If the rumours are true this Wednesday will see the unveiling of a new version of iTunes at Apple's music themed event to be held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco, California.
Starting at 10 am Pacific Time, around tea time our time, Apple could offer an aperitif, dubbed "Cocktail" by those claiming to be in the know, adding value to downloads in the form of "interactive books." Unique content essentially, rumoured to be backed by major labels in EMI, Sony Music, Warner Music and Universal Music Group.
Traditional CD releases have been packing in the extras for sometime, possibly with a view to persuade those tempted by illicit downloads, often weeks, occasionally months, ahead of official releases to go legit and support the artist. Limited numbered editions, lavish packaging, extra tracks and discs, vinyl, bonus DVDs with behind the scenes footage, interactive content all entice.
The latest, rather lovely, release from James Yorkston & The Big Eyes Family Players called 'Folk Songs,' for instance, comes in a version with an additional disc of live session songs, alternate takes and different tracks, a full length live DVD, poster, and if you were a quick your name included on some limited edition artwork.
It's a very tactile package, that would make a fan very happy, and a potential fan a nice gift. A vinyl version comes with a coupon with a download code to receive a digital version, to save the time and effort of converting the analogue source. The iTunes version, while significantly cheaper then both CD and vinyl, offers only one additional track and booklet.
Despite the convenience of buying music digitally, I've yet to invest in a single song from iTunes. iPhone and iPod applications are great, but as for songs, I've rather buy the CD, and in the past vinyl. I've never been able to get to grips with something that exists only on your hard drive, has no resale value, can't be given away or dropped off at your local charity shop, and until fairly recently was crippled with digital rights management restrictions and low quality encoding.
The 128 kbit/s encoding was also a non-starter, although that's now been pumped up to 256 kbit/s partly thanks to larger capacity iPods and iPhones. Originally I ripped my own CDs using the Apple Lossless format although that quickly led to a full hard drive then full external hard drive.
The rumoured iTunes 9 better be good to convince me to start downloading and buying, the more exclusives the better although I've no idea how often I'd view bundled content. Maybe the way to go is to offer iTunes Sessions and bonus tracks as standard as a thank you for buying the entire album of songs, a concept which may be lost on some now used to cherry picking single tracks.
I'm not convinced another rumoured announcement of iPods with cameras is enough to increase sales as we run up to the holiday season in the US and Christmas everywhere. Most mobile phones, starting from as little as £15, come with cameras, although camera enabled iPods might help enhance the alleged social networking features coming with the next iTunes update. By Wednesday evening we'll all know what value Apple place on music.
(* The title is a pun, a bad one, on 'You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory' by ex-New York Doll Johnny Thunders, but Apple's AAC format, just didn't sound right.)