iTunes 11: Be Very Afraid, Spotify…

Apple may already be winning the war over streaming, we just don’t know it yet. And part of the reason is that streaming and downloading are slowly becoming the same thing.  Because whether a song started as a download or not, paid or otherwise, may simply be a trivial detail for tomorrow’s music fan.

All of which brings us to the freshly-updated iTunes 11, released on Thursday.  Looks are important, but don’t let the pretty interface fool you.  Because beyond all the sanded edges, updated features and interface upgrades, Apple is also introducing significant iCloud enhancements with this release.

Here, go make love to this. It’s beautiful.

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But know that the real seduction is happening above you and the bed you’ve been building for about a decade.

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But wait: iCloud sucks, right?  Yes it does, right now, but this is a company pouring billions into this infrastructure with aims to ultimately supplant and marginalize services like Spotify (which currently rocks, right now).  And with 11, there’s progress towards world domination: as part of the release, every song, album, or movie downloaded on the iTunes Store is automatically uploaded into the iCloud.  And, Apple is offering enhancements to make localized access (sort of the equivalent to Spotify’s cacheing) across devices like the iPad and iPhone.

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And, we’re not even talking about ‘iRadio’ yet, which wasn’t part of the release (listening, Pandora?)

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All of which raises an interesting question about the future of music.  Because for all the smashing proclamations about Spotify, most users already have thousands of their favorite songs sitting in a collection somewhere, cloud-enabled or otherwise.  These are the songs they love, so why not blend them into a broader, cloud-enabled collection where the origins of the tracks themselves are a mere detail?

What’s the difference, in the end?

67 Responses

  1. jw

    How can you even suggest this, Paul? Apple is STILL catering to consumers who are operating under the principles of music scarcity. $.99/$1.29 makes NO SENSE to the modern consumer.
    Why would someone pay $15 + a per song fee to fill up their streaming library when they could stream millions of songs for $120/year? Because it looks nice?
    Apple is going to have users for almost anything it launches, but they’re dipping their hands back into the same bag. Spotify is actually offering a product that appeals to the modern (high consumption) consumer. And what’s more, I can actually use the service on my Android phone & Nokia receiver.
    Granted, I’m sure iCloud is awesome if your iTunes is filled with a giant library of pirated music, but still not as awesome as Spotify.

    • steveh

      In a nutshell:-
      iTunes more expensive for the consumer but the artist gets a fair deal.
      Spotify etc much cheaper for the consumer but the artist gets a poor deal.
      It’s so simple…

    • DudeNoDude

      spotify and pandora are not entertaining they are a SILO…MUZAK…Just the music (boring) sirius/iheart are like a party…humanized, not like riding on an elevator ALONE.

      • jw

        I’ve never bought into satellite radio, but I rented a car w/ SiriusXM for a thanksgiving trip & got my first real experience with the service last week. I was really excited about the Lithium channel… started out with Pixies & a deeper Soundgarden cut… But then I started hearing tracks from Live’s Throwing Copper (aka REM for frat boys) pretty much on the hour, & Green Day’s Walking Contradiction showed up several times in the handful of hours I was tuned in (probably 10 hours over the course of a week). And then I was totally blindsided by the Offspring’s Why Don’t You Get a Job? at 3 in the morning. If that’s a party, I’d rather stay home.
        I really wanted to like Willie’s Roadhouse, too. But way too much countrypolitan, I kept getting lost in the string arrangements & tuning out.
        If by humanized you mean appealing to the lowest-common-denominator, I’ll stick with my Spotify playlists.

    • Esol Esek

      Subscription is an UNWORKABLE method for paying artists. What part of that do you not understand? With subscriptions, there are multiple loopholes a webcaster can use to fudge plays, or what they do now, not fudge the plays, but just fudge what those plays translate into monetarily.
      You dont get to subscribe to food, clothing or gas. You pick what you want and you pay for it per item.
      Radio was free because it was promotion for hard copy sales. That model is now destroyed, and radio in the US should go to a different pay per play model as well.
      What the promotion vs sales final model should be is being discussed, but fanboys like you cheering for a system that is clearly a vehicle for blatant ripoff have zero credibility, and repeating the same mantra over and over again is pointless.

      • the dave

        That was a great example – that you don’t subscribe to your food or clothes – because it wouldn’t work for the producers, just like most svcs don’t work very well for the creators of music.

      • doublearc

        What about that whole TV thing…with the cable subscriptions and how people can watch limitless amounts of product depending on their individual preferences and how artists/producers made money via advertising revenue……remember that thing..? it was kind of a big deal.

