Digital releases revisited

I know this has been talked about some in other topics, however, I wish to bring it up again with some additional info I’ve realized. It has been suggested by others that “Mastered for iTunes” really shouldn’t be a disambiguation. I kinda agree with this now. A release can meet the “Mastered for iTunes” qualifications and then be distributed to other outlets, i.e. Spotify, Deezer, etc. It’s still the same master if it has the same barcode. Even Apple kind of acknowledges this. Apple Music releases have the same barcode & iTunes ID as an iTunes release. However, only the iTunes releases are “Mastered for iTunes”. If the Apple Music barcode is the same as Spotify, Deezer, etc than it would be the same release. However, it shares the same iTunes ID with the “Mastered for iTunes” release. They are all the same.
I suggest that we merge the Mastered for iTunes with other releases if they share barcodes, countries, and labels. There was a series set up a while back named “Mastered for iTunes” as a release series. We can add that relationship to show they are also “Mastered for iTunes.”

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Are there any examples of a mastered for iTunes release on other platforms?

I’m not sure if it has been mentioned before but MFiT is mostly a marketing trick.

How does Mastered for iTunes work?

The iTunes Store accepts 24 bit high-resolution masters at 44.1, 48, 88.2 and 96 kHz 
resolution for submission directly through our standard workflows. We then convert 
these high-resolution files into our industry leading 256K AAC format utilizing our very 
latest proprietary software encoder. Your music is then prepared for sale on the iTunes 

Give us hi-res files so we can fool the customer.


While I disagree that it’s only a marketing trick. It doesn’t matter whether or not it is. Mastered for iTunes releases are exclusive to iTunes as far as the “blue badge”. However, the barcode used for Mastered for iTunes releases are sometimes shared with other platforms, i.e. Spotify, etc. They are the same release as the mastering is actually the same, it just meets the qualifications that iTunes wants. Most “Mastered for iTunes” releases have exclusive barcodes and therefore would remain separate releases anyway. Merging would only effect instances in which the ONLY difference between releases is the “Mastered for iTunes” disambiguation, which is definitely the minority of them.

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Well, i already saw such “exclusive to iTunes” releases available on other platforms, they do not “master” anything, they just encode hi-res lossless audio to “industry leading” AAC which is no better than any lossy compression around (it all depends on parameters), and certainly worse than any lossless compression. So basically artist provides hires lossless audio files and Apple converts them to lossy audio files with “mastered for iTunes” stamp. Whoooa.

Definitively a marketing trick.


It’s not like Apple is the only vendor who accepts hi-res source files either.
Apple decided to make a PR campaign out of this. An on top of it, you have to be certified to be part of their “exclusive” club.

Be wary of the marketing and feel-good paragraphes inside the MFiT paper.
CD Baby made a summary on the most important requiremens.

Although iTunes doesn't reject masters for specific numbers of clips, audible clipping 
caused by excessive levels to the encoder may be reason for tracks to not be badged 
and marketed as "Mastered for iTunes."

Apple is basically rewarding good masters with a shiny badge.
( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

More threads on HA .

I can’t say why the MFiT barcodes are sometimes shared with other platforms. Maybe they all got the same files.

On the other hand CD Baby asks for a unique barcode for MFiT. Not sure if that is required by Apple.

yindesu already hit the spot. Different barcode usually means different tracklist and/or attachments:

Here is an example release. It has a booklet and video on iTunes and Amazon. While GPlay, Spotify, Deezer, Qobuz do not. Non-booklet-non-video release share the same barcode: 4260395982121. iTunes and Amazon: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Interestingly Amazon has it flagged as AutoRip but the CD doesn’t contain a video and has less audio tracks.

I need to find a digital release without videos but with booklet.

Some other articles I found interesting while browsing:

Well, not much so.
That’s part of the ‘marketing deception’ play that Apple masters very well.

It doesn’t really say anything about the master having a ‘good’ quality sound-wise.
(but of course that’s what most people will automatically assume)

It only says that the original master had a certain amount of headroom that prevents distortion (clipping).
But… with Apple’s lossy codec you are of course not listening to the original master, and the master could also have a mediocre sound quality to begin with.

It’s like some institution of authority stating that the food was prepared with a good amount of preservatives.
How will it taste?
You’ll have no idea.

