Apple's iTunes LP concept hatched by labels, sales disappoint

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014
The iTunes LP format introduced by Apple last year was the brainchild of record labels looking to increase sales of whole albums, but sales thus far have been soft, a new report alleges.



Paul Bonanos with GigaOM wrote Tuesday that industry sources said the iTunes LP format, in its first six months, has sold to enthusiasts, but has failed to catch on with mainstream consumers or to stimulate sales of full-length albums. Originally code-named "Cocktail," the format was designed to reverse a trend toward purchases of single songs by adding bonus content like photos and videos.



Sources also told Bonanos that the concept of iTunes LP was not Apple's. Instead, the new format came out of negotiations between the Cupertino, Calif., company and record labels that resulted in the abandonment of restrictive DRM from songs purchased through the iTunes Music Store last year. Apple allegedly agreed to create the new format as a "concession" to the music industry.



Six months after the iTunes LP format debuted, only 29 albums are available in the interactive format. The reason for so few may be the cost: The first iTunes LP editions released were said to be a $60,000 investment. One source who spoke with Bonanos said that creating the format at that price was not a worthwhile cost.



That's not to say content released in the iTunes LP format has lost money. That same source reportedly said that the initial releases proved profitable due to promotion done on Apple's behalf.



The costs associated with the fledgling format are likely lower since Apple opened up the developer kit for iTunes LP late last year. The move made it possible for independent artists to release their album in the iTunes LP format. But the market has moved in other directions.



"As it turns out, most artists and labels are pursuing a different avenue for their digital goodies: iTunes? wildly popular App Store," Bonanos wrote. "Numerous artists have released lyrics, videos and other content in both free and paid apps, which also serve as channels for artist news and can be updated with new content anytime."







Apple last December offered users a free taste of the album format with a limited release of its "Holiday Sampler" featuring 20 songs. Support for iTunes LP was expanded last October, when an update to the Apple TV made it possible to play content in the living room. iTunes LPs will also work on the company's forthcoming iPad, which will go on sale April 3.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 39
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Since iTunes LP is a concept for those who are fans of the album or the artist over just an individual song by an artist, I think offering ALAC with actual studio-quality audio within the iTunes LP would have gone a long way to make the concept a desirable option for many listeners. Especially considering that the buyers likely already own the CD or iTuns songs in 256Kbps AAC.
  • Reply 2 of 39
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    Since iTunes LP is a concept for those who are fans of the album or the artist over just an individual song by an artist, I think offering ALAC with actual studio-quality audio within the iTunes LP would have gone a long way to make the concept a desirable option for many listeners. Especially considering that the buyers likely already own the CD or iTuns songs in 256Kbps AAC.



    I agree and better/ more interactive content as well. Some of the labels efforts were pretty weak from what I've seen.
  • Reply 3 of 39
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 18,953member
    Heh heh. Who would've thunk.



    I am still old-fashioned and luddite. When I want a whole album, I buy the CD.
  • Reply 4 of 39
    skottichanskottichan Posts: 193member
    As much as I try to be behind it, I usually find myself buying the vinyl album/CD of albums I want, plus now a days, vinyl comes with a code to download a digital copy from the artists' sites.



    So far, the only iTunes LP I've bought was Gorillaz' Plastic Beach, and that was only because it came with the Stylo video.
  • Reply 5 of 39
    masklinnmasklinn Posts: 17member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    Since iTunes LP is a concept for those who are fans of the album or the artist over just an individual song by an artist, I think offering ALAC with actual studio-quality audio within the iTunes LP would have gone a long way to make the concept a desirable option for many listeners. Especially considering that the buyers likely already own the CD or iTuns songs in 256Kbps AAC.



    Nail, meet head.



    As it stands right now, iTunes LP is a pointless waste of money, the bonuses just aren't worth it, and for the price of a CD you don't get half the worth of a CD.



    ALAC in standard 48kHz/16 and/or HD 96kHz/24 would make them worth considering (but not necessarily buying).
  • Reply 6 of 39
    dreyfus2dreyfus2 Posts: 1,069member
    Well, until recently a huge chunk of the "LPs" offered were remasters/compilations/or just stirred up old stuff altogether... a lot of people (those interested in these bands at all) already had these songs/albums. There is still not enough original new content and it is only picking up slowly.



    The second problem I see is that the iTunes Store does not really present these LPs well. There is no way to tell what you are getting and the extra features are sometimes not described at all. There should at least be some screen shots and a list of included features (lyrics, liner notes, pictures, videos, etc.). People are unlikely to pay extra if there is no way to tell for what.



