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iTunes Store called ‘Music’s New Gatekeeper’

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By LC Angell

Contributing Editor
Published: Friday, March 9, 2007
News Categories: iTunes

The Wall Street Journal has an in-depth article looking at how Apple picks the artists it highlights on the front page of the iTunes Store, and what those spots mean to record labels and sales. “Apple has jettisoned some of the conventions of traditional music retailing—notably, the practice of selling prime promotional spots to recording companies willing to pay for better visibility for their acts,” the Journal reports. “But behind the scenes there’s plenty of horse-trading going on that influences which songs are seen and purchased by iTunes customers. Apple—now one of the largest sellers of music in the U.S.—offers home-page placement in exchange for things such as exclusive access to new songs, special discount pricing or additional material such as interviews with stars.”

According to music industry executives, an album can sell about five times more copies during a week when it is featured on the iTunes home page than an average week. “The decisions by the small group of Silicon Valley and music-industry veterans running iTunes can help put an unknown band on the map, adding millions of dollars in sales, while relegating others to the obscurity of the site’s virtual back bins,” reports the Journal. “iTunes is housed at Apple’s Cupertino, Calif., headquarters in a cluster of nondescript cubicles that could easily be confused with a software-development group but for a smattering of music posters on the walls, according to people who have visited or worked there.”

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Comments

1

I was really hoping to hear that the iTunes team got more creative with their workspace. Cubicles don’t sound very creative or collaborative to me. There should be a dance floor in the middle of the room, at the very least.

Posted by coolfactor on March 9, 2007 at 1:51 PM (PDT)

2

Cubicles at apple are probably unlike any other cubicles.

Posted by anti-luddite on March 9, 2007 at 2:26 PM (PDT)

3

I personally hate the homepage. There are way too many buttons… and for people like my parents that don’t use it frequently they can’t even figure out where the “Movies” button is. My Idea? when you click on the store there is a screen with only seven buttons…<Music><Music Videos>
<Movies><TV Shows>
<Audiobooks><Games>

then you can have whatever screen after that

Posted by Andrew H on March 9, 2007 at 2:53 PM (PDT)

4

“...pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

I hope those cubicle guys dont get mad at the users…otherwise its spotlight time for (insert horrible music act here)

Posted by unreal on March 9, 2007 at 2:58 PM (PDT)

5

Cubicles at apple are probably unlike any other cubicles.

If they’re like the Apple corporate offices in Santa Monica: ain’t nothin’ special.

I hate to say it, but the front page placement matters to me.  The artist update stuff never seems to work, so I often don’t know they have new track (b-side, single, or live) by an artist I like until I see it flashed of the front page.

Posted by superape on March 9, 2007 at 4:35 PM (PDT)

6

“I often don’t know they have new track [...] by an artist I like until I see it flashed of the front page.”

That’s like going into a store and only buying the stuff that’s displayed at the entrance.  And that doesn’t make sense.

You shouldn’t rely on iTunes’ front page to find a desired artist.  There’s a search feature for a reason.

Posted by Camembert on March 9, 2007 at 5:01 PM (PDT)

7

If iTunes is the Gatekeeper, does that mean Steve Jobs is the Keymaster?

Posted by Lee on March 9, 2007 at 5:26 PM (PDT)

8

If only they could get the easy things right first, like removing multiple versions of the same album, one a partial version, one in the pop genre, one in the electronic, one with all the videos and bonus content…...........

Posted by Connor Clarke on March 10, 2007 at 12:29 PM (PDT)

9

Got to admit it though, although there are problems witht the homepage I do agree that placement on it can lead to bigger things.

I remember getting the free download of the week back in October 2005 and it was a song by an unsigned band called Orson.  I’d never heard of them, but the song was incredibly catchy and I quickly told my friends about it and made sure they made the most of the free download.  The song, ‘No Tomorrow’ became the most downloaded ‘free download’ on iTunes since it began.  Come February this year at the Brit awards this band won ‘Best International Breakthrough Artist’.  That’s got to show you the true marketing power of iTunes.

Also, I bet that the songs featured in the iPod adverts sell a shed-load more too

Posted by Ssco on March 12, 2007 at 4:38 AM (PDT)

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