Trending February 2024 # Opinion: It’s Time For Apple To Start Offering Lossless Music Formats On Itunes # Suggested March 2024 # Top 3 Popular

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Music has been part of Apple’s soul since the launch of the iPod almost 16 years ago. Launched with the slogan ‘a thousand songs in your pocket,’ it’s no exaggeration to say that the device transformed the way we listen to music. It also transformed Apple into a major mobile device manufacturer, and laid the ground work for the iPhone.

Fast-forward to today, and Apple still places a huge emphasis on music. Its largest ever acquisition was the $3B it paid to buy Beats in 2014. The Beats Music service became Apple Music, a streaming service which has grown to 30M paid subscribers.

Apple’s move into exclusive video content also has a strong emphasis on music documentaries.

But there’s still one odd omission from the company’s music offerings …

Sure, you can rip CDs into lossless formats, and that’s the solution most audiophiles adopt when they want to have their music collection available in iTunes, but the last MacBook with an optical drive was the non-Retina MacBook Pro, last updated in 2012. Apple discontinued sales of the 15-inch in 2013, and the 13-inch last year. You can still buy an external drive, but Apple’s view is clearly that this is outdated tech. If we buy music at all – rather than stream it – Apple wants us to download it.

Lossless audio of course involves large file sizes, which was a good reason not to do it back in the early days of iTunes when we were all on slow connections. But that’s not a good argument against it today.

Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC) typically gets an album down to around 400MB, and that’s not an unreasonable amount of data to download on the kind of broadband connections many of us have today. Given that we’re not downloading albums every day, I’d say that’s eminently viable.

And I think everyone would benefit from the option: consumers, music labels, musicians and Apple.

Consumers

Lossless file formats are the only way we can enjoy music at its full quality. Now, you can argue that the AAC 256Kbps format currently used by iTunes is very good, and I’ll agree with you. You can argue that the difference between that and ALAC wouldn’t make much difference when listening to music on the move on a mobile device, and I’ll agree with that too. But play both on a decent hifi system in a quiet room at home, and I don’t think you have to be an audiophile to hear the difference.

But even if you disagree, I think it doesn’t matter. If there’s one lesson we’ve learned from the early days of mp3 music, it’s that technology improves, storage gets cheaper and what sounded acceptable five years or ten years ago sounds horrible today. What I want isn’t something that sounds good today, it’s something that will always sound good.

The only way we can guarantee that is to have a lossless copy in the first place. Maybe we’ll never listen to it in that format, maybe we’ll just output it to AAC 256 and call it good. But in five years’ time, when iPhones have 2TB of storage and we’re using a much better lossy format, we’ll be able to output to that. Lossless is future-proof; whatever today’s flavor of the month might be, isn’t.

Music labels & musicians

Streaming generates tiny amounts of income. Apple Music is more generous than Spotify and YouTube, but it still only pays $0.00735 per stream – and that amount is then split between the label, the musician and the songwriter. Unless you’re a big artist, you’re not going to pay many bills from streaming.

Apple

Given the right marketing, and presenting people with a choice between an AAC album at say $11 and an ALAC one at say $20, I could see a profitable minority opting for the premium version – not dissimilar to those who opt for the top storage tier on an iOS device or max out a Mac.

Photos: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg; Squintyt4e; Apple

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Ai Is The Future — And It’s Time We Start Embracing It

Par Chadha is the founder, CEO, and CIO of Santa Monica, California-based HGM Fund, a family office. Chadha also serves as chairman of Irving, Texas-based Exela Technologies, a business process automation (BPA) company, and is the co-founder of Santa Monica, California-based Rule 14, a data-mining platform. He holds and manages investments in the evolving financial technology, health technology, and communications industries.

Intelligence evolution is nothing new. These days, it’s just taking on a more electronic form. Some innovations seem to appear overnight, while others take decades to perfect. When it comes to the topic of artificial intelligence (AI), most people are probably content to take it slow, as the possibilities are exciting but admittedly a bit scary at times.

“Star Trek” first introduced us to the idea that a robot could be capable of performing a medical exam before the doctor comes in to see you. Robot-assisted surgery has already arrived and appears to be here to stay, making some procedures less invasive and less prone to error.

There’s no question that AI is powerful. And when it’s used for good, it’s a beautiful tool. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to keep powerful things out of the hands of the bad guys. So some of these incredible tools, like exoskeletons for soldiers, will also make more formidable enemies.

