns an error that says that the item is “temporarily unavailable”.

According to recent speculation by Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, Apple was preparing an update to the iTunes Festival app to launch alongside iOS 7.1, which, according to his sources, will be required to run the updated app. On iTunes, technical requirements for iTunes Festival 5.0 don’t mention iOS 7.1 and report that “iOS 7.0 or later” is required, though the fact that the app can’t be downloaded may indicate an early release by Apple.

Update: According to initial reports via Twitter, it appears that the updated iTunes Festival app can be downloaded on some international App Store and run using the current version of iOS — iOS 7.0.6.




Quick iTunes Affiliate Link Creation with Affiliate for Mac

Developed by Bytesize Apps, Affiliate is a $1.99 utility for Mac that simplifies the process of creating affiliate links for iTunes and Amazon. I was especially interested in checking out Affiliate as, after Apple launched a new affiliate program with PHG in August 2013, we’ve been using affiliate links every day at MacStories, and I’ve been looking for a solution to quickly generate them.

Affiliate lives in the menubar and intercepts iTunes/Amazon links you to copy to the clipboard, adding your affiliate token/tag to them automatically. In the app’s popover, you can configure an affiliate token and campaign tracking code for iTunes (PHG) and an affiliate tag for Amazon links. Every time you copy an iTunes link anywhere on your computer (iTunes, an email message, the browser — anything), Affiliate will see it, append your affiliate data in the proper format, and place the affiliate link in the clipboard for you to paste anywhere you want. The app plays a sound and displays a notification when it generates a URL and the process is simple and immediate.

Unfortunately, in its current version Affiliate doesn’t support international Amazon links (it’ll only work with .com Amazon URLs) and it doesn’t come with an option to choose from multiple campaign tracking codes for iTunes links. We use various tracking codes at MacStories, and I need to choose from multiple ones depending on the link I want to share; for this reason, I still have to use a fill-in snippet created in TextExpander with support for multiple options. I like, however, how Affiliate can detect an iTunes link that’s already an affiliate one and clean it up for you, turning it into an affiliate link for your token.

If you don’t care about the limitations mentioned above (that will likely be fixed soon) and if you generate affiliate links on a daily basis for your blog or Twitter account, I recommend getting Affiliate. It’s fast, it automatically puts affiliate links in the clipboard, it’ll save you time, and it’s $1.99.


Digital Music Sales Decrease For First Time

Billboard's Ed Christman:

For the first time since the iTunes store opened its doors, the U.S. music industry finished the year with a decrease in digital music sales.

While the digital track sales decline had been expected due to weaker sales in the first three quarters, the digital album downturn comes as more of a surprise as the album bundle had started out the year with a strong first quarter.

Overall for the full year 2013, digital track sales fell 5.7% from 1.34 billion units to 1.26 billion units while digital album sales fell 0.1% to 117.6 million units from the previous year’s total of 117.7 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Nielsen SoundScan hasn't released numbers for streaming services in 2013 yet. However, as reported by Billboard and as we argued on The Prompt, it's very likely that services like Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, and iTunes Radio are contributing to the decrease of digital sales.

There's a convenience in paying a monthly fee to access a virtually infinite catalogue of songs that, for many people, beats the superior quality of iTunes downloads and the idea of ownership of a music file. I suspect that's particularly true for individual tracks (where sales fell 5.7%): why bother purchasing Blurred Lines or Thrift Shop when you can just stream it, for free, using a service that also gives you Top Charts and recommendations if you want to see more popular hits? Even if you don't subscribe to modern streaming services, if you just want to listen to a couple of tracks every day there's a chance you won't hear a single commercial. They're good enough.

Unless all streaming services go out of business soon, I think that the trend of digital track sales will slowly continue downwards for the next few years. Digital album sales are down 0.1% in 2013, which suggests that consumers still like owning an entire album in their collection; from my perspective, this makes sense if you want to a) support an artist you like; b) having access to multiple tracks in one download; and c) having a high-quality version of an album.

Overall, I wouldn't consider this report “bad” news for Apple or iTunes (although it makes for an intriguing headline). The market share of iTunes grew for US album sales (case in point) and Apple has shown that they can still play the exclusivity card pretty well even these days. It would be interesting to know the impact of other Apple initiatives like Mastered for iTunes and iTunes Match. If the market is moving to streaming for digital tracks, I guess that Apple is thinking about this scenario with their reported move in ad sales; for digital album sales, I'd wait to see 2014 numbers next year.

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Streaming Music and the Lack of Substance

Khoi Vinh, writing on Medium:

[...] what I find is absent from streaming music is everything that complements the act of listening to music. It’s the very thing that digital music, more even than records and CDs, should excel at: metadata.

Who produced that debut album from Lorde? Who were the musicians who played with her on it? Where was it recorded, and when? Does Lorde thank God, her parents, and/or her cat for making the record possible? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, because I’ve only ever experienced Lorde’s music via Spotify, where such information is absent entirely.

Remember when Apple promised richer, digital equivalents of liner notes and album artwork with iTunes LP?

What I don’t want is a PDF copy of that album’s included artwork, nor do I want glitchy Flash-like interactive experiences that sidestep my music app when I purchase music from the iTunes store. The former feels lazy and the latter feels like a cheap gimmick. I’d rather see lyric metadata in the songs I purchase from iTunes, which would show up when that album artwork is tapped on iPads, iPhones, and iPod touches. Heck, Nine Inch Nails was doing simple stuff like embedding individual pieces of artwork into their digitally downloaded songs and that was actually cool. Making digital music feel like it has more substance doesn’t need to be complicated. And if it’s just metadata we’re talking about, then there’s no reason little things like this couldn’t be done by any service to make music feel much more tangible.

 

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Apple Releases 12 Days of Gifts App, Available In The U.S. Too

As in previous years, Apple has released a free “12 Days of Gifts” app for iPhone and iPad owners that will give them access to exclusive offers for free content on the iTunes Store. This year, the app is available for US customers as well, although Apple notes that not all content will be available in all countries; the promotion will run from December 26 to January 6, 2014.

From 26 December – 6 January, you can download a gift each day—songs, apps, books, movies, and more—with the 12 Days of Gifts app. Each day’s gift will only be available for 24 hours, so download the free app to make sure you don’t miss out.

Right now, the app comes with a countdown that shows how many days are left until the first free item becomes available; upon first launch, you’ll be asked to accept push notifications (to be notified when offers are released) and to confirm the country for your iTunes Store’s Apple ID.

The app has an animated background reminiscent of iOS 7′s dynamic wallpapers, and there is a built-in FAQ to learn more about downloads. Apple has also included an “Add To Calendar” button in the share sheet: tapping this button will create a recurring all-day event in your default calendar to remember to download the daily gift for every day of the promotion.

You can download the app here.