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Apple Pushing Record Labels for More Exclusive Beyonce-Like iTunes Albums

Apple's iTunes chief Robert Kondrk met with record label executives during Grammy Week in January about the potential of more exclusive album releases, like Beyoncé's iTunes-exclusive album last December, according to Billboard.

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Apple Inc.’s music chief Robert Kondrk has been pressuring major labels for releases similar to last year's Beyonce exclusive, excluding services like YouTube and Spotify to help shore up slowing download sales, according to music executives familiar with the conversations.
While digital music track sales fell from 1.34 billion units to 1.24 billion units in 2013 due to the rise of streaming services like Spotify and YouTube, Beyoncé's album sold 1 million copies globally in a week iTunes alone.

Kondrk is using the album's success to sell label executives on the prospect of exclusively releasing albums on digital storefronts like iTunes. He told executives the exclusives don't have to be limited to iTunes as long as they weren't on streaming services like Spotify. The move would be to preserve sales on digital storefronts.

Finally, Kondrk asked executives if they could lock down individual track sales until after a certain window of time, which would then allow users to purchase individual music tracks and listen to albums on streaming services. This is in stark contrast to Steve Jobs' sell of unbundled legal access to music when the iTunes Music Store was introduced in 2003.

In January, it was reported that digital music sales declined year-over-year for the first time since the opening of the iTunes Music Store as more users opt for streaming services such as Spotify, Rdio, Pandora and iTunes Radio.

Top Rated Comments

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22 weeks ago
I know a lot of people use iTunes and like it a lot, but I really don't like the idea of exclusives like this, even if I do have an iPad now. I don't like the idea of one company having so much control over something like music.
Rating: 19 Votes
22 weeks ago
iTunes feels like more of a dinosaur than AOL did by the early 2000s. AOL at least tried to keep up with the times for a while.

Apple's problem with services is rooted in the way they approach products in general. It takes Apple an enormous amount of time and resources to come out with a product. When they finally come out with it, it's well-polished. But it never really changes after that. Apple lets the product waste away, and eventually it's supplanted by something else. With iTunes you can see that Apple has tried to make updates, but those updates have turned iTunes into a mess, and the core iTunes Store experience hasn't changed. I would say it's gotten worse. Searching is incredibly unwieldy across apps, books, and music, and can't compete with the convenience of streaming unlimited content. Apple has never gotten Internet services. They've shuttered all the online services they've ever created except for iTunes. They didn't improve .Mac; they shut it down. They didn't improve MobileMe; they shut it down. They had to send out OS update discs just to get people to migrate their e-mail to iCloud. Who else has an e-mail service that is reliant on a particular OS?

It seems like iTunes is a chore to them and has been barely kept alive in order to remain compatible with all the devices they sell. If Windows is Microsoft's legacy product it has to maintain for past compatibility, Apple's equivalent is iTunes. But the original iTunes and original iTunes Store were both amazing. It just seems that Apple can't do things well until they scrap something and start over.
Rating: 12 Votes
22 weeks ago
We should push iTunes to be more like Spotify/Netflix.
Rating: 11 Votes
22 weeks ago

I don't like the idea of one company having so much control over something like music.


I don't like the idea of one company having so much control over anything. Monopolies hurt the consumer.
Rating: 11 Votes
22 weeks ago

I don't like the idea of one company having so much control over anything. Monopolies hurt the consumer.


You mean a monopoly for 7 days? That's how long Beyonce's album was exclusive to iTunes.

Exclusivity deals lock a label into only one revenue stream for their content, so the deal must be more financially rewarding than selling the music to every other platform.


You mean like the exclusivity ATT had on the iPhone for years? Exclusivity brings in money short term, then you open yourselves up to other platforms to gain money long term. Pretty sure Apple knows what it's doing here.
Rating: 7 Votes
22 weeks ago
It'd be interesting if they tried something similar with app developers…

Rating: 6 Votes
22 weeks ago

iTunes feels like more of a dinosaur than AOL did by the early 2000s. AOL at least tried to keep up with the times for a while.