The discovery of DNA a century ago was transformative to our understanding of human biology. It took us a hundred years to get to the point where we could edit DNA, but what’s next? CRISPR has the potential to provide healing to millions of people, but the possibilities of DNA editing are about as vast as your imagination can go. “Attack of the Clones” no longer seems so far off.

The fears people experience about AI are significant: What if I lose my job? My livelihood? Is there a place for me in this future? AI is even beginning to break the order in some families, because the people of the younger generation working in knowledge-based jobs are already making more money than their parents did. So how do we adapt to and embrace this exciting yet possibly frightening future? 

See more: Artificial Intelligence: Current and Future Trends

We have to stay flexible. With reskilling, all of us should be increasingly confident that AI may change our jobs but won’t render us unemployable. I have had to reinvent myself each decade since 1977 — sometimes more than once. But I’ve always found success, despite the challenges this brings, and the process has always been fulfilling. 

Start with what is least offensive and difficult to acclimate to as you’re making peace with the future. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by all the change, try creating smaller and more manageable goals when it comes to your technology adoption. Enlist the help of a younger person who may have an easier time adapting to these changes.

We will likely lose the satisfaction we get from mowing our own lawn and many other tasks in the near future. We will have to find peace, fulfillment, pride, and happiness through other activities. This isn’t something to mourn. It’s something to get creative about. Consider the possibilities rather than dwelling on fear of the future.

Time is not likely to begin marching in the opposite direction, and technology doesn’t often work backward. We can choose to live in fear, or we can choose to embrace the future, counting our blessings for how these innovations will improve our lives and expand our horizons.

The worrisome aspect of AI is that if we can conceptualize it, we are likely to attempt it. We will need to continue to engage in conversations of ethics to ensure we stay focused on the right things: those that protect, aid, and bring value to human life.

Technology will only continue to evolve, and AI will be a part of everyone’s daily lives even more so than it is now. The change is inevitable. However, as with all change, we must be prepared to adapt to it. While we need to be cautious of how we use AI, the fact is that it’s a blessing, not a curse. Adapting to AI will be a lot less painful if we embrace it, ease into the new world it will bring, and understand that this technology will open more doors for humanity than it will close. 

See more: Top Performing Artificial Intelligence Companies

It’s Time For Public Libraries To Get Creative

In the current recession, many public libraries are laying off staff, slashing budgets, and closing down. Library supporters respond by becoming more vocal, insistently demanding greater funding from legislators. You can’t squeeze blood from a stone, though. It’s not as if legislators don’t care about libraries. There is no money to be allocated. The money isn’t there, no matter how loud you shout.

How do you reach the top of that wave? You start using the library space as a collaborative space to make things: books, music CDs, instructional videotapes, screencasts, art, inventions, software, and so on. And then you start selling those creative things to fund the library’s operations. You sell those creative products via Amazon’s Create Space, Apple’s iBookstore, Lulu, and countless other Websites that have sprung up to empower creative producers.

Half of a library’s operating budget could be generated by the creative output of the people who use that library. Writers, composers, filmmakers, choreographers, artists, inventors, and other creative types could all get their start working on collaborative projects for their own neighborhood library. Established creative talent could donate some of their works to add value to anthologies and other group projects.

Library staff would be hired based on their creative talents as well as their other competences. So a job offer for a library job might sound like this: “Mr. McCartney, I understand you like composing songs. We’re thrilled to have you join our library staff. Ms. Dickinson, your poetry is truly distinctive, welcome to our library staff. Mr. da Vinci, your drawing talent will be a big asset to our library community. Mr. Wright, we’re so happy to have someone interested in building flying machines join our staff.”

Suppose your library wanted to start producing books for Apple’s iBookstore. How would you and your library do that? A Web service named Lulu has you covered.

Who would buy iBooks created by people in your library? Some of the purchasers would be people right in your neighborhood — and those neighbors’ family and friends. And if your iBooks have literary or practical value, the books will be purchased by people outside of your state and outside of your country.

Libraries themselves are not well-situated to handle the monies that come their way, but Friends of the Library groups are. If you care about supporting libraries, maybe the thing you need to do today is contact your local Friends of the Library group to see how your own creative talents might be put to use to support the library you care about.

If your library does not currently subscribe to MAKE magazine, a question to ask is: Why not? What took us so long to understand the value of this publication?

Should public libraries be welcoming homes to ingenuity?

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How To Upload Your Music To Apple Music

If you’re a musician who wants his own songs on Apple Music, you may be wondering how to upload them to the streaming platform.

