Just doing a little light reading over brekkie and – yet again – there’s a story in the “geek press” about the record companies and publishers in the US doing all they can to protect their out-dated business model.
Last week, at their annual music event, Apple launched its new range of iPods. Nothing unusual in that. It also announced the latest version of iTunes. Again all pretty much expected. Built into the iTunes Store is Apple’s nascent steps into the world of social networking – Ping. It’s not great but it offers great potential (if you know me, then send me a follow request). It was fairly-widely trailed, so nothing new there.
So what wasn’t announced then?
In its audacity, Apple planned to announce it was increasing the length of the song samples available in the iTunes. At the moment, they’re 30 seconds long and those crazy kids in Cupertino wanted to – OMG – make them maybe a minute long.
“How much are you going to pay us for this?” said some in the recording industry.
“I’m sorry,” replied Apple. “You want us to pay to promote the music we sell on your behalf. You do know it will likely lead to an increase in sales don’t you?”
It turns out that, when the iTunes Store was first launched, the recording industry wanted Apple to pay for the 30 second samples it provides. So now that Apple is trying to negotiate longer samples, they’re determined to get their pound of flesh.
The logic of Apple’s decision is simple: the iTunes Store is the destination, people hear a song somewhere else (YouTube for example), then go to iTunes to actually buy it. So why not increase the sample length and let people have a real listen, then iTunes will become a destination for people to sample songs, have a listen to enough of a sample that they can decide whether it’s worth their 99p.
When Steve Jobs, the boss at Apple, launched the iTunes Store back in 2003, one of the “selling points” he made was improved “karma”. Illegal downloading was at its height and purchasing songs through iTunes would help restore a little balance. Which, to some degree was true. Why spend valuable time hunting for and searching for a song or album on an illegal web site when, in exchange for a reasonable sum of money, you could have the songs you desire within a few minutes.
iTunes has begat a dozen or more high-profile digital music “shops” – and legal downloading is now big business. It’s probably saved the music industry from extinction. You’d think they might “get it” now.
But no… a sample longer than 30 seconds is – they argue – something that should be paid for, they want some money for ‘performance rights’. Oh do shut up.