Thursday, July 08, 2010

Fundamentals Of The Recorded Music Visual Experience

Itunes is advertising a new feature that allows you to view liner notes.  Very sad.
Itunes LP is trumpeted as the return to "the visual experience of the record album" with animated lyrics & liner notes, videos as well as "artist and band photos."  Back in 2003 when itunes opened as the first mass market legitimate digital music retailer I always thought it was an oversight that there was such little attached to the file.  Was this some sort of strategy since those getting music via p2p circa 2000 had more information attached to their music than your average current day itunes release?  It might just be my music nerd nature but I like to know who was involved in the music I am experiencing.  Here is a recent itunes purchase with the information that came with it.
If the goal of itunes is to replace physical music, aka CDs, then they should offer at least as much.  Free from the limitations of a format developed in the 1980s this should be a relatively easy task but itunes fails miserably.  I have to acknowledge the album title and year of release as a good start but there is nothing else here that wouldn't be in a mp3 file name.  Even by their own low standard itunes leaves the composer form blank.  Imagine someone hearing the difference in between the first two Depeche Mode albums having paid for digital copies on itunes and having no clue as to why that might be.  At minimum the digitial information should contain the name of the producer and itunes has no form for that.  Then there are all the other thing things a CD booklet contains.

Here is the back of the booklet of a CD that happened to be on the desk at the moment, Lush's Lovelife.  It lists the band's members, the producers, engineers, the dates and studio it was recorded, mixer, mastering engineer, art direction, photography, management and how to reach the Lush information service.  That is one page of eight in the booklet with the rest featuring lyrics, photographs and the names of additional musicians involved.  That is what has been missing from digital music to this point and it is a shame.  What really troubles me is that itunes is treating the inclusion of things they should have been doing since the beginning as a premium.  A quick survey of a couple of online prices indicate there is only a dollars difference in paying for the albums on itunes that offer these special visuals and picking up the CD of the same album.  Adding content you should have had from the start is no reason to overprice things and the idea that someone has to buy the whole album to get basic information seems rather backwards.  Perhaps apple could work it into one of their bi-weekly updates.