    I still think the format is great and has a lot of potential (I really like the 5 "LPs" I bought), but as long as there is almost no selection and even what is available is not marketed properly... this won't get far. The fact that the Apple TV is really choking on some of the contents does not help either.
  • Reply 7 of 39
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by masklinn View Post


    Nail, meet head.



    As it stands right now, iTunes LP is a pointless waste of money, the bonuses just aren't worth it, and for the price of a CD you don't get half the worth of a CD.



    ALAC in standard 48kHz/16 and/or HD 96kHz/24 would make them worth considering (but not necessarily buying).



    The format needs to take advantage of it's medium. It's digital and it can be updated via subscription if need be much like a podcast, and in that, it should. If I buy a CD and it comes with a video and a new video comes out FOR THAT CD OF SONGS, I want that video. It's ONLY FAIR that I have that video as well. Make the iTunes LP format update the contents much as an interactive website would in addition to more engaging content, and then we can talk numbers. As it stands now, 60k isn't that huge of a creative investment for a good "website" which is essentially all these things are, but the websites these represent are mostly crap. The blueprint 3 one was practically terrible, while the muse one was about adequate for what I'd consider a bare minimum of cool. The behind the scenes stuff is nice, but really, the subscription model would be key.
  • Reply 8 of 39
    2oh12oh1 Posts: 501member
    Record labels are such fools. They need to learn to think like a music listener.



    What is the benefit of buying an iTunes LP for someone who is buying the music to listen to the music? Including extra crap isn't an incentive for me to buy an iTunes LP when what I want is the songs. Include a lossless version of the songs and I have incentive to buy the iTunes LP. Anything else is just waste.



    I'm not more likely to buy a pizza if it comes in a designer box or if it comes with extra artwork. I just want to eat pizza. I don't care what kind of bogus extras the record label attaches to an album in hopes of getting me to pay extra. I want to listen to the music.
  • Reply 9 of 39
    applezillaapplezilla Posts: 941member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    Since iTunes LP is a concept for those who are fans of the album or the artist over just an individual song by an artist, I think offering ALAC with actual studio-quality audio within the iTunes LP would have gone a long way to make the concept a desirable option for many listeners. Especially considering that the buyers likely already own the CD or iTuns songs in 256Kbps AAC.



    Yep. It's hard enough to get me to buy music from iTunes as it is. I'm not going to pay more just for some fancy graphics that I will likely only look at once or twice. As it is, 90% of the time I still just buy an album in CD form. Why? Because I can rip to Apple Lossless. A CD might be a couple of bucks more, often it's less. An album from a few months back or more might be $13 on iTunes. A used copy might be $10 on Amazon including shipping. And again, I pick the format which is more likely to be ALAC these days.
  • Reply 10 of 39
    halanshalans Posts: 2member
    Yes, choice was pretty disappointing up to now.

    But I think this is a technology just waiting for the release of the iPad. If you look at the iTunes LP page it says

    "Automatic, electronic submission of your iTunes LP or Extra is scheduled for the first quarter of 2010. Until then, the submission process is manual and limited."

    ...right on queue for the iPad release. The iPad is also closer in size to an old LP.

    The iTunes LP is supposed to be similar to the CMX (Connected Media Experience) format supported by 4 major music companies, but they still need to deliver any actual media content (which is supposed to be the second quarter of 2010).

    But the really cool things is, the iTunes LP is based on web standards. It's just a bunch of HTML/CSS/Javascript (so I wonder why it would cost $60K to develop on it). Any independent artist could convert any of it's web content into an iTunes LP, and offer it for download on their site (outside of iTunes store distribution -- Trent, are your reading this?). It would just import and open up in iTunes. Add some touch based JavaScript and the iTunes LP could be much more interactive and made fun on the iPad.
  • Reply 11 of 39
    I remember buying the old vinyl LP's and remember being disappointed if the album cover was just a 'sleeve' instead of opening up to reveal inside photos of the band, lyrics, etc., etc.



    But that was when I was listening to the Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Doors and the Who...now I don't really give a sh*t about ColdPlay, U2 or any other of the over produced crap music that's out there! Maybe Ween, though.



    Now when it comes to Movies, I most often appreciate the added material like Directors/actors discussing the film...one of the best is Ridley Scott talking about the making of Alien...In one instance, everyone was worried about how they were going to make 'plasma" for the climatic burning of the engines (pre-CGI)....he said to use water back lit with lots of bright light...pretty clever guy.



    Especially, when his last movie was 'The Duellists' 17th century France! Not really a sci-fi experience.