Apple's problem with services is rooted in the way they approach products in general. It takes Apple an enormous amount of time and resources to come out with a product. When they finally come out with it, it's well-polished. But it never really changes after that. Apple lets the product waste away, and eventually it's supplanted by something else. With iTunes you can see that Apple has tried to make updates, but those updates have turned iTunes into a mess, and the core iTunes Store experience hasn't changed. I would say it's gotten worse. Searching is incredibly unwieldy across apps, books, and music, and can't compete with the convenience of streaming unlimited content. Apple has never gotten Internet services. They've shuttered all the online services they've ever created except for iTunes. They didn't improve .Mac; they shut it down. They didn't improve MobileMe; they shut it down. They had to send out OS update discs just to get people to migrate their e-mail to iCloud. Who else has an e-mail service that is reliant on a particular OS?

It seems like iTunes is a chore to them and has been barely kept alive in order to remain compatible with all the devices they sell. If Windows is Microsoft's legacy product it has to maintain for past compatibility, Apple's equivalent is iTunes. But the original iTunes and original iTunes Store were both amazing. It just seems that Apple can't do things well until they scrap something and start over.


.Mac turned into MobileMe which turned into iCloud, so completely wrong about those being shut down. Now if there's a point to make it's that they got bad enough to need rebranding twice.

I'm too lazy to identify specifics in your other exaggerations, but you've also got a point about iTunes.
Rating: 5 Votes
22 weeks ago

We should push iTunes to be more like Spotify/Netflix.


"We"? Who is we? People who don't want to pay for music? Because most music artists are suffering under this Spotify era. You think Beyonce did her iTunes exclusive just to be different? I just talked to the singer of a mid-level indie band today who is planning to do exactly what Apple wants with their next album. Not because of pressure from Apple, but because since they started releasing their albums on Spotify the same day as digital stores their album revenue has dropped tenfold. Their next album will have a period of exclusivity on digital stores before going to Spotify.
Rating: 5 Votes
21 weeks ago

Most bands realise that if they want to make money today in the industry then it comes from merchandising and putting on live shows. The recorded music is a promotional vehicle for the live events that allow them to make a living doing what they love.


This is an argument that is trotted out a lot by people who want music to be free, but it just isn't reality. Musicians have *always* been touring and selling merch at shows. People act like this is some amazing new way of making a living. The fact is, the small amount of money made from ticket sales (most venues get the majority of revenue) and merchandise (paltry) goes to pay for the tour itself -- traveling, even by car, is not cheap. It's usually break-even. If you're a bigger artist who is not expected to put on an elaborate show, you might make some money. But that money will probably go towards paying for the recording costs of the album.

The crux of this argument you support is that musicians should just tour 365 days a year, living as roaming troubadours, making enough to continue to slog through endless tours. The recorded music becomes essentially a free giveaway. But that is not "making a living", that's "barely scraping by". But people don't seem to care about the artists. They just want some kind of brutal, deregulated free market of music where music artists are commodities and not people with the ability to contribute amazing art to society. But that just underscores the general devaluation of art by younger generations, especially Americans. I also think that humans just don't have the capacity to see digital products as real products with a monetary value, and this is having profound changes upon society.

Moreover, and most importantly, your suggested way of musician life leaves no room to focus on making great music, great art. Do you really think any of the classic albums of the 60s and 70s could have been made today in the way you propose? Hendrix and Dylan and the Beatles and Brian Wilson constantly on the road? They wouldn't even have had the money to record in the studios they did.


You can't turn the subscription model tap off and expect everyone to go back to paying for all your music. Those days are long gone. You'll just go back to competing against piracy all over again. And if the music fans wants starts dropping off subscription services, those subscriptions get cancelled and replaced with... illegal downloads.


I think most musicians would choose piracy over Spotify. At least the honest and ethical people were still buying records. Now those people are just streaming. The problem is Spotify is like radio, and radio was a net-positive for bands in the past, but radio had limitations that made it more like a teaser and encouraged people to buy the music. You only heard a single or two, and often the whole song wouldn't be played. With Spotify you can basically stream the whole album, listen to what you want when you want. Why buy the cow when the milk is free? It's an unsustainable delivery mechanism, and while listeners of music might think it's awesome, it is definitely not awesome for musicians. And definitely not awesome for music.
Rating: 4 Votes
22 weeks ago

I know a lot of people use iTunes and like it a lot, but I really don't like the idea of exclusives like this, even if I do have an iPad now. I don't like the idea of one company having so much control over something like music.


It would help a lot if Apple would drop the iTunes-required storefront and allow people to buy/download tracks through any web browser like Amazon. With iTunes Plus being DRM-free and AppleID's now universal across all Apple service/websites there is zero reason to require people use Apple's iTunes software to access the store. This would also open up the store to potential customers who use Linux-based OSes.
Rating: 4 Votes

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