Mastered for iTunes for releases

This is a note for the auto-editors and admins… if it is agreed to be something that is needed.

I have found a few releases now that have disambiguation stating mastered for iTunes, but they are not. Just being on iTunes does not make them a MiT release. Whether you believe in the differences or not, there are some meticulous steps the mastering engineer(s) need to do in order to obtain the mark Unless the release bears the MiT mark, is it iTunes Plus, unless it is old where it could be just plain old iTunes. Both of these labels refer to the quality of the file, not the sound or mix of the music itself.

I would suggest we find a way to tell editors to only mark MiT on releases if the mark is in fact on the release.

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I suspect most editors don’t even mark things as mastered for iTunes at all, so I think the easiest solution here is to look at edit history and leave (nice, helpful) notes to the two or three editors max I imagine are making this mistake :slight_smile:

If you do find there’s a lot of different users doing it, then come back and let me know and we can think of something else.


I suspect you are right, I just had not looked too close at those who are doing it as it is not a votable change to add it, just to remove it. Your plan makes sense.

FYI, there was some discussion about this a while ago:

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Thanks for the reminder on that.

You know, one could argue that Mastered for iTunes does not qualify for its own release. Since MB will combine an iTunes release or MP3 release with a 24 bit FLAC release, that would mean that MiT releases are not different as well. But this topic is sort of being discussed already, although I am unsure people realize the contradictions of guideline vs what is actually happening thinking the guidelines are actually being followed.

Mastered for iTunes releases typically have their own unique barcodes, so we usually separate them out based on at least that.

You should participate in the other conversation on digital releases and the differences / lack of differences. Other formats also have this issue, sometimes the barcode is the same on all, sometimes different on all.

The question I would have on using barcode on digital releases… if you have an iTunes release, how is it identified as Mastered for iTunes? They do not contain barcodes in the metadata and the apple ID(s) are only useful if they are still valid and used in the proper store(s). But since MB does not record those IDs, what is there to identify such a thing?

Mastered for iTunes releases are indicated by a blue badge on their respective store pages. It used to be that you could only see these through the iTunes application’s interface, but now they’re visible on the web interface too (so long as you click “Also available in iTunes”).

But I had said … “the apple ID(s) are only useful if they are still valid”. If the criteria are met, after 2 weeks I think it is, they will get the badge and some place the verbiage on the cover art. But if the ID is no longer valid (not working), you do not have a site to reference. So if I have only the release itself, what in MB will tell me it is Mastered for iTunes or not? How can I identify it? If I have a CD, I can match it in MB by the barcode, catalog number, etc.

If you have any ideas, input would be appreciated. The problem being that how do I identify my release in MB? This assumes that the Apple store / iTunes cannot be used. I have a release and a MB database. It actually applies to all digital releases, what is MB using to identify these properly.

Is the Mastered for iTunes label not included in the file metadata? I could have sworn it was (granted my knowledge of iTunes Store releases is a little obsolete).

Not that I have seen. I will check again and see for sure. I stopped paying too close attention as it is a marketing gimmick mostly, so I do not keep the label to differentiate it from the other iTunes files in my library. But I will either find some that are, or I will obtain some that are to have some solid reference points.

I have double checked my statement. I used the following release:

You will need to click on the link “Also Available in iTunes” in order to see the MFiT badge. Within the iTunes M4A files, the meta is no different in look and structure than any other iTunes file. There is, obviously, the collection ID of 823593445, so as long as that ID remains an active ID, I can reference it online. If all I have is the release and the ID is either no longer good, or I do not have online access, there is no way to identify this as MFiT in the MB database as MB does not log or record enough information to properly do so.

So in MB, as much as I disagree, I would say it is the same release as any other digital release all limped together, given the current system. Additionally, I checked the ISRC and it is not unique to the MFiT version, CD or other version. All share the same. iTunes meta does not include a barcode, so listing a MFiT version leaves the user not knowing how to identify it anyway. But that is a different topic, especially since they are being mislabeled from the start in MB. :man_facepalming:

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I don’t really care about digital releases but it sounds like we should not necessarily make new entries for mastered for itune releases.
If we could set various bar codes to a release, at least.

Multiple barcodes on physical releases that have several of them.

It would also allow to merge all identical digital tracklists (only when identical cover, maybe), merging all labels, catalogue numbers, barcodes in a single release.

It is the point of view of someone only caring to carefully disambiguate physical release differences but merging all identical tracklists.

