The rebirth of the Long Play (LP) record

Remember the LP? I’m not really talking about the actual vinyl, but the cardboard cover it was encased by. Some artist aspired it to be a work of art, something that extended the music, in an analogue world. I remember my dad having a Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers LP with a real zipper attached to it. Some LPs would fold open. You could hold them, reading or singing along to the lyrics while listening. I used to have the New Order Blue Monday floppy disk LP, some fancy Cure LPs, Primus,…

Then the CD replaced the LP, at less than a quarter of the size. Which means the booklets shrank too. Publishers started adding extra content onto the cd itself, hybrid cds with video. Now we have mp3 downloads, with hardly any cover art. Sometimes we’d get an extra pdf booklet, which I think is pretty sad mostly. Or the web itself on the official artist’s website (if you can find it) offers additional content, videos, lyrics,…

Then Apple quietly introduced iTunes LP and iTunes Extra last year with the new iTunes 9, but only with a limited number of titles, mostly older releases, repackaged with some video, lyrics. I haven’t seen that list grow either for the last 4 months. No new releases with LP content. Then end of November ’09 Apple quietly published the TuneKit API, for publishers to developer iTunes LPs. If you look at the technology, it’s as open as it gets: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, packaged in a webarchive with .itlp extension (just rename to zip and open up). It works both on Mac and Windows iTunes, and on the Apple TV. But currently not on the iPhone or iPod touch. It is supposed to be similar to the CMX (Connected Media Experience) format supported by 4 major music companies, but they still need to deliver any actual media content (which is supposed to be the second quarter of 2010).

Up until now the submission (by music and movie publishers only) has been manual and limited. When you look at the iTunes LP page now, it says:

“Automatic, electronic submission of your iTunes LP or Extra is scheduled for the first quarter of 2010.”

Cue, the Apple iPad! Although missing from Steve’s presentation, it seems obvious that music publishers will be offering lots more iTunes LPs by the time the iPad is released (at least that’s what Apple is preparing for based on the above comment). It provides music publishers with extra revenue for music and video. And it provides Apple with another media segment to be sold to eager consumers (like me) using their hardware. Apple has control of the whole ecosystem: selling hardware, developing the format, selling the media. A hard act to follow by media companies, although at one point in time Sony was probably one of the few global companies to be able to offer a similar ecosystem of hardware, movies, music and games. But by now it may be a little too late. All they can do is try to catch up.

This also offers another great opportunity for web developers. You can actually publish your “iTunes LP” anywhere, have people download it on their iPad, which opens iTunes and shows your media/app (pure speculation at this time of course)! In time, the TuneKit API might be should be updated with a JavaScript touch API (like PastryKit?). If they don’t, you can always add it yourself! As for now I haven’t played around that much just yet. I’m not sure if it can load external content into an iTunes LP to get updated content.

Flux 2, a web development IDE for the Mac, comes with an iTunes LP and iTunes Extra template to get you started!

Of course you can do all this with a website. But the iTunes LP offers something to distribute, use offline. It might be just one more trick up your sleeve.

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