Music Business

Are You As Excited As Bono About Apple’s Plans For A New Music Format?

Peter-getty-time-bono-227x300By Peter Getty.

When Apple created the iTunes Store, offering for the first time a digital way to deliver individual tracks for just 99 cents, the music industry received a fatal blow. While this might have been better for artists and record companies than the mass pirating of their songs that was all the rage in the early years of the century, iTunes opened a gate that potentially can never be closed. Apple decided how much a song costs on this planet, end of story.

And so, seemingly, came the end of the era of music format upgrades. Baby boomers who bought Led Zeppelin IV on 8-track, cassette, and compact disc (along with a few others maybe) have rested easy over the past decade or so with digital copies of songs.

But maybe that’s all about to change…again. In a recent interview with Time magazine, Apple fanboy and U2 frontman (and, to be fair, fierce philanthropist) Bono has announced that he and Apple have collaborated on a new interactive format for music. He claims they have technology that prevents pirating, and that there will be a refocus to the role of album artwork. His hope is that fans find it so ‘irresistibly exciting that it will tempt them again into buying music – whole albums asa well as individual tracks.’

Of course Bono is excited. Why wouldn’t he be? Lest his band’s marketing collaboration with Apple be perceived as a gift to faithful fans for years of support and money, he’s the first to remind the public that his new free album wasn’t a charitable endeavor. ‘We were paid. I don’t believe in free music. Music is a sacrament.’ It’s been a while since Bono’s Irish Catholic upbringing, but it’s alarming he’s forgotten that sacraments are free of charge.

The new format, to be clear, won’t be similar to the failed projects of the 00′s to restrict file sharing (like Apple’s DRM files or Neil young’s Pono). This will be a new packaging, complete with interactive elements. It’s a new kind of solution to the free music problem, not a technological solution, but a creative-based solution.

Time will tell. The internet has yet to react to the announcement will full force, but the thousands of people desperate to get U2′s new album off their computer might not be ready for a Bono/Apple joint venture to shake up the music industry again. Only time will tell. I wonder who the first artists to feature the new digital packaging will be…

Artist & Producer Peter Getty was a member of Virgin-Whore Complex and founded the record label Emperor Norton.


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  1. What I’m interested in finding out is who’s encoding music into this format, Since the bulk of the music selling on itunes is tied to a distributor and it’s up to them to ensure that the product is fungible going into a systems like Apples, which is 1 of about 200 various digital services out there. Sure Apple’s 60% of typical sales, however it ain’t 100 and that leaves questions to be answered.

  2. Um, there’s no DRM in pono files or the pono player. They claim they will be selling free and open FLAC files from their store and the player plays most formats.
    Also, how is it a failed project if they sold a couple hundred thousand players before they even existed? I’d say there’s a market for someone who think the “mp3 player” should be upgraded after 12 years.
    Bono will have a Pono player or a new HD Walkman and hide it when he’s visiting Apple.

  3. Any new format is dead in the water, even by Apple. If it’s lossless it’s lossless, no one will see it as an upgrade. “Still not as good as a 1994 WAV” does not make a compelling new format.
    It’s either gotta be HD (24bit and at least 48k sample rate), or added 5.1 surround, or it’s pointless. FLAC and WAV can do HD-stereo fine.
    This is more than likely an upgrade to ALAC (Apple Lossless) codec to include more artwork and gimmicks, and maybe to push HD.
    If they get into adding some truly interactive content (visuals, collaborative tools) maybe they have something that can take us forward, but they’ll probably keep it closed, it will be cloned by Samdroid, and will end up more garbage.

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