It’s easier than you might think, but it’s not as simple as uploading MP3s to a digital music store and calling it a day.

Table of Contents

You Need a Music Distributor

Apple does not deal directly with artists, so there’s no way for you to upload your music to the service on your own. However, if you’re an artist signed by a record label, the label will do all the work for you when dealing with Apple.

If you’re an independent artist not signed to a label, you’ll need a music distributor. Specifically, you’ll have to use one of the music distributors on Apple’s approved partner list. At the time of writing, 28 partners listed on Apple’s site offer music distribution services.

The exact services offered by each provider can differ. For example, some only handle music, and some also handle music videos or live concert performances. In addition, some provide translation services for your metadata (e.g., track names) or let you submit the lyrics for your songs.

Different distributors are suitable for different kinds of artists. They also have specific registration processes, steps to enter information into their database, and uploading the music to Apple Music. This is why we can’t provide step-by-step instructions on how to add files on a distributor’s site and publish them.

They are all different, and all appeal to different types of artists. However, they guide everyone on how to upload a single, album, or video.

It Costs Money to Publish

Music distributors don’t provide their services for free. You’ll have to pay a publication fee for your music to add it to the service. These fees are small but help to deter frivolous music submissions. Do cross-shop among the different distribution partners to see who offers the best rate.

You should also consider the distributor’s commission. A lower cut for the distributor might justify a higher upfront fee, especially if your music gets lots of listens!

For example, TuneCore charges a fee for each registration and upload but takes no commission. CD Baby, on the other hand, takes a 9% cut of streaming and download revenues, and 15% of publishing royalties.

Your Music Must Meet Minimum Technical Standards

Today, anyone with the right skills can make professional-quality music in their homes. That doesn’t mean you can just upload and have it published.

Music distributors have minimum technical standards aligned with Apple’s requirements. Some distributors may have additional requirements if they publish your music to streaming platforms such as Spotify or YouTube Music. Not every distributor may agree to put lossless versions of your music online.

If your music doesn’t conform to what the distributor requires, you may have to export your songs again from your music production software, or you’ll have to convert your original files. For example, TuneCore has a guide for its clients with the technical specifications for the songs and how to convert music that doesn’t conform using the Music app on Mac or iTunes on Windows systems.

You’ll Need Cover Art

The metadata you can include with your music submission is optional. Still, one thing you must produce in addition to the music itself is the cover art. Because you’re publishing digital music for streaming doesn’t mean your “album” doesn’t need a cover.

A fantastic album cover is visually attractive. Before you make yours, check the quality and dimensions of the artwork for the music distributor of your choice.

If you aren’t much of a visual artist and can’t afford to pay someone for album art, you still have several affordable options. For example, you can use a photograph and a tool such as Canva to create an album cover. Even AI image generators, such as MidJourney or DALL-E 2, will draw anything you can imagine for a tiny fee.

You Must Have Rights to the Music

You must own the copyright to the music you upload or have it properly licensed from the rights holder. You may have to sign a declaration or provide evidence that you have the rights and permission to upload music to the distributor.

If you’ve made a cover version of an existing song, you’ll need the permission of that song’s rights holder to publish your cover and make money from it. Even if they consent, they are entitled to a percentage of your revenue through royalties. Ensure that before you try to upload your music files to a distributor.

If your music samples another artist’s music, the same rules may apply depending on the specific laws in effect and how you’ve sampled the music. If you’ve used samples from a royalty-free music library, check the terms and conditions since the royalty-free status may come with some strings attached.

While your work is technically copyrighted as soon as it’s recorded, a formal registration with the music rights body makes it easy to prove in any disputes. The rules of composition or writing credit may vary from one country or jurisdiction to the next.

Music Must be Correctly Credited and Royalties Distributed

Music rights can be complicated. If you collaborated with someone else (e.g., you’re in a band) or someone contributed to the music composition or lyrics, they are entitled to writing credits. It’s a good idea to register your songs with your local music rights organization, listing everyone entitled to a revenue cut.

If you don’t provide the correct information to the distributor, it can lead to legal issues later with injured parties looking to claim their rightful slice of the revenue.

Promoting Your Music

Getting your audio files distributed is half the battle! Once your music is on music streaming services, you still need to convince people it belongs in their iCloud music library. The dream would be to get your songs on a popular Apple Music playlist or even featured on the service’s front page.

