Apple has been in talks with record labels about releasing more albums exclusively through the iTunes Store, similarly to how Beyonce released her self-titled album in December.
According to Billboard, Apple’s VP of the iTunes Store, Robert Kondrk, had “tense” talks with label executives in January during Grammy Week in Los Angeles. Kondrk used the success of the BEYONCÉ album as evidence when arguing for the new iTunes Store model.
BEYONCÉ was released as a surprise and only made available in the iTunes Store for its first week of availability. The album went platinum within a week and is the fastest-selling album in the history of iTunes. Apple laid out the red carpet for the release and gave BEYONCÉ blanket coverage with banners in the iTunes Store and ads on iTunes Radio.
While digital downloads for music are declining, streaming services like Spotify and Rdio are growing. Apple is still the largest music retailer there is by far.
Interestingly, Apple reportedly doesn’t mind if record labels sell new albums through other retailers as long as the music isn’t made available on streaming services. Only two tracks off BEYONCÉ are available on Spotify to this day, for example.
Kondrk has also been fighting to keep individual track downloads locked for a limited time in iTunes after an album’s launch. The strategy would incentivize customers to either buy the full album or stream it with ads on iTunes Radio. The bundled album approach is ironic considering that Apple originally shook up the music industry by creating the market for individual track downloads.