  2. Casey

    The key differences have never been download verus stream. Rhapsody has offered both for a long time. Every song you buy becomes available for streaming instantly on Amazon. If anything iTunes 11 copies ideas from other companys. Regardless the key difference between Apple and Spotify is paying for every track versus paying a subscription fee. As pretty as iTunes may become, you still have to pay per track and you don’t on Spotify.

    • HansH

      Spot on Casey!
      BTW As long as iTunes Cloud and to be more specific iTunes Match sucks, no streaming service needs to be afraid of Apple.
      Windows 8 with the free Xbox Music streams is something to worry about.

      • jw

        Having used it on the Lumia 920, Xbox music is 1. Not free (I had to sign up for a 30 Day Music Pass Trial), & 2. Nearly impossible to use. Xbox music shouldn’t be the most confusing app on their flagship phone. I can’t wait until the Spotify app is released. Until then I’m streaming from my Google Music account with GooRoovster.
        I dunno about the desktop software, but from my experience Xbox music isn’t the Spotify killer it’s made out to be.

        • HansH

          Like Spotify only the desktop version of Xbox Music is free. Shouldn’t come as a surprise that you have to pay for mobile use. The Windows 8 interface takes a little getting used to but there is one big advantage. Xbox Music has the latest Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Black Keys and many more, sometimes 30 sec preview only but you can at least find and even buy the music if you feel like it.

          • Visitor

            What good are the 30 second samples on Xbox Music? They may have the albums up, but they are not fully playable albums just like on Spotify. Only thing is that Spotify doesnt list them if they are not playable. The 30 second samples are only there so you can buy them. I got iTunes to buy albums and they are cheaper than Xbox Music. Spotify also has gapless playback unlike Xbox Music. Dealbreaker for me!

          • jw

            I probably should’ve expected to pay for mobile use, but having used it, it’s nothing that I’d pay money for. I’m fine with the Windows 8 interface, it’s just clear that the app was designed as a store & the streaming is implemented as if it were all 30 second samples. It took me forever to find the app (it’s an unnamed shopping bag icon within the Music+Videos app), & I still can’t figure out how to get back to the play controls to pause/skip while browsing without navigating back to that specific song, playing a new song to bring up the player controls, or going to the phone’s lock screen. The GooRoovster experience is the windows 8 music experience I was expecting (if for no other reason than the play controls are always at the bottom of the screen).
            I agree that 30 second clips are useless. Not an advantage, more of an annoyance in not knowing whether you’re about to get a full song or not. And aren’t xbox downloads still 256kbps wma files? I get it, it’s microsoft, but c’mon… you’re just throwing money in the trash downloading that stuff. At least with Amazon you’re going to get a universally forward-compatible mp3.
            I love my Nokia 920, & I think that Windows Phone 8 is beautiful, & I was relatively excited about Xbox Music when I found out Spotify didn’t have a Windows 8 app yet, but Xbox Music is just another designed-by-committee Microsoft product with different goals competing against one another & no clear purpose or path of use. That’s the mobile experience, anyhow.

          • Visitor

            JW: The sound quality of Xbox Music for the money just isnt very good. You are right about the purchased songs being only 256 kbps. The streaming songs are only 192 kbps. That is unacceptable today. For a $10 subscription I expect 320 kbps for streaming like I get on Spotify. I agree with you about not wanting to throw your money away on 256 kpbs tracks. I just can’t do it. I personally am waiting for iTunes to go to lossless or at least 320 kpbs before I start making purchases again.

  3. Visitor

    Nobody has done more for musicians than Apple, perhaps with the exception of Les Paul or Leo Fender.
    But I guess the question now is whether Steve Jobs was Apple.
    I don’t think we have the answer yet. But if it’s a ‘yes’, then we’re screwed.
    Unless somebody makes a new iTunes…
    One of the labels, maybe?

    • jw

      This is completely wrong. Apple’s customer base is primarily consumers operating under the principles of music scarcity. iTunes cannibalized cd sales, offering a la carte downloads, while piracy continued to thrive. The digital download stores, in fact, gutted the recorded music industry.
      I’m not saying that wasn’t inevitable, & I’m not blaming Apple for what transpired, but what was so great about it? Apple capitalized on what was already a disruptive technology & made out like bandits. But no one else got richer for it.

      • Visitor

        “I’m not blaming Apple for what transpired, but what was so great about it?”
        Well, I should have included an IMHO.
        But Apple is — or was — so great at least to me because it brings me the entire circle:
        1) A cheap store where I can BUY the music that inspires me — after hearing a long, free sample,
        2) A lovely sequencer that enables me to CREATE music that blows my mind,
        3) A store that SELLS my music and pays me 70%! Now, this is beyond awesome. This is a gift.
        And no, iTunes didn’t destroy album sales. Artists did that.
        People still buy albums if there’s an idea, a nerve, a vision behind the production, and if most of the tracks are great.

