Dear Mr. Cue,
I am a fan of iTunes. I believe it has helped save the recorded music industry, particularly for the classical music and jazz listener. I have downloaded numerous albums from iTunes and I have burned many of my CD’s into iTunes. The convenience factor is a big plus. Not only that, but the AAC transfer is not all that bad. I especially appreciated music that has been mastered by Apple for iTunes. Good sound!
As you know, the music industry is once more going through a transition period. People are streaming more through iTunes radio, Spotify, Pandora, Beats, etc. This is a great alternative for the casual listener. But I am not a casual listener. I am what you might call a deliberate listener. I don’t really listen to what might be called background music. Three is nothing wrong with this type of listening, of course. Many people listen this way. But a deliberate listener really wants to concentrate on the quality of performance as well as the audio. And I believe that this is where iTunes could be most helpful with some modifications.
Of course, I am older and may listen to music differently that many young people do. Nonetheless, the rise in vinyl sales tells me that there are many young people who do listen the way that I do. The sound quality is important to them as well. That is not to say that I do not listen to musically casually from time to time. The better phrase would be “on the go.” When I am out and about I will use my iPod. The sound quality is not so important under such conditions because of the inherent background noise.
When I am on the go I will more often listen to my own curated playlists. Having an extensive number of music files from which to draw makes this possible. Others, who have not made so many album purchases will no doubt prefer the streaming services. How does iTunes best accommodate both the casual listener and the deliberate one? It it can do both then it will be gaining more listeners rather that losing them. Apple has always been about quality and the user experience, But Apple must also takes into consideration commercial interests. Of course, you realize that. Profit cannot be ignored if Apple wants to remain the preeminent music delivery service.
Accordingly, I would like to make a suggestion that I believe would serve the interests of both Apple and every sort of music listener. The answer is not either/or but both/and. Sound quality for the deliberate listener and convenience for the casual listener. Casual and on the go music do not require superior sound quality. Streaming services can offer “pretty good” sound for a smaller fee when their playlists are curated by computer algorithm. The same “pretty good” sound could also be offered at a slightly higher fee when playlists are curated by an actual person who is professionally trained. I believe flexibility is important. But I am sure that you realize all this.
What you may not realize is that a significant number of people are will to pay premium prices for premium sound quality. They are the deliberate listeners. They still want to buy their own music. They still want to choose from the own music collection. They will buy their own albums for this purpose. They will probably buy some vinyl. Apple does not sell vinyl and probably does not want to get into that business. But Apple should be selling something that competes with vinyl. Whatever that is it has to provide premium sound quality. If the sound is great and it is also packaged in a convenient format, all the better. We are talking about high-resolution downloads.
You have high-resolution files already at your disposal. If you did not you could not be remastering albums for better sound through iTunes as you are doing now. Offer those files at the highest resolution possible for a premium price; You will not be selling as many, but the ones you do sell will help make up for future losses because people are streaming their music and not buying it. Sales are going down but streaming is going up. Keep the streaming but also sell something that is trending upward, something that you do not have now but could easily add. Yes, the file sizes would be larger but the price of disk space is coming down. The larger size would probably be stored exclusively on one’s computer drive. An additional lower resolution version might be provided for use on an iPhone or iPod as a bonus or for a nominal fee.
Cater to all those potential customers who have diverse musical tastes as well as different desires for their music delivery system. Get out in front of these trends. Satisfy more people and make more money.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Robert Bolling Bryant, AUDIOGRAM II