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iTunes 9: Deconstructing LPs & Extras

iTunes LP

Leading up to Apple’s (s aapl) music event last week, rumor sites had been circling about a new format from Apple that would provide additional content, like lyrics, liner notes, video interviews and more. The rumors came true as Apple announced yet one more way to spend more money inside iTunes: iTunes LPs for music and iTunes Extras for video. Here’s what they look like up close.

Deconstructing the LP

When you purchase an iTunes LP (for this example, I’m using Tyrese Gibson’s MAYHEM!), you actually end up downloading the songs included and the animated content in a new format, called .itlp. This new format is (in this example) a very big file, a little over 400MB. Not only does it take a while to download that content, but if you start to fill your library with several of these, you’ll run out of room very quickly.

For diehard fans, iTunes LPs are simply amazing. In MAYHEM!, the additional content is an animated comic book that comes to life with spoken dialog. As more and more artists sign onto creating iTunes LPs, these will become big time components of true music enthusiasts. Let’s just hope new iTunes LPs are released more frequently than the GarageBand Artist Lessons.

Grateful Dead LP

And Now for Video

Apple also announced iTunes Extras for video content, allowing quick scene selection and other animated “behind the scenes” content available in these exclusive packages. For many, this could be the real deciding factor between opting to purchase a new movie on DVD or Blu-ray versus purchasing it within iTunes. The end result, while perhaps not equal in terms of additional content, is a complete movie experience, with a substantial amount of supplemental content. Unfortunately, iTunes Extras are only available when purchasing content from iTunes; they are not available with movie rentals.

If you purchase content from iTunes on your iPhone and that content supports iTunes LP or iTunes Extra, the base content (songs or movie) will download immediately to your device. The LP and Extras content will download to your computer the next time you sync your iPhone or iPod touch. Upon doing so, be sure to go to “Store” and click “Check For Available Downloads” to download the additional content.

iTunes Extras

A Good Start

The iTunes Store currently has 12 iTunes LPs available (and even some of those are pre-orders) and 15 movies featuring iTunes Extras. Though Steve likes to attribute Apple’s new iTunes LP concept to a desire to pay homage to classic LPs that included bonus content, one can’t help but think that these extra features are offered to persuade users to purchase complete albums instead of a la carte downloads. The concept is very trendy and will definitely turn heads, but will the majority of our music collection feature iTunes LPs? Probably not. Will we have them for some of the big time major artists? Maybe.

What about iTunes Extras for movies? Will this stop some people from ripping their own DVDs and purchasing the content from iTunes? Perhaps. It’s unlikely that anybody (or perhaps this is a challenge to the Handbrake team) will be able to reverse engineer the .itlp format to allow users to have their own ripped DVDs with all special features play natively within iTunes.

iTunes LP

At the moment, iTunes LPs and iTunes Extras are only playable within, you guessed it, iTunes 9. Others have already noticed, however, that the interface for these could definitely support interaction through touch, so perhaps eventually we’ll see the ability to sync these content types with our iPhones, iPod touches or even Apple TVs.

Now the question is passed to you. What do you think? Is it worth it? Have you pre-ordered Pearl Jam or downloaded The Doors yet?

12 Responses to “iTunes 9: Deconstructing LPs & Extras”

  1. I just purchased Muse – The Resistance LP for £7.99 off the UK iTunes store.

    It’s pretty cool so far. I don’t feel cheated or ripped off but that’s not to say iTunes LP doesn’t have it’s flaws, it does.

    The album feels a lot more personal, especially the ‘making of’ videos that were included. The Supermassive Black Hole live performance was awesome apart from the lack of deinterlacing(!)

    The photos and track notes are a nice touch too.

    But the cons outweigh the pros I’m afraid..

    * No lyrics (at least not on this album anyway)
    * No Full screen support
    * No iPod integration
    * No sign of possible “updates” or versions – what you buy is what you get. Period.
    * For £7.99 and nearly 300mb altogether, this thing should be packed with material.

    I know it’s early days but if I didn’t buy the iTunes LP, I could have YouTube’d the videos, Wiki’d the credits, etc. At the same time, I can’t complain because this is a step in the right direction.

    Like the above commenter said, if they release a devkit for this and allow indie bands to do what they want, it could have excellent potential.

    All in all, I don’t regret paying £7.99 for it. I’ve got the full album, a nice feeling that I have bought music legally and supported a band I like (even if they are massive now).

    Let’s see how it pans out.

  2. I would be dumbfounded if they didn’t eventually add the ability to play iTunes Extras (and perhaps LPs) to Apple TV. It seems like Extras were made to rival the DVD player experience, so getting it to the television set is important. It’s pretty much the only way I’ll buy one of these iTunes Extras movies, in fact.

  3. What I’ve been wondering if whether I will be able to convert albums that I’ve already purchased in iTunes into LPs. It would be rather frustrating to have to buy an album again just for the LP content. Then again, considering they’re still trying to charge me to unlock and upgrade my tracks to iTunes Plus, I wouldn’t be surprised.

  4. Gary Campbell

    Do the iTunes LP tracks also show up in iTunes as normal, so they can be shuffled and added to playlists as I choose? Or am I limited to listening to these in iTunes LP format only?

  5. Isaac Halvorson

    I purchased the Grateful Dead iTunes LP, and I am very satisfied. Although the menus seemed very much like a DVD menu, and not as animated as I’d hoped, it was still fun watching the interviews, reading the liner notes, and the special visualizer was neat as well.

    The thing I’m concerned about is, who actually makes these? The current crop of iTunes LP’s are all from major artists backed by major labels. But are these going to be something attainable by independent artists? Will there be a devkit released for anyone to make an iTunes LP for their album? This could be a really great platform for indie musicians to release their material on, but if it’s only going to be for major artists, I just can’t see this succeeding beyond being a curiosity.

  6. I like the new features iTunes 9 has (the LP and iTunes Extras). But I wish it could be played in front row. I downloaded Batman Begins (for the Extras) and Tyrese’s Mayhem (for the LP) just to see how they both are. The Extras was great and it did look like a real movie, but I wish I had the ability to have it full screen for the full movie experience. Overall though, it’s a very nice start and hopefully Apple adds on to these two.