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Make your own iTunes LP content Anybody made this work?

#1 User is offline   David Braue 

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 02:23 PM

Today we have some instructions or, at least, pointers to instructions about how to make your own iTunes LP content. As you may recall, that's the feature of iTunes 9 that lets artists (and, presumably, other people) make all sorts of interesting content to go along with their music.

Anybody tried doing this for themselves yet? How did you go?
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#2 Guest_coaten_*

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Posted 26 October 2009 - 07:57 AM

I'm yet to appreciate the point of this. The extra content that comes with an LP/CD/album is part of the appeal of buying a CD from a bricks and mortar. You get all the bits and pieces as part of the package. Liner art, lyrics, photos, bonus material, etc.

Personally, I couldn't be less interested in all the extras and, I expect, most people who buy music online prolly don't care much, either. You know, because if they did, they'd buy the physical format instead.

Me? I'm just happy to listen to the music.

So what's the point?

It kinda reminds me of the GarageBand music tutorials. What a great idea these were! I bought Sting's tutorial of Fragile and loved learning to play it. But has there been a steady flow of new tutorials? No. Great idea at launch but, once the initial excitement has passed, who really cares? Especially when YouTube and other sources (tabs, for instance) provide plenty of free tutorials already?

I feel the same way about iTunes LPs. I don't really care.

BTW, I downloaded one of the LP offerings via iTunesLP.net. Meh.
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#3 User is offline   thomasina 

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Posted 26 October 2009 - 08:46 PM

Well I'm someone who is very interested in extras, not necessarily videos with bells and whistles, but definitely booklets and liner notes.

If I were responsible for the iTunes Store (ha!) then every album would be available with a pdf version of its physical booklet as a minimum. The pdf booklet would be included in the album price, and it would be available for optional purchase as a "track" if you weren't buying the complete album.

That's because I do want lyrics of songs, I do want to read about the artists and what they have to say about their music. With classical music, which is what I mainly listen to, I do want to read about composers and the background of the music, especially for anything new or unfamiliar.

Finally, because so much of the meta-tagging of tracks (esp. in classical music) is really inadequate (incomplete and filled with errors), being able to refer to a professionally edited booklet would make fixing and refining the tags so much easier. As it is, I often have to hunt around the internet to get the info I want, or even borrow the physical CD from a library.

As you can imagine, I'm one of those people who continues to buy mostly CDs because documentation is incredibly important to me. But, I might well buy more on iTunes, and certainly I'd be happier with my iTunes purchases, if I were able to get booklets with my music purchases.

And I actually can't see the logic of the iTunes store not enhancing its value by including booklets with every album. There are a handful of albums out there with booklets (e.g. the Sweeney Todd film soundtrack); it's clearly possible to make them available and my own company has done so with some of its releases to iTunes. Deutsche Grammophon's download service offers the booklet with every album, as do other services. In my view Apple is dropping the ball here when they should really be encouraging the inclusion of a booklet with every album, even making it mandatory. After all, nearly everything on iTunes has been released in a physical format with a booklet – it doesn't represent additional work or expense to make and offer a pdf version.
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#4 Guest_coaten_*

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Posted 26 October 2009 - 08:55 PM

QUOTE (thomasina @ Oct 26 2009, 09:16 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
... it doesn't represent additional work or expense to make and offer a pdf version.


Well, there might be a little work involved. wink.gif

Your POV is entirely valid, of course. It's a matter of different strokes for different folks.

But if I want some information on a track, an album, an artist or their muse, I can just get it from internet sources anyway.
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#5 User is offline   thomasina 

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Posted 26 October 2009 - 09:13 PM

QUOTE (coaten @ Oct 26 2009, 08:55 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Well, there might be a little work involved. wink.gif

I know you're joshing me, but I have to disagree. As someone who's been involved in producing quite a few CD booklets [LATER EDIT: i.e. for print production for physical CD release] I can say that pdfs are made at a number of different stages of the proofing process anyway. The final one, if made with the appropriate settings, would be ready for distribution via iTunes.

QUOTE (coaten @ Oct 26 2009, 08:55 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
But if I want some information on a track, an album, an artist or their muse, I can just get it from internet sources anyway.

