Standard or Stranglehold: “Mastered for iTunes” and Apple’s Control Over the Sound of Digital Music
As Apple & its iTunes Music Store sit comfortably on their throne as the music industry’s supreme-retailer-in-chief, iTunes has inevitably end up being the nucleus of musical storage and organization in today’s ever-shifting musical climate.
Mastered for iTunes
With last month’s introduction of “Mastered for iTunes”, some guidelines, tech specs and sample-rate converters and encoders to get the optimal “iTunes sound” , Apple takes the refinement of its control over the final file formats in our music to a a fresh level.
Directing the package at audio engineers, they suggest that every mastered file should go through the “Mastered for Itunes” droplet and process, in the event the artist/engineer/label wants to achieve the most effective sound on the widest selection of formats. Not only does Apple control how music is shipped, it’s increasingly asserting its control of how music actually sounds.
“1000 Songs within your Pocket”
In the early days of their ascent to digital-audio-domination, by looking into making iTunes free and simple to access regardless of whether you used a Mac or PC, Apple was able to integrate themselves to the very fibres of our music listening experience. Any song might be imported into iTunes; organized, converted and ultimately sync’d track of any mp3 player.
Steve Jobs’ prophetic proclamation of “1000 songs within your pocket” was only a half-truth; for every song that we squeezed onto our iPods, intense compression and modification of the formats was molding and consequently reducing the original configuration of the music we’re all consuming.
We’re achieving this goal of a staggering amount of music on such a small device, but at what cost? Apple was originally advocating a certain standard (128 kbps AAC) that came under great criticism from artists, engineers and producers, even though they’ve adapted and moved far from this, many people are still consuming music with one of these specs because that’s how iTunes was initially set up.
Yes, Apple provides this new standard with all the intention of universalizing the highest fidelity recordings possible inside the format company, they certainly have the best intentions in wanting their clients to enjoy their music within the same quality on the widest range of systems possible.
However, their make an effort to further standardize the way our music sounds with “Mastered for iTunes” begs a lot larger question that arises whenever a new music medium or format is institutionalized; Is for the better, or does it lead to an increased homogenization inside the possibilities of how music can certainly sound?
I’m not wanting to paint Apple as some monstrous corporate vacuum; crushing creativity and sucking the life out every digital file that results in the iTunes store (or possibly I am ;) ) - god knows they’ve done more to help the evolution and development of any semblance of your music industry in the last decade compared to RIAA or any of the major labels and publishers.
mastered for itunes
But, with the release of “Mastered for iTunes”, which strives to produce a new industry standard in digital audio, minimal we audiophiles, engineers and music lovers can do is pause, assess and think on the implications of the new standard with this magnitude.