Apple Still Tweaking iTunes Music Store Algorithms, Restored Editorial Focus Pleases Indies

by

Following several months of experimentation with how it curates the music portion of its iTunes Store, Apple has rolled back some of those changes to restore an emphasis on editorial rather than sales-based criteria, according to Billboard.

The news comes after a few independent record labels voiced concern over their artists being lost under the better-performing singers and albums of bigger labels. The company has apparently to not fully eliminate sales-based algorithms for deciding on what content to feature, but have "toned down" that aspect to allow editorial discretion to once again steer the offerings on iTunes' main page.

iTunes

After a few weeks of experimenting with that presentation, the iTunes teamed toned down the algorithm and re-asserted the role that editorial discretion has in choosing which music is highlighted in the store. "iTunes will always be driven by editorial discretion," says a source who is familiar with Apple's online store philosophy. "Editorial choice will always be at the heart of what music is featured in the store."

Despite the introduction of the sales-focused algorithm towards the end of 2014 and into the new year, the indie music market still found itself fairly well-represented on the storefront. As Billboard reports, the sector got 40 percent of carousel ads on the main page of iTunes, 50 percent of the "New Music" section, 37 percent of the "Hot Tracks" section, and 20 percent of what Apple calls the "Bricks", the rectangular-shaped ads populating the store.

Indie labels were worried that they would get lost in the shuffle with all the changes happening in the iTunes Store. They were concerned that a sales velocity algorithm playing a strong role in determining what would be featured in its sliders would bolster the advantage of the majors, who tend to have bigger-selling records.

Various other concerns of smaller labels were alleviated, as well, including iTunes' ongoing effort to clean up song duplicates in the storefront, to an extent where some songs were taken down despite being in compliance with the company's rules. But, as one indie executive noted, if a proper case is made to bring back the music, Apple will listen. "iTunes are flexible; they are not an account who says 'its our way or the highway.'"

Perhaps the biggest shift on the back-end of iTunes relates to how pre-order numbers factor into album sales. Previously, pre-order numbers were added to launch day sales, rocketing popular pre-release albums to the top of charts on release. The new configuration wipes pre-order figures away on launch day and starts all albums on level ground, requiring albums to garner successful day one-and-onward launches to hit the top spots.

Apple has been steadily building up iTunes in preparation for the future integration with Beats Music this year. The company has most recently hired BBC Radio DJ Zane Lowe to possibly work on its iTunes Radio service and acquired media analytics company Semetric to integrate its Musicmetric tracking service into the iTunes/Beats refresh. Apple has also been seeking expertise in music journalism, perhaps to fill out editorial content appearing alongside listings in the iTunes Store.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
74 months ago
Wow, that's a really interesting change concerning pre-orders.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
74 months ago

I never understood the pre-ordering concept as it applies to music in iTunes. I can just buy the album day 1. It's not like they are going to ever run out of stock.

It's beneficial for the people receiving your money - they get it sooner than they would otherwise.

The benefit they give you is that normally they give you some kind of perk. Maybe you get something special that won't be available later (IE, alternative mixes of a song. Exclusive artwork. Entered in a sweepstakes. That kind of thing.) Or maybe they give you a few of the tracks early. I've preordered on iTunes before to get singles a few months early.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
74 months ago
Good start on the algorithms, they can't be so much about "the music" and then do nothing different in marketing. "The music" is not a small 20% of music.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iPhone 12 Pro in Graphite and iPhone 12 in Blue Shown Off in Unboxing Videos

Monday October 19, 2020 8:20 am PDT by
While the iPhone 12 Pro does not launch until Friday, we now have an early unboxing video of the device courtesy of Twitter account DuanRui, providing a closer look at the shiny new flat-edge design and sleek Graphite color option. Ben Geskin re-uploaded the unboxing video to YouTube, which we've embedded below: Geskin has also uploaded an unboxing video of the iPhone 12 in Blue: ...