        • kmac

          I agree the record companies that refused to develop good artists are the reason why music died. People lost the concept of, music having value, That happened when music turned itself into un-valuable over-produced crap.. People WILL buy an album if its good and a package that they respect I believe music listeners know the difference between a clasic album and justin beiber.

        • jw

          None of that puts Apple up there with inventing multitrack recording or the telecaster or stratocaster. Not even in the ballpark.
          They certainly do a great job engaging a specific consumer, but that’s done more to gut sales than grow them. The songs aren’t, in any way that I can think to look at it, cheap, & they aren’t the quality that they could be. If you’re talking about GarageBand, you’d get much further with a cheap PC & protools or reason. And there’s better places to sell your music & retain more profits… bandcamp offers full resolution downloads & only takes 15%, for instance.

          • Visitor

            Yes, you can use Bandcamp and sell 412 songs, OR you can use iTunes and sell 412,000. Decisions, decisions…
            As for the sequencer, I most certainly did *not* refer to Garageband. And let’s not get into a Logic vs. ProTools discussion here. 🙂 Also, don’t be as stupid as me and forget about their hardware OR their cooperation with Apogee. I love pc’s and use them every day, but nothing compares to a MacPro when you create music or movies.
            Now, I’m a huge Fender fan, but if I should choose between his gear and the entire range of Apple products, then I honestly don’t know what I would choose.

          • jw

            Fair enough. Good points.
            However, I would suggest that iTunes will, in the long run, be seen as having delivered diminishing returns during a transitional period, & that digital downloads will be viewed as a function of limited bandwidth, & that streaming services will have a much more transformative impact on music consumption.
            But the arguments for Apple’s ecosystem for production, especially for certain types of music, are compelling.

    • HansH

      “Nobody has done more for musicians than Apple” True, iTunes killed album sales.

      • Sam @

        For my label, our iTunes income is around 70% full album sales. I think it is false to say iTunes killed album sales. What it shows is that many albums are not worth buying, while some are.

        Sam @

    • Velux

      “Unless somebody makes a new iTunes…”
      I think this is laying the groundwork for the evolution of iTunes. To me, this is NOT a feature-complete version, but merely a preview of what’s to come. Radio has long been talked about, and Apple has been working on. Not only that, but who’s to say Apple won’t come out with a subscription option to combat services like Rhapsody and Spotify?
      Keep in mind, too, that the long-awaited Apple television set on the way will shake things up even more. Time Warner sure is excited for it, and if cable companies are that excited to work with Apple, don’t you think there could be quite the synergistic development to come? Heaven knows they’ll put some sort of iTunes integration with this set. Perhaps even live TV streaming in iTunes if you have the iTelevision.
      No, we didn’t get the full iTunes today. We got a teaser.

      • Casey

        Apple won’t be able to shake up the tv space. Every attempt they have made has failed miserably. They don’t have the cutting edge technology nor the lower prices that consumers want in that market in particular.

        And really no companies are truly excited about it. Apple has it’s hands in the content offerings. That is a threat to cable company’s offerings and the last thing they want. They will do anything in their power to protect their tv revenue.

          • Casey

            Time Warner the content company, not Time Warner the cable company.
            Time Warner the content company will favor whomever pays them best. That is and will remain to be the cable companies. Apple will never be able to top them. The content companies were equally as thrilled about Hulu. But the cable companies were not, so now Hulu is on its death bed.

          • Visitor

            You do realize they’re one and the same, right? It’s a vertically built company. They own production, networks, as well as distribution (cable).

          • Casey

            You do realize you have no idea what you are talking about, right? Time Warner Cable was spun off from Time Warner in 2009 and is an independent company from Time Warner.

          • jw

            Maybe I’m confused, but wasn’t the quote from Jeffrey Bewkes, head of Time Warner, the content creation company?

  4. Visitor

    iTunes subscription service coming soon, folks. Once that happens say goodbye to Spotify, Rdio, MOG, Rhapsody, and all others. It’s only a matter of time. And you all know you want it!

    • Music Insider

      Spotify is very near to 5 million paying subscribers.
      That equate to about $600 million a year in subscription revenue.
      According to Spotify, they are now the #2 source of revenue for the music industry.