It probably depends on the music, but certainly a great deal of what is to be found in classical music booklets is not available on the internet, or at least not in a convenient, easy-to-find form. And what you find may not be relevant to the particular recording you're listening to. Naxos includes much of the information from its booklets online and is quite good in this respect, and there is an online retailer, buywell.com, that makes the booklets from ABC Classics CDs available (although they're not all that easy to actually find on the site). Hyperion makes information from some of its CD booklets available as well. But they're in the minority. For the most part, assembling the same or equivalent booklet content via internet research is quite time-consuming and that's coming from someone who's expert in finding and assessing that kind of information. I hate to think what the task would be like for the "regular" music-lover.
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#6 Guest_coaten_*

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Posted 27 October 2009 - 06:37 AM

QUOTE (thomasina @ Oct 26 2009, 08:43 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I hate to think what the task would be like for the "regular" music-lover.


I'm a pretty regular music lover, which is to say that any info I may on an infrequent occasion be interested in regarding an album or recording or whatever is both trivial and shallow and usually not difficult to find. I think the last thing I searched for was to check the lyrics for Radiohead's Creep.

QUOTE
...producing quite a few CD booklets I can say that pdfs are made at a number of different stages of the proofing process anyway.


Well, that's part of what I mean when I say there's a little work involved. Those PDFs didn't make themselves, right? But also, as someone who's had a modicum of experience with print and online publishing, I'm not about to have anybody tell me that re-tasking a PDF for iTunes distribution requires no effort. I mean, it doesn't take much. But it's not effortless.

That said, I was very disappointed when they modified my magic "repackage-this-PDF-for-iTunes-LP-distribution" button from my keyboard. It used to be right next to the F16 key. Damn. wink.gif
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#7 User is offline   thomasina 

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Posted 28 October 2009 - 10:33 AM

QUOTE (coaten @ Oct 27 2009, 06:37 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I'm a pretty regular music lover, which is to say that any info I may on an infrequent occasion be interested in regarding an album or recording or whatever is both trivial and shallow and usually not difficult to find. I think the last thing I searched for was to check the lyrics for Radiohead's Creep.

Well, that's part of what I mean when I say there's a little work involved. Those PDFs didn't make themselves, right? But also, as someone who's had a modicum of experience with print and online publishing, I'm not about to have anybody tell me that re-tasking a PDF for iTunes distribution requires no effort. I mean, it doesn't take much. But it's not effortless.

I'm sorry, the "regular music lover" comment came at the end of comments about classical music and finding those booklets (or the equivalent information, including details re specific performers, correct track listings, etc.), which can be much more difficult that seeking out song lyrics. I should have specified the genre again.

Seriously, if a company or artist is already making a booklet for their physical CD release, there need be no extra work in creating a pdf for iTunes release at the same time because you're already creating pdfs as part of the production process for the printed booklet. Naturally if you're not producing a physical release with a booklet then, yes, there is additional work. But that wasn't my point, since I would argue that most music on iTunes has also been released on CD.
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#8 Guest_coaten_*

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Posted 28 October 2009 - 11:56 AM

OK, then. And I was making the following point:

Making an iTunes LP, 101, courtesy of itunesLP.net

QUOTE
Structure
An iTunesLP .itlp file is a Mac OS X file bundle. This is a folder that is recognised by the operating system as a single file which allows you to handle and manipulate it as if it were a single thing. Windows has no such facilities so it simply displays the folder as a folder.

To get at the bundle's insides right-click the file and select Show Package Contents. Inside you will find a lot of files which basically amount to a HTML application. The folder will contain a bunch of files and folders with roughly the following file-list; this may differ slightly per iTunes LP:

audio
This folder contains extra audio files used by the iTunes LP such as background audio loops.

controllers
This folder contains a set of Javascript files that contain the content of the iTunes LP and a set of controllers that tell application which views (.html files) to display and how to transition between them. It also contains data for controlling the visualizer if there is one. One of the most interesting files in there is the data.js which we will get to soon.

css
Contains the css styles for the iTunes LP.

fonts
Some iTunes LPs contain a fonts folder containing either an SVG font or a truetype font. This is curious because these fonts aren't actually used in the application. All text is prerendered to images.

images
Contains the images used in the iTunes LP.

index.html
This is the core application file. This html file is displayed when the iTunes LP is started.

iTunes LP - XXXXXX.itlp
A zero-byte file that has the same name as the bundle .itlp file.

iTunesArtwork
This contains the album artwork for the iTunes LP. This is simply either a PNG or a JPG without it's file-extension.

iTunesMetadata.plist
This file describes the metadata for displaying the iTunes LP in the music browser. It also contains a lot of information about your purchase of that iTunes LP, and a series of ids that link it to various items of the iTunes store. There is also a list of song-ids that are used to connect the tracks in the html application to iTunes tracks. This is explained in the section about XIDs.

manifest.xml
This file contains a mapping of the song-ids in the iTunesMetadata.plist to the XIDs used in the html application.

src
Contains the TuneKit javascript libraries. To keep things legal we avoid using this copyrighted code.

videos
Contains videos that are part of the iTunes LP.

views
Contains the various views used in the application. A view in this case is basically a collection of html markup which defines how a screen in the application looks.