Some music distributors offer tools to promote your music. Some of these tools may attract additional fees or a higher cut for the distributor, but the rising tide lifts all boats. Spending money on the right promotion types is never wasted, but you don’t have to invest much money to promote your music. Here are some ideas to get started:

Create YouTube content that links back to your Apple Music page.

Use social media to promote your music or get help from social media management professionals.

Create music videos or capture live performances and use this for promotional material.

It’s a good idea to observe how successful independent artists on Apple Music market themselves. It’s also important not to limit your audience to those with an Apple Music subscription. Many distributors will also publish your music on other streaming music platforms, and getting your music distributed as widely as possible can be a good thing.

Claiming Your Artists Page

Once your music is uploaded to Apple Music, the final step is to claim your Apple Music Artists’ Page. You can’t do this until your content is live, but once your content is on the platform, you can use the Apple Music for Artists app to claim your page after providing the artist’s name. Of course, you must have an Apple ID or create one to complete this process.

You’ll have to provide some evidence that you are affiliated with the artist, but once you comply, you should be given access. While you can’t upload music, you can add additional information about your act and other aspects of the artist page.

You can claim your page from the iOS app on iPhone or iPad, or you can do it from any other platform like macOS, Windows, or Android.

Opinion: Why We Need A Podcasts App For Mac, Not Just Itunes

Mac Podcasts app concept 

Yesterday in my WWDC wish list I included a request for pulling Apple’s podcast player out of iTunes and promoting it to a dedicated app on the Mac just like it is on iOS. iTunes in its current form can be a mess as a music player, but at least that tries to be its primary function; being a good podcast player is hardly the focus of iTunes. Aside from removing part of the bloat from iTunes, promoting podcast playback on the Mac to its own app would solve several existing problems.

First, there are issues introduced with the recent iTunes 12.4 update. Apple re-introduced the sidebar navigation to iTunes with the goal of simplifying the experience and included an option to disable it, but turning it off doesn’t revert to tab bar navigation like it does in the Photos app.

Turn off the sidebar in the Recently Added section of Music and now you can’t navigate to the Artists section in Music without turning it back on. No problem, just leave it on for Music. But go to the Podcasts section and notice the sidebar isn’t as necessary. I use Recent Updates and Podcasts but not Stations (which can be removed) but a whole column for two or three options is overkill. But turn it off for Podcasts and it turns off for Music which traps you.

For me, the solution is to mostly live in the Unplayed section which is a separate tab bar option and doesn’t show the sidebar. Another oddity created by iTunes the music player is that smart playlists like 90’s Music appear in the Podcasts section as podcast playlists but show music. A separate Podcasts app wouldn’t have this awkward and nonsensical behavior.

Another problem with having podcast playback happen in a music player is sharing the same playback settings. I really like the Crossfade Songs option on iTunes for continuous Apple Music playback. Spotify does this on iOS and it’s something Apple Music should add there too. But it’s super jarring when the end of one podcast crosses into another podcast. Stacked spoken word just doesn’t have the same effect.

Obviously the Crossfade Songs option should only apply to songs and it doesn’t, but iTunes is full of these examples. iTunes is also just not as good at podcast playback as iOS.

Apple’s Podcasts app on iOS includes an Up Next feature for managing a temporary episode queue without making a dedicated playlist. Up Next for Podcasts works just like the Music app on iOS but separately. iTunes on the Mac shows the Up Next option when playing podcasts, but it only works for music.

The Up Next section on the iOS Podcasts app is also where you’ll find chapters on supported shows like 9to5Mac’s Happy Hour podcast. Up Next is music-only on iTunes, and chapters just aren’t supported.

Podcasts for iOS also includes a timer for stopping playback, speed controls, and back and forward skip buttons that jump 15 seconds. iTunes lacks these podcast features and using back and forward skip buttons can easily lose your place in an episode.

Apple has a Podcasts app for iPhone, iPad, both Apple TVs, and CarPlay, but the experience is subpar on the Mac as it’s buried inside iTunes.

Complaints aside, iTunes is still a half-decent podcast player on the Mac. I use it almost daily. One benefit of being tied into iTunes is you can download iTunes on a Windows PC, sign in with your Apple ID, and your podcasts are all right there and sync like on a Mac. But the podcast experience on a Mac shouldn’t be limited for that reason alone.

And there aren’t many options for podcast playback on the Mac. Before iTunes, I used Instacast which offered a great experience but ran out of money for development. I also like Apple’s apps because they’re on iPhone, iPad, the Mac, CarPlay, and both Apple TVs (just not Apple Watch). Downcast is another podcast player that’s also on most of Apple’s platforms including CarPlay and even Apple Watch but not Apple TV yet.