I don’t know what digital release owners think of that. But I’m eager to know. :slight_smile:

This is a bit off topic here, but it is related. I am the opposite of you, which is good as it makes us well rounded. I do not care much about CD releases and all the differences, but I do for digital. The reason for me is that just because the package of a CD or the color of the vinyl is different does not make the product different, meaning the music itself. On digital, there is a difference in the product itself on the different formats.

MB has a pattern of marking Mastered for iTunes releases to distinguish them. I am indifferent although I do have a fact based opinion on it. Continuing on the pattern, if the Mastered for iTunes is to be identified and given its own release, then the releases should be entered and marked with attention, and a guideline or policy of sorts should be followed.

There are other claims on MFiT, but I will leave it at saying they are in fact different. Different from iTunes Plus and different from the CD (ie a RIP). Is that enough for a new release? Well, on one side it is and the other it is not. MB does not consider a remaster a different release, but what do people here think MFiT is in comparison to regular iTunes (iTunes Plus) is exactly that it gets its own release? That is a question I am curious to hear answers to, including why it its own release while remastered releases are not.

That debate belongs in the thread on digital releases, but for this one, whatever that answer is to be, we should keep it consistent. I am just sticking with the generally accepted practice of making them their own, thus my post here.

Personally I do want to see all the different CD releases. Mainly to spot the remastered editions, deluxe editions with extra tracks, and so on.

Whereas having a bunch of digital files sitting there I will always dispose of MP3 files once I have FLACs to replace them.

Though this is then a point I will turn to MusicBrainz or discogs to see if there was anything different. The only time I’ll keep that MP3 ripped album is if I find it was from a differently mastered version of the release.

A remastered release of a CD will usually have different barcode, or release date, so these are being entered as separate entities in MB already.

So if a MFiT edition has extra tracks, or a different audio sound - then that should be a new MB release entry.

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Of course. Maybe I was not clear enough. If there is a different track listing, bonus tracks, remastered tracks, remixes, etc… that is a different release Where I see no point (just my opinion) are in the releases that differ by a barcode, a catalog number, release country, color of the case/vinyl/etc, insert printing location, etc. All of those currently are a separate release. My point is that those are all different, yes, but the musical product is not. That is where a sub release or a variant could work well, when it is the same musical product but has a difference of another type that should be noted.

I have no strong feelings on the matter, but it might be good to point out something about ‘mastered for iTunes’ that is often misunderstood.
Mastered for iTunes is only intended to try to limit further detoriation of sound quality when encoding lossless audio to lossy formats.
(and probably also for marketing reasons)
So it might be good to keep in mind that this discussion predominantly has bearing on discriminating between lossy audio releases, which are inferior to the lossless audio sources to begin with.

That is mostly a fair statement. All it is really doing is forcing a higher standard on the release files, which is somewhat stopping some of the issues mastering engineers are creating, like making the audio too hot. MFiT standards will help enforce no clipping, which will also generally result in a lowering of release volume, etc. It is actually less of a release change than a remaster, but a fine tuning of the master.

In most cases, it results in the same. No matter what you put in, the output is still lossy compressed audio at a sample rate of 44.1, You cannot avoid the fact that lossy compression removed bits that are presumed to be unneeded, inaudible, etc. That is the main difference between 16 bit and 24 bit audio, which is what makes the difference between iTunes Plus and MFiT.

I would agree. But the reality here is that as a normal end user, I will not likely ever know the difference between a MFiT and an iTunes Plus release from iTunes. Without further research, I cannot even tell by looking at the meta. The sound is essentially the same, so I will not hear a cleaner song or a song with less noise. This is a criteria that is not even tracked in the current MB for CD releases. There is nothing tracked that will keep track of or identify the quality of the source material used in the making of the release. a CD is a CD, regardless if the source master was a MP3, a FLAC or a real master tape.

It is also worth noting that this is in reference to MFiT at its current state, not what it is to become or why it was implemented. But until that happens, we are dealing with its current state as releases are released in the current state. It is also worth noting that if MB combines an Amazon MP3 and an iTunes M4A (regardless of the master), this makes no difference then. There is more difference between that MP3 and the regular iTunes file than there is between MFiT and non MFiT iTunes files.

For physical releases, those country \ barcode \ catalogue changes can sometimes hide differences that are not always obvious. If you buy a second hand copy of Dark Side Of The Moon on CD that barcode is then the key to let you know which era of remaster it is. It may not always be obvious from looking at the disk or packaging itself.

The barcode lets us, the user, come to this database and see which version this is.

Also I personally would find it annoying when downloading artwork for my CD, and then I instead got something with different barcodes and artwork. This is why I like the proper separation between versions.