      #1 is Itunes
      #2 is Spotify
      #3 is Amazon + AmazonMP3

      • Visitor

        “#1 is Itunes”
        Yes, and we don’t need the rest.
        An iTunes competitor might be a good idea, though. Too bad Google didn’t have the talent to make one.
        gTunes might have solved most of our pirace problems…

    • Casey

      Maybe, maybe not. Spotify was supposed to kill all the American streaming companies. It didn’t. An iTunes on-demand streaming service wouldn’t really have any major advantages over existing services, for anyone. Apple’s supported platforms beyond that of their own hardware and Windows is virtually nonexistent. Over half of customers would find that a deal breaker, especially Android users. The catalog would in all reality be about the same as Spotify’s or Rdio’s. Social-wise, Spotify tops all. Sound quality would be about equal to existing services, as would probably be the price. So from a consumer stand point, it would be just another service. Artists would probably be paid about equal to what Rhapsody or Rdio pay them now. Apple would get razor thin margins and probably reduce their own music sales.

      • Visitor

        Sorry, but an iTunes subscription service would NOT just be another service. We are talking Apple and iTunes here. People would be all over it in a heartbeat. And with the integration of all of the iPods, iPhones, iPads that is a world beater. Case closed.

        • jw

          Just like Ping!
          An iTunes subscription service is guaranteed a certain amount of traction, but the closed ecosystem allows room for competition. I dunno why everyone wants to discuss this as if there can only be one player. I think competition is healthy, & different services will service different users with different needs… I’d be excited to use an Apple subscription service. I don’t see the purpose in speculating which service will ultimately serve more people.
          I just know that, so long as they’re charging by the song, they’re not offering a product to the modern consumer. Or at least they’re not offering a product that doesn’t also necessitate piracy in order to meet the demands of consumers.

        • Casey

          You are assuming customers will subscribe just because it is Apple. That won´t be the case. Most people already know they can subscribe to a music service and have openly choosen not to do so. Primarily because of the expense.
          You are also assuming that everyone uses iOS products, which is definitely not true. In the US, Android tops iOS and that is even more so outside the US. That alone will be the deal breaker for over half of the possible user base. If you can get the music subscription on your phone, you will not subscribe. Spotify and Rdio are available on all mobile platforms and on all desktop platforms.

  5. Vnylst

    It is simple.
    Support artists. Buy vinyl. Launch Vnylst.

    • Visitor

      F you! Not everybody has an unlimited amount of money to spend on an antiquated technology like vinyl that eventually deteoriates anyway. And that’s coming from an audiophile. Digital and lossless is the future, man!

    • Versus

      Vinyl is a beautiful thing. I collect it.
      And sales have been rapidly increasing every year.
      However, vinyl only really makes sense for music of lasting artistic quality. That is, something that one will keep for life. It’s a commitment. Otherwise, it’s just more landfill.
      – V

  6. Bill Rosenblatt

    As long as Apple insists on downloading files that you pay for piecemeal to your device, it will never entirely capture the market for interactive streaming. The use cases are different. Interactive streaming enables “grazing,” a use case that did not exist in the past: listen to songs/albums/bands up to a few times, then move on.
    As people become more comfortable with grazing, they adopt interactive streaming services. File downloads are completely unworkable for this use case. Apple is a smart company; I assume they’ve figured out that the market for grazers (like me) is not big enough to be interesting, at least not now or in the near future.

  7. DudeNoDude

    spotify and pandora are not entertaining they are a SILO…MUZAK…Just the music (boring) sirius/iheart are like a party…humanized, not like riding on an elevator ALONE.

    • Visitor

      Die hipster!!! It’s the 21st century we are living in now!! Go back to the 1950s where you belong.

    • Visitor

      Winamp? Are you kidding me? Is it April Fool’s? I think the 90s is calling. An iTunes subscription service to rule them all….

  8. hippydog

    For an Itunes streaming service to be successful it would have to be available on MOST PLATFORMS.. not just IOS and Windows

    • Visitor

      What are you smoking?! iTunes is the #1 seller of music. It doesn’t need to support any other platform to do well. Once it goes subscription, it will remain #1.

      • jw

        That’s assuming everyone’s only listening to music on their computers.

    • hippydog

      @ Iamtolazytologin AKA visitor Quote: “It doesn’t need to support any other platform to do well.”
      AAC is playable on all systems.. so right now they do support all platforms.. Streaming will be a different story
      @ Sam Quote: “OSX and Windows *is* 90% of the market share. So I would call that “most” ”
      Sorry, let me be more specific.. they will need to support android..
      1.) there is a really good chance that a lot of devices will end up with android on them.. from TV’s, to fridges to phones.. EG) LG and samsung are the two biggest suppliers of smart TV’s, both are considering adopting Android as their OS (instead of using their own SDK)
      2.) Listening to music is still predominately done portably.. and Android owns almost 50% of the portable market..
      nuff said?

