Posts tagged with "itunes"

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.


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.



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.

PayPal Launches Digital Gifts Store Featuring iTunes Gift Cards

From PayPal Forward (via setteBIT, iMore):

Beginning today, just in time for the holidays, PayPal will be opening the doors (or the URL) to the PayPal Digital Gifts store.

What is PayPal Digital Gifts? It is a store that will give people the chance to purchase digital gift cards from a host of our partner merchants. We have one marquee merchant in the store today and will be adding more very soon!

Right now, the new store is limited to iTunes codes for the US iTunes Store. It’s nice that Apple is making it easier to buy iTunes credit online, but the regional restrictions are curious (an euphemism for awful): unless your PayPal account (not just the iTunes one) is a US one, you can’t send an iTunes code as a gift to someone else – not even if your account is configured with USD. PayPal’s Digital Gifts store would be very convenient to me and I hope that these restrictions will be removed soon.


Fix “iTunes Store Is Unavailable” Error

Last night, I started getting an error in iTunes for Mac every time I tried to sign in to browse the Store or download app updates – “The iTunes Store is temporarily unavailable”. I looked everywhere and tried every trick in my arsenal, including an obvious restart of my Mac and even Keychain First Aid. I eventually found an Apple support document but that didn’t help either.

This morning I came across this discussion on Apple Support Communities and followed the instructions provided by Jerome Colas on September 30, 2013. I don’t know if this is a new problem with Mavericks or Safari 7, but it worked for me, so check it out if you’ve been having the same issue lately.


Getting App Prices with Editorial

Editorial workflow

Editorial workflow

When I write on my iPad mini, I often need to look up and reference price of apps that I already own. That’s a surprisingly hard thing to do on an iOS device, so I decided to remove the annoyance caused by this problem with an Editorial workflow. I call it “Get App Price”.

If you own an app, searching for it in the iOS 7 App Store won’t show you the price information alongside the app’s icon and description – you’ll only get an Open or Install button. Unlike the Mac App Store, there is no separate pricing field in the app information at the bottom of the screen, which usually forces me to go to a developer’s website to find out what the price of an app is.1 There wouldn’t be any problem if Apple allowed Safari to open iTunes web previews without redirecting them straight to the App Store, which is what they do on OS X. I have tried to force Safari to open web previews, and I even downloaded browsers that can set a modified user agent string to trick iOS into thinking they’re desktop web browsers worthy of a web preview – eventually, the App Store app always opened, displaying no price.

I set out to create a simple workflow to fetch an app’s title and price directly from iTunes with no clipboard import or other middleman. I later found out that you can tap on the “Related” tab in the App Store or gift an app to view its price, but I had already created a workflow that’s faster than opening the App Store and tapping a bunch of buttons just to get a price. I’m a free man, and I deserve my own App Store lookup solution.2

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