XID and cid, pid, atom-ids ?
iTunes uses a set of unique identifiers on their iTunes store. Each artist, each album (referred to as a playlist) and each track has a unique id. Every purchased audiotrack from the iTunes store contains a set of these ids. It is these ids that are used to connect the code in the iTunes LPs to the tracks in your music library. This however is not done directly. The played tracks and playlists are referenced through XIDs. In the manifest.xml is a list of these XIDs and the track ids to which they are linked.

It would be possible to write these ids to your own .m4a tracks (the tags however are not compatible with id3 for mp3 files), but it requires a specifically modified version of AtomicParsley, which is too much hassle to be worth it. Also it could create conflicts with music purchased on the iTunes store. If for example you use a currently unused pid (playlist id) which later is used for a new album release, if that new release has an iTunes LP it could be referencing your songs, or your LP referencing their songs.

This approach is therefore problematic for any music that is not purchased from the iTunes store. If your intent is to use an LP with purchased music exclusively it might be an option to look into this, however for everyone else there is another option.

iTunes exposes several functions to search the music library for tracks. One is findTracksByXID() which is the default method used in currently published iTunes LPs. Another is findTracksByTextFields() which we will be using in our tutorials and downloadable LPs. This second method allows us to search and play tracks in the music library based on Albumname, Trackname and/or Artist.

What do we need?
When creating our own iTunes LPs only a few of those files are required. You need an index.html, an iTunesMetadata.plist and an iTunesArtwork file. Everything else is optional.

So to get started with creating a new iTunes LP simply create a folder with a name ending in .itlp . In that folder place your album artwork (a JPG or PNG) with the filename iTunesArtwork, the file must not have a file-extension. If on windows be sure to turn showing file-extensions on in Explorer, and remove the .jpg or .png extension.

Then create a simple HTML file that displays some kind of greeting.

And finally create a new iTunesMetadata.plist file. This is an XML file containing info on the artist, albumartist, albumname and some other properties. An example of such a file:

01.
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
02.
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
03.
<plist version="1.0">
04.
<dict>
05.
<key>Metadata</key>
06.
<dict>
07.
<key>artistName</key>
08.
<string>Joe's Garage Band</string>
09.
<key>compilation</key>
10.
<false/>
11.
<key>gapless</key>
12.
<false/>
13.
<key>genre</key>
14.
<string>Garage</string>
15.
<key>itemName</key>
16.
<string>iTunes LP - Getting Started</string>
17.
<key>kind</key>
18.
<string>song</string>
19.
<key>playlistArtistName</key>
20.
<string>Joe's Garage Band</string>
21.
<key>playlistName</key>
22.
<string>Getting Started</string>
23.
</dict>
24.
<key>Name File</key>
25.
<string>iTunes LP - Getting Started.itlp</string>
26.
<key>media-archive-version</key>
27.
<string>1.0</string>
28.
</dict>
29.
</plist>
On Mac OS X when you double click this newly created .itlp bundle it will open in iTunes automatically, and you should be able to double-click it to see your greeting message.

On Windows you will first need to start iTunes and drag the folder into your music library, after which you should be able to double-click it to see your greeting message.


And now you see why I'm disappointed I lost my magic iTunesLp formatting button.
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#9 User is offline   thomasina 

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Posted 28 October 2009 - 12:15 PM

QUOTE (coaten @ Oct 28 2009, 11:56 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
And now you see why I'm disappointed I lost my magic iTunesLp formatting button.

Aagh! I hear the tearing of hair and the gnashing of teeth!
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#10 User is offline   tmwinand 

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Posted 28 November 2009 - 11:08 AM

I am so frustrated. I have been trying to make an LP for the last 5 hours, and there is no way to do it without an XID with this new format. And there is no way to assign an M4A file an XID. AGHH Anyone else have any luck?
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#11 User is offline   mickdevlin 

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Posted 28 November 2009 - 12:36 PM

More on iTunes LP and iTunes Extras just released by Apple here.
Mick
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