I don’t see the harm in tracking different well disambiguated digital releases even if it’s for differences like a transcode or a different file format or a different release date. If a user is interested in tracking their iTunes library specifically then other users out there are interested in the same information, just like some people want to track slight packaging/logo placement differences on otherwise identical sounding CD’s.
What is the benefit of merging?

Well. I guess it’s best to keep them separate. Had no idea about the booklets, etc. being different on iTunes vs. Google Play, etc even though they have the same barcode. Good to know. That to me is enough to make them different. As far as the technical stuff, I’m not into that, so glad to know.

That is 8 release entries (MP3 V0, MP3 320, FLAC, AAC, Ogg Vorbis, ALAC, WAV, AIFF) for every bandcamp album. If the album is available on Junodownload, it is another release for a 192 kbps MP3. There would likely be another entry for every lossy encoded platform unless they use the exact same version of LAME or whatever mp3 encoder.

Cataloguing different physical releases has a purpose for collector referencing (the price of a Blue Note LP can be more than ten times more if it is the very first press) and preservation, tracking the arbitrary encoding of the same digital source files on every retailer as an unique entry is a ridiculous waste of time.


No, it is 1 release for a Bandcamp album. Because nobody sees value in adding lots of releases for one, so it never happens.
However people clearly do see value in adding Mastered for iTunes releases, so I ask again, apart from strawman arguments, what’s the harm?

And I would see no issue for creating a release for a Juno download if someone wanted to. We have the capacity for it.

It really is up to the individual to decide how they “waste their time”.

I don’t think booklets are different, just some platforms don’t provide the booklet in the digital archive due to technical limitations.
Sometimes cover art image is different, but usually audio files are identical (whichever is the encoding format).
Sometimes release on digital stores has extra tracks (ie. “exclusive bonus tracks”), but most of the times i found those on another legal platform too…
Sometimes track order differs, in all cases it was more a mistake rather than an artist’s intent, and in many cases audio files were ordered the same, but titles were switched…
Most of the times digital releases are just ripped CDs (when they exist), or just re-encoded from files used in studios.

Imho it makes no sense to have “'Mastered for iTunes” releases, but if there’s a proof they actually differ from the ones available on other platforms.

And til now, i can say 99% are no different: same cover art, same tracklist, same audio.

And for me, “barcode” makes no sense for digital releases, qobuz for example is just using the CD barcode, and different barcodes don’t always mean different files. Somehow, same goes for labels…


This is exactly how Discogs do it, except people do not usually add 8 releases for something.

This general statement is not true.

857223004458 is Souvenir, POP ETC - Qobuz
857223004465 is Souvenir, POP ETC - Qobuz
857223004489 is (one of) the CD.

Unless MusicBrainz wants to have a schema change where the UPC is removed from the Release, then UPC (along with reasonable cover art differences) are distinguishing features of unique releases.


An example where iTunes lacks MFiT, while Qobuz says it’s hires:

8790001228948 (CD, listed for completeness)

iTunes (MFiT missing) id1359843267
Qobuz (hires)

iTunes (no download) id1374629235
Qobuz (no download)

Example by yindesu has only one iTunes ID, available as download and stream, MFiT badge present.

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That is the only instance I’ve ever seen where the Apple Music & iTunes ids for the same country were different. Especially since the iTunes isn’t MFiT. The Quboz link isn’t working. Looks like that release has been removed. I’ve seen a few instances where the hi-res audio on HDTracks or Qobuz was the same barcode as MFiT. Plenty where the MFiT is the same as Spotify, which is why I think they are the same release.

Yes, you’re right, I just noticed it changed, and they also changed their URLs to not include the barcode anymore.
So the statement isn’t true anymore, but it used to be during last years. Looks like Qobuz is now doing more than ripping CDs.

I left out the locale part of the URL. en-us doesn’t work.
Try this adding gb-en like so Galaxy Of Dreams 3 (Liquicity Presents), Various Artists - Qobuz
If you’re still getting HTTP 404 they are probably discriminating your IP.

I’m gonna edit my previous post.

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Slightly off-topic as it’s not about MFiT but still touches the issue of GTIN on digital releases.

Rammstein happend:
602577493850 (Digital, it appears Qobuz has no streaming licence but Deezer does and they share same GTIN)
602577493867 (MFiT)
602577495267 (Spotify)

IMHO we need a schema change, this is madness.

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What are MFIT and GTIN?
Oh ok found Mastered for iTunes and GTIN is like the more well known names: EAN/JAN/barcode…

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