Promote podcast playback on the Mac to a dedicated Podcasts app outside of iTunes (and someday throw in an Apple Watch app?) and I’d be totally happy.

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Feature Request: How I Hope The Upcoming Itunes Refresh Improves Apple Music And More

During the interview blogger John Gruber sat down for an hour long conversation with Apple execs Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi. I previously broke down the interview where the group discussed the current state of Apple products and where they recognize areas for improvement. In the entire discussion, the part that sticks with me still is how Eddy Cue had made a passing statement of an incoming “refresh” for iTunes coming this month. Exactly what Cue meant by a “refresh” is the question I keep coming back to, and something I believe may be alluding to more than he let on.

In the conversation with the execs, both acknowledged difficulties with various parts of their platforms. They both agreed that there were areas where Apple could definitely improve and that they were constantly thinking about what they could do to improve them. The difficulties with iTunes brought up how it related with the still new Apple Music. A confusion between the different services and systems was starting to form.

Cue explained that at one point they even thought of making the entire system “cloud based” since Apple Music and iTunes for all intents and purposes already were cloud based. They acknowledged that iTunes had been built during a time when everything was being synced with a cable. A centralized place for syncing activities was key. Not having to launch multiple apps to manage a device was and is important for Apple.

The idea of a cloud-based system was soon scrapped when they recognized that they still needed a way to allow users to have the ability to upload music easily. Especially when millions of devices are still manually syncing to iTunes using a cable. They didn’t want to push all of Apple Music and iTunes into a cloud platform when users still had to manage personal libraries. Not all of the other competing music streaming services offer a way to upload music already owned to the cloud, and Apple wanted to retain that.

Cue stated that for the short term, they wanted to focus so that when you were in Music in iTunes, all you saw was music. He believes that if they had built a separate Music syncing application, it would look a lot like the current Music section of iTunes. This part of the conversation is where my ears began to perk up. Cue says, “Right now we think we designed iTunes, with a refresh coming in OS X next month, that makes it even easier to use in the Music space.”

And this is where we get to the crux of our conversation. What would happen to Apple’s Music services and sections within iTunes that could simplify it? Taking a look at iTunes’ Music section today, it’s immediately apparent how overly complicated the UI has become.

The primary iTunes Music sub-sections, and what services and systems they correspond to.

While there are multiple discussions to start iTunes from scratch, I want to hone in on the one area where I feel iTunes really needs a “refresh”: the music section’s toolbar at the top of iTunes. As of iTunes 12, there are 7 different music sub-sections in the toolbar. Two are library specific, four dedicated to Apple Music, and one for the traditional iTunes Store.

The first group of options in this section alone are already overly messy. ‘My Music’ and ‘Playlists’ both contain various types of music libraries. Under either of these, users can see music from their local on-disk library, music from Apple Music, music from iTunes in the Cloud, or even music from iTunes Match. The only way to tell and understand what is what is to enable the ‘iCloud Download’ and ’iCloud Status’ columns. Apple even created a support document specifically to help understand these icons and statuses.

From these varying sections, how would a user quickly jump in and make an immediate purchase? Depending on what selection the user made in any of top three subsections, they’ll see different results and options for each view.

iTunes has quickly outgrown itself and is struggling to keep all its services together and organized cleanly. I appreciate having options and control, but I don’t at all enjoy having to think for longer than a few seconds of where I should go to purchase something.

Oversimplifying the solution, Apple could re-implement iTunes into a way that detects what services the user currently has. Are they Apple Music subscriber? Show the Apple Music section. Are they searching for music, subscribe to Apple Music, and the music isn’t available on Apple Music? Show results indicating as such, and point them to iTunes where they’ll be able to purchase the music.

I’ve done it multiple times. Searched for content on Apple Music, only to discover it doesn’t exist, and then having to re-do the search under the iTunes Store subsection. This bouncing around and having to think of where my searches are run just doesn’t coincide with Apple’s market cohesiveness.

Tom Koszyk’s Apple Music Redesign

Dribbble is full of UI redesigns, but I haven’t seen one that handles all the disorganization of iTunes well. Tom Koszyk’s Apple Music experience redesign goes through nearly all of my gripes and designs the interface in a way that drives discovery. I believe it’s time that Apple gives iTunes’ music sections an experience refresh, and I’m hoping that’s exactly what Eddy Cue had meant.

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