Digital downloads including App Store and iTunes purchases are due to see a tax increase in the U.K. under new laws next year, The Guardian reports. A new budget would force Apple and others to charge a 20 percent tax rate on such downloads. The budget closes a tax loophole that currently allows digital downloads to be taxed through other countries, with the tax rate sometimes dropping as low as three percent. Barring any changes, the new law is set to go into effect January 1, 2015.
Apple has “opened exploratory talks” with record executives about creating an on-demand music streaming service, à la Spotify, and the company is also considering making an iTunes app for Android, Billboard reports. The discussions are reportedly part of a strategy to help Apple cope with declining downloads in the iTunes Music Store. “They are feeling out some people at labels on thoughts about transitioning its customers from iTunes proper to a streaming service,” a major label source said. “So when you buy a song for $1.29, and you put it in your library, iTunes might send an e-mail pointing out that for a total of, say, $8 a month you can access that song plus all the music in the iTunes store. It’s all in the ‘what if’ stage.” Such a streaming service could be a standalone app. An iTunes spokesman declined comment.
The report also notes Apple is trying to stimulate more download sales by pushing catalog titles. iTunes executives have asked labels to clean up catalogs of their top 100 selling artists to prevent multiple copies of albums and redundant compilations from showing up in the store, with the hopes of reducing the available number of compilations for each artist to a more manageable number.
Apple has released iTunes 11.1.6 beta to its employees, 9to5Mac reports. The beta restores the ability to sync contacts and calendar information to an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch from a Mac running OS X 10.9.3, which is also in beta. Apple had previously removed the ability to sync that information from a Mac to an iOS device. It’s unknown what else might be included in the beta.
Apple is currently testing iTunes Radio as a standalone app within iOS 8, 9to5Mac reports. At this point, the streaming service is accessible through the iOS Music app. iTunes Radio app functionality would resemble the Music app, allowing users to browse history, purchase streamed tracks, and create stations. Though the report notes the change might not happen this year, moving iTunes Radio into its own app makes sense for a number of reasons — it would be more accessible, and could increase its user base simply by having its own pre-installed icon.
Apple added an iTunes Festival channel to Apple TV this weekend, ahead of its upcoming SXSW concert series. While SXSW kicked off March 6, the iTunes Festival will begin Tuesday with Coldplay, Imagine Dragons, and London Grammar. Other acts to perform at Apple’s first U.S.-based iTunes Festival include Kendrick Lamar, Willie Nelson, and Soundgarden.
The channel will stream the concerts live when the festival begins. But for now, the channel only has basic information about the performers and the festival, with links to the musicians’ albums in iTunes.
Apple music chief Robert Kondrk “has been pressuring major labels for releases similar to last year’s Beyonce exclusive,” according to Billboard. “Tense talks with label executives” reportedly followed Beyonce’s successful exclusive one-week debut of her self-titled album on iTunes. The album was kept off streaming services for the first week, and sold 1 million copies worldwide during that time. Apple is pitching the “windowing” method as a way to boost music download sales. Kondrk reportedly suggested to labels that new albums wouldn’t necessarily have to be iTunes exclusives, but those albums should be unavailable to streaming services for a set period of time.
Apple has released iTunes 11.1.5. The update “fixes a problem that may cause iTunes to quit unexpectedly when a device is connected.” Compatibility with iBooks for Mac on OS X Mavericks is also improved in the update, which is available in the Mac App Store and on the iTunes website.
Apple has announced it is bringing the iTunes Festival to the U.S. for the first time. The event — which previously has only taken place in London — will be held at SXSW in Austin, Texas, from March 11-15, at ACL Live at the Moody Theater. Coldplay, Imagine Dragons, Pitbull, Keith Urban, and ZEDD have already been announced as acts. All five nights of the event will be able to watch as a free stream on the iTunes Store, and the iTunes Festival app will offer HD streaming to iOS devices and Apple TV.
Continuing its longtime anti-DRM campaign, doubleTwist has released AirPlay Recorder ($10), a Mac app that enables real-time iTunes recording for offline use. iTunes Radio tracks can effectively be ripped by using the app, which appears as an AirPlay device in iTunes.
AirPlay Recorder for Mac is only available on doubleTwist’s website. The free version of the app allows for 10-second sample recordings, while the full version costs $10.
Apple has announced iTunes Radio is now available in Australia. As in the U.S., iTunes Radio is ad-supported, with iTunes Match subscribers able to listen without ads. With the Australian launch official, it’s likely other countries will soon follow — a report from last October anticipated iTunes Radio would launch in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the U.K. in early 2014.