I do like the fact that the Discogs links are kept accurate here. That way the extremely detailed differences are also available. All those little manufacturing differences are kept detailed over there and I think that works as a handy partner to MB.

As we then change from that physical to the digital release there is a different tilt as to what is being compared. With an actual physical item there are many of us interested in that coloured vinyl or different printing on the CD. As we head towards the digital audio we are now relying more on the differences our ears can hear.

To me I am less interested in which online shop the files were bought in. I don’t keep track of where I bought my CDs\Vinyl as it is the product I want, not the memory of the buying process.

MFiT is creating something different, so I see the logic of that getting an entry. If Apple are changing the audio in some way, we have a different item. A different barcode means a different product in the sales world. If this is just Apple format shifting but keeping everything else identical to that CD - then I think a separate entry is not needed.

Spotify confuses me in all of this. Are they special editions in any way? Or just compressed versions of the audio available for streaming? I see the logic of noting that the track is\was available on Spotify, but don’t think this needs a totally separate database entry. (I think someone mentioned Radio playlists… this is what I personally see Spotify is)

It is that confusion I get as to what MusicBrainz is. For me it helps me identify extra details about my personal music collection.

Well, I can do my best in reply, but there are still some misunderstandings here.

This is important, and would be addressed with the current proposal of ‘variant releases’. Releases with the same track listing but have other elements that make it different but not warranting a separate release. Things like a remaster, color of something, etc. That is all covered there.

Yea and no in my opinion. The focus can go both ways, but in modern digital releases, it is also what cannot be heard. For example, if I buy a 24 bit 96kHz FLAC, the likelyhood I or anyone will ever hear a difference when compared to a 16 bit FLAC of the same is slim to none, more on the none. What it does provide is an inaudible headroom in the case that, for example, I might use that audio to create a mix of my own or modify it in some other way. It gives me a file that is closer to that first generation. Each time it is moved to a lesser format, what is removed cannot be put back, so there are some cases where one may want such a file. It is also worth noting that such files are in excess of CD quality.

I agree on CDs, store does not matter. For digital releases, the store is a bit more important. It has a direct tie in to the release itself. The meta is different from retailer to retailer. If I were to try and identify a release to the fullest possibility, knowing the retailer is a must. This does not apply to resellers, but original retailers only.

First, Apple is not modifying anything. MFiT onus is on the mastering engineer. What Apple does in this process is take what is provided to them and create their files for release (the M4A files). Depending on the master they are provided and some other factors, you will either be or not be given a MFiT badge. For the end user (the buyer), they are buying a v256, 44.1kHz M4A file. So in the end, you have “the” iTunes release, marketed appropriately as per its originating master.

There is not really a comparison between the CD and any Apple release, aside from the release as a track listing. The CD is just a different medium, so you can have a CD, cassette, M4A, FLAC, vinyl, etc. Each medium has its own capabilities and release qualities. Given that, what MFiT is, is an attempt to remove some of the issues that modern day mastering creates, one of the top ones being a release that is too hot. It is not as easy as it sounds, when there is conversion between a master of 24 bit and 96kHz to a M4A lossy file for example, it takes some detailed attention to avoid clipping in the final product. So again, all of this is an effort of the mastering engineer to pay closer attention to the qualities and capabilities of the final product, which is an iTunes M4A file. Thus MFiT, a master that is specifically formatted to provide the best iTunes M4A file it can.

That was likely me. I feel the same, Spotify plays releases. Is that release compressed? Not sure. Places like Bandcamp will have a offering in many digital formats, but all you are getting is a online conversion of the FLAC. The best take from there is the FLAC and then making the compressed files yourself, as there is no care or attention put into the “mastering” of those compressed files there.

I hope I gave useful information here. The issue is that when you move from physical (ie CD) to digital, things get more complex for me the average user. I can look at my CD and see that barcode, the color of the case, the printing on the paper inserts and CD, etc. Pn my digital release, I see a name of a recording, a track number and artist name, maybe the duration and the file type. I do not see things like catalog numbers, barcodes, stickers, country of manufacture, label, etc. A barcode is not used in the same way on digital as well. Some releases share the same barcode on all retailers and formats, some use a different one for each. A barcode is required, but there is nothing stating the barcode needs to be unique to a specific digital release. On a CD, I should not see two versions of the release with the same barcode. With digital, that can easily be the case. Barcodes are often not even in the metadata of the files. What is seen in place of the barcode is a store ID, collection ID, etc. For those adding vendor info, you will see the vendor+ISRC for the recordings. The vendor is not necessarily the same as the release label MB wants either.