Report: iTunes LP is Over-priced, Under-Planned

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So, a month ago, I wrote a post proclaiming iTunes LP to be the first digital album good enough to criticize. I would like to revise that assessment. It is, instead, the first major content misstep in the history of the iTunes Store.

At launch, Apple had six albums available in the format, which basically marries lyrics, album artwork, ad video content to your collection of AAC files. Scratch that, there were five albums and one musical comic book. It seemed like too little, but it was a launch — there were hardly any apps on the App Store when it came out, too. A month later, however, things have scarcely improved. We’ve gone from six offerings in iTunes LP to 13.

So what could be the problem? As it turns out, it’s the business model. According to Gizmodo, an indie record label owner asked Apple what it would take to get some of his albums available in the LP format. Apple’s reported answer? Be a major label. Seriously. Read on.

Allegedly, not only did the sales rep claim that iTunes LP will not be offered to independent labels, but Apple is charging a $10,000 production fee to create the files. In other words, this is less a new format for music than it is a new form of paid advertising on the iTunes store.

From the promise of recreating the magic of a physical album to the disappointment of a niche and waning paid ad format in less than a month. Sad. And a clear sign that Apple still hasn’t figured out how to improve the initial offering of iTunes music five years ago. They’ve increased the bit rate since then, and they’ve removed the DRM, but you’re still just buying digital audio files. There’s so much more that could be done with digital music than Apple has tried so far (Spotify and Lala are evidence of that), and yet we’re still waiting for them to make a halfway-decent digital album with lyrics.

They can do better. And I only hope the weak commitment to iTunes LP is evidence that they are right now.

About the author

Pete Mortensen

Pete Mortensen is a design strategist for consulting firm Jump Associates and the co-author of Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy, a book and blog that are significantly more interesting than you might initially think. Pete's particular Apple avocations are both around design--interface and industrial. Follow him on Twitter!

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