  9. Crazy George

    Seems to me all of us listening on mobile are paying for it anyway with megabytes we buy by the gigabyte? So it might be just as well to buy a song I want to hear a lot?
    just think’n…
    by the way, I was PC for 20 years until I got an ipad… Now I’m Apple… They won me over, what can I say, I’ve been humbled!

  10. Rob_Reason

    Very cool news coming from Apple,; its about time Apple caught up with Spotify!

  11. Spike @ Sparkle

    Im A life long music fan,recently retired international DJ, hobby producer who went digital four years ago. I love the DJ and audio tech and portability that goes with it and certainly prefer paying £1.25 for a track rather than £12.50
    However When I die, my legacy collection of 15000+ original 7″ 60s & Northern Soul, 60s ska and bluebeat, punk, rare David Bowie, and 12″ dance vinyl – a music library that took me 40 years to collect , a huge sum to buy, but took me round the world as a headline club DJ, and gave pleasure to thousands, will be split up and go to deserving and appreciative recipients – fans, friends, other DJs collectors etc
    Someone please tell me how the hell this works for a cloud based collection…..and is it even legal! Have we lost the ability to pass on a cherished digital collection, a labour of love, a musical opus to the next generation of music fans for them to discover.

    • Visitor

      You might want to check that vinyl before giving it away. Chances are there are many recordings on them that will never make it to the digital world. I know I have (or used to have) quite a few recordings that are only available in digital format via pirate sites.

    • hippydog

      @ Spike Quote “However When I die, my legacy collection [snip] will be split up and go to deserving…. [snip]
      Someone please tell me how the hell this works for a cloud based collection”
      Short story.. it doesnt.. nor do any of the digital downloads/streaming.. I havent read them all, but i know for sure, Itunes TOS does not give you the right to transfer your musical purchase to someone else..
      so ya.. when you die the ONLY thing of value in your music collection would be your records and cd’s..

  12. Ohf@ck

    Horrible update, crashes a lot, no more cover flow and very pretentious overall, if Jobs were alive he wouldn´t have released this beta version of a lesser player.

  13. Visitor

    I pay for Spotify premium for several reasons… most importantly:
    fuck a CD. it’s one thing to pay $15 to own a piece of music… it’s quite another to briefly rent music recorded to plastic dart tips that break after a week of light use. so you say, “when Spotify shuts down, I have nothing to show for it”… I say, “I spent well over $10k on CDs in the ’90s & already have nothing to show for it.” I consider the pirating gone wild of the first decade of this millenium retrobutions on behalf of a consumer who’d been perpetualy burned with inferior products.
    also… fuck iTunes. streaming is the only way I will pay for music until there is a gold standard medium worth owning. if I’d spent another couple thousand dollars on iTunes albums over the past decade @ 128kbps rips… I’d be totally disgusted with the sound quality at this point & have to do what?? purchase them again @ 320kbps rips… which is only good until FLACs become reasonable… which is only good until the next great thing comes along??? so you see… even if you “buy” music, you rarely ever own it… just rent until it’s shelf life expires.

    Spotify’s album shelf life is longer than a CD in & out of your car stereo… & it’s longer than whatever bogus quality AAC file iTunes is pimping this year.

  14. Giorgio

    In the past years, Apple is always winning every “game”. They are simply THE BEST.. no comment

  15. Martin

    Apple is a giant in the field of smartphones and tablets. It is normal for the size of the business, Apple earn any competition.

    • autore

      Ipad is definitely the greatest invention from apple, but I’ve noticed a decline every since steve jobs unfornuately passed from this world. He was definitely the brain behind the inventions, and I’ve seen samsung gaining on their rival.

  16. Visitor

    These comments come down to Apple fanboys who think everything Apple does is gold & that if Apple makes a competing service it will put all others out of business because Apple is God versus people who can think for themselves and aren’t brainwashed by the hype. That, and iTunes 11 is crap. I’ve been using iTunes for years (Only for synching & transferring music to my iPod.), even though the later versions became over bloated, memory hogging behemoths. I upgraded to iTunes 11 and despised it. I went back to version 10. As for streaming music, I usually use Last.FM because I’m not big fan of Spotify. These choices are based on funtionality, usabilty & quality and NOT on the name of the company making the product/service (For example, I use an iPod because it is the best device for my needs, NOT because it has the name Apple on it).