Apple is investigating the possibility of enabling users to pay for physical goods and services through their iTunes accounts, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report. Apple SVP Eddy Cue has reportedly met with industry executives on the matter. It’s also noted that Apple executive Jennifer Bailey, who ran Apple’s online stores, is now in a new role “to build a payment business within the technology giant.” A number of possibilities exist regarding how Apple could institute the system, which will no doubt leverage the hundreds of millions of credit cards currently linked to the iTunes Store; a recently discovered patent application revealed a method for making secure payments using two “air interfaces.” Still unknown is the per-transaction fee Apple expects to charge for the service; given common credit card transaction fees in the 3% range, some third-party vendors loudly balked at the 30% cut Apple demanded when in-app purchases were rolled out for the App Store and Newsstand.
Apple has released iTunes 11.1.4, which adds the ability to let a user see the Wish List while viewing the iTunes library. The update also offers improved support for Arabic and Hebrew. Additional stability improvements are also included. The newest version of iTunes can be downloaded through OS X’s Mac App Store/Software Update, the Check for Updates option within iTunes, or from iTunes.com.
Apple is actively pushing its iAds team to work on iTunes Radio sales, Adweek reports. As the team focuses on iTunes Radio, sources claim Apple will build a “real-time bidding exchange to automate selling in-app ads.” The report suggests that Apple SVP Eddy Cue made clear during a recent staff meeting that iTunes Radio ad sales are now the top priority, with in-app ads less relevant going forward. Apple recently hired a top radio executive for iTunes Radio as the company looks to expand to different countries and seek $1 million, year-long commitments from advertisers.
Beyoncé‘s self-titled, initially iTunes-exclusive album “Beyoncé” has become the iTunes Store’s fastest selling album ever, Apple announced. The company said today that Beyoncé sold 828,773 albums worldwide in its first three days, with 617,213 of those albums sold in the U.S., breaking the iTunes first week album sales record. It’s unknown which albums previously held those records, however, Apple has rarely had a global exclusive on an album’s release, and has previously not allowed most albums to be sold solely in album form; the vast majority of albums have been made available alongside individual singles on the day of release.
Beyoncé‘s album notably includes 14 songs and 17 videos, all of which initially must be purchased together in album form rather than as singles. Single sales for the album will begin on December 20, and the album will become available in other stores as a CD+DVD combination before the end of the year.
Beyoncé has unexpectedly released her latest album — a “visual album” — exclusively on iTunes. The album is self-titled “Beyoncé.” Selling for $16, the album features 14 songs and 17 videos, which currently cannot be purchased separately.
Guest collaborators include Jay-Z, Drake, Frank Ocean, Pharrell, Timbaland, Michelle Williams, Kelly Rowland, Justin Timberlake, and more. Individual songs will be available for purchase on Dec. 20.
Apple has hired a top traditional radio executive to help make advertising deals for iTunes Radio, Ad Age reports. Michael Pallad, formerly of Cumulus Media, is now leading international ad sales for iTunes Radio. The report notes that Apple is getting ready to “offer the service widely to advertisers in 2014,” following expiration of initial ad contracts made for iTunes Radio’s mid-2013 launch. Apple is seeking year-long commitments from advertisers that are worth at least $1 million. Apple SVP Eddy Cue has said plans are to bring iTunes Radio to more than 100 countries, with the service expected to launch in a number of countries early next year.
Apple is now offering the ability to donate to relief efforts in the Philippines through iTunes, after the devastating effects of Typhoon Haiyan. The option is available at the top of the iTunes store. iTunes will transfer 100 percent of a donation — of $5, $10, $25, $50, $100, or $200 — to the American Red Cross.
As Apple notes, while donors will receive an email receipt, the American Red Cross will be “unable to further acknowledge your donation,” as iTunes doesn’t share personal information with the American Red Cross. The donation doesn’t qualify for any tax deduction, and iTunes Store credit cannot be used. Typhoon Haiyan has already caused a confirmed 1,774 fatalities; estimates claim that as many as 10,000 people may have died in the disaster.
Apple has released iTunes 11.1.3, a minor update with some performance and bug fixes. The new version specifically resolves an issue where the equalizer may not work as expected and improves performance when switching views in large iTunes libraries. The latest version of iTunes can be downloaded via OS X Software Update or the “Check for Updates” options found within the iTunes app, or directly from Apple at http://www.itunes.com.
Apple has released iTunes 11.1.2, its latest update to its venerable media management app. The latest version introduces support for OS X Mavericks, along with support for Arabic and Hebrew languages and performance and stability improvements. The latest version of iTunes can be downloaded via OS X Software Update or the “Check for Updates” options found within the iTunes app, or directly from Apple at http://www.itunes.com.
Apple’s iTunes Radio is expected to launch in the U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand in early 2014, Bloomberg reports. A source noted that Nordic countries were “being targeted in the same time frame.” Apple Senior Vice President Eddy Cue recently said plans are to bring iTunes Radio to more than 100 countries. It appears the streaming radio service will beat Pandora to launch in both the U.K. and Canada, as Apple has already negotiated agreements for international rights with record companies. Pandora doesn’t have similar agreements, instead relying on “rights granted by government entities.”