Monday, November 15, 2010

Major iTunes Hype

If you go to Apple's homepage today you will be greeted by the message above about an "exciting announcement from iTunes" tomorrow at 10:00 AM Eastern. Despite my recent complaints about Apple and iTunes, I must tip my hat to them for their mastery of the art of hype. No one has any idea what what the big announcement will be, but that doesn't stop everyone from guessing. Apple does an amazing job of keeping things secret and only letting the public know about new products and features on their own terms. Also, no matter how many times these announcements fail to live up the advance hype, people always get worked up over the "next big thing" from Apple anyway.
Bonus SAT answer:

Lucy with football is to Charlie Brown as:
A) Steve Jobs with 'big announcement' is to Apple fans.
There's really only one thing that, in my opinion, could live up to this level of hype: the announcement of an "iTunes Cloud" service where people pay a monthly subscription fee that allows them to access the entire iTunes catalog. As downloads continue to fall well short of making up for the revenue that labels have lost over the past 10 years, it's become increasingly clear to me that the industry will eventually move toward some kind of subscription-based model. iTunes and Apple, with the world's largest digital catalog and the most popular hardware devices that could access a music cloud (iPhones, iPads, etc.), are ideally positioned to be the market leader when this shift occurs.

So if that is the announcement, it would legitimately constitute big news, and a day worth remembering. It would signal a seismic shift in the way pre-recorded music is distributed, and forever change our relationship to it. A music "cloud" would represent a far bigger shift, in my opinion, than the move toward downloads did, because with downloads you still "owned" something. Sure it wasn't something physical anymore, but--in theory at least--it still belonged to you. Once we move to a "cloud" access model, the idea of owning pre-recorded music will rapidly become an anachronism. It won't wipe record collector geeks like myself off the face of the planet in an instant, but it will make the hobby appear even more quaint and inconsequential than it currently does.

Of course given the "just another day" reference, Apple may just be planning to announce that you can download the Beatles catalog from iTunes, which would be quite lame and forgettable. (But would they really reference a Macca solo song to announce acquiring the rights to the Beatles catalog? If so, that sound you just heard was John Lennon rolling over in his grave.)

So will tomorrow be just another day when Steve Jobs pulls the football out from under us and leaves us lying on our backs cursing our gullibility, or will something really big happen? Either way, I once again tip my hat to Apple's spectacular ability to generate hype.

Update: All Things Digital says a "cloud" announcement is not likely given that contracts with music industry companies would have to be in place, and as far as anyone knows that hasn't happened yet. It's also not likely to be a more limited "cloud" that you can upload content you already own to, as the music industry has been arguing that such a service would also require a new contract. In short, given the number of players that would have to be involved, a cloud announcement just isn't something Apple could surprise us all with.

One last thought: Paul McCartney recently moved his solo catalog from EMI to Concord Music Group, so the announcement might have something to do with that. As a result, HD Tracks recently made Band On The Run available as a hi-rez (96 kHz/24 bit) FLAC download (allowing you to choose dynamically compressed and un-compressed versions). But audiophile Macca releases seem like something that would be of interest to too small a percentage of the population to qualify as a big announcement.


wardo said...

Your Lucy analogy is spot-on. Well done.

Doug said...

Peter, you fell right for it! The whole announcement was a ploy to get you to blog about them.

They live to get your attention.

You knew that, right?

Pete Bilderback said...

Hi Doug. Sure, I was fully aware that I was playing into their plan. Apple lives off the attention (positive or negative) they generate with these stunts.

But I've been thinking a bit about the future of music distribution and this was an impetus for me to start writing about it. Hopefully I'll have more to say about that in the future. Also, I really wanted to get the Charlie Brown SAT analogy out there.

But, like I said, I can only tip my hat to them for their ability to generate hype. They are masters of the art.