iTunes LP: An Extremely Strategic Move for Apple

One of the more impressive aspects of the recent iTunes 9 release was the introduction of iTunes LP's, which essentially offer a more interactive music purchasing experience. Each iTunes LP consists of an entire album that comes with lyrics, liner notes, album artwork, and in many cases, never before seen photos and exclusive artist interviews that give fans a behind the scenes glimpse into the creative process behind many of their favorite songs.

iTunes LP's provide a great incentive for music lovers to purchase entire albums as opposed to downloading a handful of songs, and is something record labels have been trying to encourage ever since the iTunes Store first hit the scene in 2003.

But late last week, word started to spread that Apple was reportedly charging $10,000 for iTunes LP production, a hefty price tag which would undoubtedly leave many Indie artists out in the cold and unable to partake in Apple's latest music initiative.

From there, it was only a matter of time before people started to drum up possible motives behind Apple's actions. One of the more coherent reasons floated around postulated that the reason behind Apple's "anti-Indie" stance was that it wanted to grow the new feature slowly but surely, using high profile and recognizable artists before opening it up to any and every one.

But in a surprising breath of fresh air, Apple, earlier this week, not only refuted the rumored $10,000 production fee, but noted that it would soon make the feature available to any artist or band who wants to put out their own iTunes LP. In a statement released to the Electric Pig, an Apple spokesperson stated:

"[Apple is planning on] releasing the open specs for iTunes LP soon, allowing both major and indie labels to create their own. There is no production fee charged by Apple.”

This is an extremely strategic move on Apple's part. The simplicity of iTunes may have revolutionized digital music sales back in the day, but today, iTunes is no more special than competing music services from the likes of Microsoft and Amazon. In many ways, the notion of an online music store has become a commodity, but the introduction of iTunes LP's may quickly re-establish iTunes as the premier online marketplace to purchase music.

iTunes LP offers a new twist to the entire concept of an online music store - instead of purchasing songs and albums, customers will now be able to purchase music experiences, so to speak, and establish a closer and more direct connection with their favorite musicians. Exclusive photos and behind the scenes stories are features that music fans will eat up with gusto, and in the long run, may sway some users who left for the greener pastures of Amazon back to iTunes.

As it stands now, the iTunes LP feature only works from within iTunes, but some are also speculating that Apple is positioning the feature to also run on its rumored upcoming tablet. Apple's bread and butter is creating amazing software as a means to sell hardware, a lesson most recently seen with the iPhone. If rumors about an upcoming Apple tablet are indeed true, then iTunes LP may very well be part of the software puzzle that factors into the device's appeal.

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