According to a recent report from iPodNN, Apple’s iTunes LP initiative was not an in-house idea, but was instead done at the behest of record labels seeking to increase album sales.
The creation of iTunes LP was largely the result of major label pressure on Apple, a series of telling leaks has revealed. Music industry contacts claim that the ‘deluxe’ albums were a necessary part of the same deal that also forced variable song pricing in exchange for an all DRM-free catalog. The RIAA member labels, not Apple, wanted to resuscitate album sales and thought the bundle of special features would achieve the goal.
Back in late 2008, Apple was negotiating to secure wireless download licensing rights from the major record labels. With over the air downloads comprising a strategic role in Apple’s mobile strategy, the record labels were able to negotiate from a position of strength and extract significant concessions from Apple, with the most noteworthy change being the implementation of variable pricing on iTunes, a move Apple had been resisting for years. And iTunes LPs were apparently part of the deal as well.
If you recall, iTunes LP is essentially a premium version of an album that not only comes with songs, but includes rare photographs, concert footage, exclusive artist interviews, liner notes, and unique album artwork.
Sounds like a home run, right?
Well, it’s been anything but.
Citing sources familiar with the project, iPodNN writes that iTunes LP has not been the savior for album downloads that record labels were hoping for. With only 34 albums currently available in the iTunes LP format, the selection is anything but extensive, though Apple did put up a page for artists with instructions how to create special multimedia content for iTunes LPs.
The problem, it would seem, isn’t the content, but rather the medium. iTunes LP’s are only viewable on a computer, and the fact of the matter is that most people multitask when using a computer and aren’t inclined to shuffle through CD extras purchased on iTunes no matter how compelling the content.
Also problematic is the fact that most users simply prefer buying songs one at a time, CD extras be damned. The reality is that iTunes LPs tend to appeal only to a certain type of listener – the obsessed music fan.
Think about it – of the millions of people who downloaded “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga, how many of those listeners would really be interested in watching a Lady Gaga interview or concert footage, or even want listen to the entirety of her album? Not many. The success of iTunes is predicated on the fact that you don’t need to buy full-length albums. That being the case, any initiative to increase album sales is bound to be an arduous and uphill battle.
The iPad, though, seems ideally suited for the iTunes LP concept and it remains to be seen if iTunes LP will have a second chance at success on Apple’s new platform, or if it will soon find itself firmly stationed on a list of Apple products time forgot.