Kuo: iPhone 12 Pro Demand Higher Than Expected

Sunday October 18, 2020 10:39 pm PDT by
TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo released a research note this morning detailing what he's seen with the volume of iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro pre-orders in the first weekend of sales. Kuo had previously indicated that Apple's estimated shipment allocations for the new iPhone models placed the iPhone 12 at the top with 40-45% of inventory allocation (up from 15-20%). However, ...

New Photos Offer Better Look at iPhone 12 Color Options

Tuesday October 20, 2020 2:34 am PDT by
As we wait for the iPhone 12 review embargo to lift later today, more pictures are circulating of the devices in real-world lighting conditions, providing a better look at the different colors available. Leaker DuanRui has shared images on Twitter of the iPhone 12 in white, black, blue, green, and (PRODUCT)RED. The black and white colors are similar to the iPhone 11 colors, but the other...

Hands-On With Apple's MagSafe Charger for iPhone 12

Monday October 19, 2020 11:54 am PDT by
Alongside the new iPhone 12 models, Apple introduced a MagSafe charger that attaches to the back of the iPhones using magnets embedded both in the charger and in the iPhone. It allows for speedier charging and paves the way for a portless iPhone in the future. MagSafe chargers are shipping out and are in some Apple retail locations now, and we picked one up to check it out. Subscribe to the ...

Some Apple Watch SE Owners Experiencing Issues With Overheating [Updated]

Monday October 19, 2020 11:38 am PDT by
There may be an issue with the new Apple Watch SE, which some users have found is overheating after a few hours of usage. Several Apple Watch SE owners in South Korea have run into problems, as noted in a Reddit post chronicling the complaints. There have been six reports from Apple Watch SE owners in South Korea who have had their Apple Watches get hot and malfunction, with a yellow spot...

Apple's New MagSafe Charger and Cases Begin Arriving to Customers

Saturday October 17, 2020 10:10 am PDT by
Apple's new MagSafe charger and cases have begun arriving to some customers earlier than expected, and images of the accessories have started to surface on Twitter. The photos provide a first look at the products in real-world use. As of writing, some MagSafe cases are also available for pickup at select Apple Stores in countries like the United States, Canada, and Germany. Filip...

Apple Releases iPadOS and iOS 14.1 With Multiple Bug Fixes Ahead of iPhone 12 Launch

Tuesday October 20, 2020 10:06 am PDT by
Apple today released iOS and iPadOS 14.1, the first major updates to the iOS and iPadOS 14 operating system updates that were released in September. iOS and iPadOS 14.1 come a week after Apple released the golden master versions of the updates to developers. The iOS 14.1 update can be downloaded for free and it is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access...

Watch: iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro Unboxing Videos and First Impressions

Tuesday October 20, 2020 6:05 am PDT by
Apple's embargo has lifted for iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro reviews. In addition to our detailed review roundups for each device, we've rounded up over a dozen unboxing videos and first impressions below. iPhone 12 in Blue on left and iPhone 12 Pro in Pacific Blue on right via Engadget Key new features of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro include a flat-edge design, 5G support, a much faster A14 ...

Apple Plans to Enable 5G in Dual SIM Mode With Software Update Later This Year

Monday October 19, 2020 9:20 am PDT by
iPhone XS models and newer feature both a physical SIM slot and a digital eSIM, allowing for a feature known as dual SIM, dual standby. This means you can have two lines of service on one iPhone, which is useful for purchasing data-only plans while traveling abroad or having personal and business lines on a single iPhone. 5G will not be available in Dual SIM mode on the iPhone 12 and iPhone...

Brazilian Certifications Suggest iPhone 12 Mini Features 2,227mAh Battery and iPhone 12 Has 2,815mAh Battery

Friday October 16, 2020 1:08 pm PDT by
Apple's iPhone mini has the shortest battery life out of all the iPhones in the iPhone 12 lineup due to its small size, but Apple has not provided public information about the battery's capacity. A regulatory filing from Brazil, however, suggests the iPhone 12 mini has a battery capacity of 2,227mAh. The same regulatory information says the iPhone 12 features a 2,815mAh battery, which is...