    Edit: I think I have the Director right on that.
  • Reply 12 of 39
    monstrositymonstrosity Posts: 2,190member
    What a surprise. These dudes really should just ask me first. Would save them a lot of mucking about.
  • Reply 13 of 39
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by monstrosity View Post


    What a surprise. These dudes really should just ask me first. Would save them a lot of mucking about.



  • Reply 14 of 39
    palegolaspalegolas Posts: 1,273member
    Another thing with the iTunes LP is: It's not available for the artists and labels! How the heck should one submit an iTunes LP album if Apple doesn't provide you with the submission details? I'll quote my e-mail correspondance with Apple. After my label had asked them for MONTHS about this with no response whatsoever, I went ahead and sent an e-mail to Steve himself to help me direct the message to the right people to get some answers. A couple of weeks later I got this answer.



    Quote:

    Thank you for your message.



    We are currently limited in the quantity of albums with iTunes LP that we can get live onto the store.

    Our teams are working to increase this capacity, but for now this means that we are not able to get all the iTunes LPs live that we would like.

    I am afraid this means that we will not be able to support your release with an iTunes LP.

    Do let me know if I can be of any further assistance at all.

    Best regards,

    Leo



    Leo Wyndham

    iTunes

    Head Of Music, Europe



    So this is the info they should have released in the first place.



    That aside.. I think the REAL iTunes LP spells in three letters: APP.

    If a band can have their own iPhone App it's more value than an integrated webpage. That's what I think.
  • Reply 15 of 39
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by 2oh1 View Post


    Record labels are such fools... I'm not more likely to buy a pizza if it comes in a designer box or if it comes with extra artwork. I just want to eat pizza. I don't care what kind of bogus extras the record label attaches to an album in hopes of getting me to pay extra. I want to listen to the music.



    This "LP" idea is what happens when business people start to horn in on the territory of creative people. In my experience, those two kinds of people are rarely one and the same. ("Never the twain shall meet.") Also in my experience, the business people bring the creative people to their knees. (Because, all-too-often, the business end of this industry is already on its knees, if not armpit-deep in the quicksand and going under fast-- EMI, Universal, are you listening, you schmucks...)



    Likewise, the creative people (I include myself among them) rarely have good business sense (because, well, that crap -- while necessary -- just isn't that interesting to us). As in so many spheres of work, "creativity" has been sucked up into the "marketing" layer of the Earth's crust. Kinda makes me want to go jump in a volcano. (No dice.)
  • Reply 16 of 39
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    "CD-quality" audio (aka RedBook/CD-DA) is not the apogee of audio. Here is an overview of why simply going to a lossless codec over a lossy codec isn't good enough for audiophiles.
  • Reply 17 of 39
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by palegolas View Post


    That aside.. I think the REAL iTunes LP spells in three letters: APP.

    If a band can have their own iPhone App it's more value than an integrated webpage. That's what I think.



    I think you've hit the nail on the head. (With a hammer, of course!)



    Consider the "Braid" game: it's the best advertisement in the world for the licensed music it used as a soundtrack. (I've since bought all of the artists' albums from Amazon.)



    Maybe a truly more "interactive" experience is the future.
  • Reply 18 of 39
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by palegolas View Post


    Another thing with the iTunes LP is: It's not available for the artists and labels! How the heck should one submit an iTunes LP album if Apple doesn't provide you with the submission details? I'll quote my e-mail correspondance with Apple. After my label had asked them for MONTHS about this with no response whatsoever, I went ahead and sent an e-mail to Steve himself to help me direct the message to the right people to get some answers. A couple of weeks later I got this answer.







    So this is the info they should have released in the first place.



    That aside.. I think the REAL iTunes LP spells in three letters: APP.

    If a band can have their own iPhone App it's more value than an integrated webpage. That's what I think.



    Yeah that is too bad about them not being able to support the format to the degree that it becomes available to all artists. Sure you could hire your own developer and make your LP. Maybe it would be easier to submit if it was already composed. As far as the app is concerned it would be a compromise. Nearly everyone has a computer with iTunes in comparison to a few million with iPhones. Plus the screen is much larger on a computer. The iPad would be nice but again you still have a rather limited audience.
  • Reply 19 of 39
    wonderwonder Posts: 229member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post


    Heh heh. Who would've thunk.



    I am still old-fashioned and luddite. When I want a whole album, I buy the CD.



    You can buy the whole album on iTunes for less!
  • Reply 20 of 39
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Wonder View Post


    You can buy the whole album on iTunes for less!



    It depends. I've often paid the same amount for a brand-new CD as I would have paid for iTunes, locally and online.
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