Join 3,564 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Apple's New Starmaking Power
March 10, 2007 7:32 AM   Subscribe

Music's New Gatekeeper - From their Silicon Valley cubicles, Apple staffers have become music's unlikely power brokers.
posted by nevercalm (21 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Meet the new boss...
posted by psmealey at 8:34 AM on March 10, 2007


Revenge of the long tail: When the gatekeeper's main goal is to be a warehouse for as much music as possible, they don't care how popular the artist is, giving said artist much less power when it comes to negotiations.
posted by zabuni at 8:53 AM on March 10, 2007


For consumers, Apple's growing influence means exposure to a wider range of music. Apple has told some recording companies that music from independent labels accounts for about 15% of iTunes sales, compared with about 5% for physical retailers.

Those bastards!
posted by papercake at 8:53 AM on March 10, 2007


Sounds great, but I guess I'm a little uneasy at the prospect of one corporation having such a huge opportuity to anoint itself as the taste maker in the space. Maybe DRM will go away and this will not be an issue. Color me guardedly optimstic with an undercurrent of suspicion.
posted by psmealey at 9:14 AM on March 10, 2007


Even without DRM this will be an issue. Any other service will have to offer a compellingly better service (price, ease of use, variety of music) to hold court. See also: Google. No DRM there, but many people still worship at the altar of the SERP.
posted by zabuni at 9:27 AM on March 10, 2007


Geez, what's the big deal? Whoever creates a retail outlet in any field that attracts the most shoppers becomes a de facto gatekeeper. "After this commercial break, our Channel MeFi reporter goes undercover to reveal the shocking truth: Home Depot, controlling YOUR choice of hammer and nails!"
posted by twsf at 9:40 AM on March 10, 2007


Whoever creates a retail outlet in any field that attracts the most shoppers becomes a de facto gatekeeper.

Shopper in aisle 3 at Whole Foods Market: "I demand to see the manager right now! Where in hell are the Lays Potato Chips® and Hostess Twinkies®?
posted by ericb at 10:06 AM on March 10, 2007


Jobs, at least, is not a moron.
Mr. Jobs recently caused a kerfuffle by urging music executives to consider dropping their insistence on digital copy-protection software on songs, which Mr. Jobs believes is holding back Internet music sales.
I can buy a song for one dollar through iTunes -- assuming they had the song I want -- and run it on x number of computers, play it only on an iPod, copy a playlist containing it y times...

Or I can download it for free -- and someone on peer-to-peer is bound to have any song I want -- and do whatever I want with it forever.

Tough decision. I know they are working around the clock to figure out ways to make it impossible for me to do what I want with their music. I decided not to buy a Zune (though that brown-and-green one is extra super-cool) because I think Microsoft will figure out a way to make me sad faster than Apple will. I'm not going to buy an MS machine and make it easy for them, duh. You guys (and Desiest and UKBhangra) are my tastemakers, because you actually are unbiased. All things considered, my path is clear: I'm Copyright Crime Master Go-Go. Catch me if you can, music industry fuckers.
posted by Methylviolet at 10:10 AM on March 10, 2007


Geez, how stupid and arrogant is Lily Allen? There are thousands of artists who would give their left arm to be able to land on iTunes front page in return for some exclusive material but she feels entitled to have that prime position why exactly? Because she's had a few hit singles? Sometime tells me she won't be getting much love from iTunes in the future after those comments.

Retailers have traditionally extorted huge amounts of money from record companies for prominent placement and in the end, it's the consumer who ends up footing the bill. I much prefer Apple's approach.
posted by gfrobe at 10:57 AM on March 10, 2007


Sometime tells me she won't be getting much love from iTunes in the future after those comments.

People who act as gatekeepers have a responsibility not to act like little thin-skinned bitches. If I worked for a company with the positioning of google or apple I'd resign before punishing someone for speaking out against the company.

DRM has had a serious feedback effect on Apple's market share. In order to play on the iPod, you need either no DRM or Apple DRM. Which means record companies sell their stuff on iTunes, or they don't sell them digitally at all. Which means broader selection for iPod users, which means more iPod sales, which means more which means selling on iTunes is more important, ad infinitum. It's a vicious circle for music providers.

It's a tough line for apple to walk, the more assholish they are, the more music companies chafe and try to go elsewhere. Apple needs to make a choice between profit today and power tomorrow.

I hope this breaks the back of DRM.
posted by delmoi at 12:39 PM on March 10, 2007


Geez, what's the big deal? Whoever creates a retail outlet in any field that attracts the most shoppers becomes a de facto gatekeeper. "After this commercial break, our Channel MeFi reporter goes undercover to reveal the shocking truth: Home Depot, controlling YOUR choice of hammer and nails!"

Hammers and nails, while they hold our buildings together, don't have such a wide (subtly and not so subtly) impact on culture, which affects... well, everything, eventually. Music does.

And it hasn't been in such a good state, in the mainstream, for a while now. Don't know if having Apple decide what everyone gets to listen to is "better" or "worse" than the current state of affairs under the Big Music Corporations, but it's different, and whenever a large amount of power changes hands with something that has such a wide-reaching impact (and it really does! can you imagine the world now if Elvis or The Beatles or Michael Jackson hadn't been given their shot?), it's worth paying attention to!
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 12:45 PM on March 10, 2007


The whole point of paying attention is that paying attention is what keeps them in check.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 12:46 PM on March 10, 2007


People who act as gatekeepers have a responsibility not to act like little thin-skinned bitches.

So how does that reconcile when the gatekeeper also has a responsibility to make a million dollars before lunchtime, a million +n dollars before tomorrow lunchtime, and so on, and so on? Which responsibility wins?

What if acting like a thin-skinned little bitch won't affect the other responsibilities at all? What if it will hurt them today, but not tomorrow? What if it will hurt them forever - unless they can proactively or reactively mask that perception?

(Eureka! I've just discovered PR!)
posted by Pinback at 7:03 PM on March 10, 2007


No one is twisting anyone's arm to buy music from Apple.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:05 PM on March 10, 2007


No one is twisting anyone's arm to buy music from Apple.

Exactly. There are many other sources -- online and off.
posted by ericb at 8:15 PM on March 10, 2007


To wit: If you're genuinely worried about Apple "deciding your music for you" — you've already lost the game. Go home and listen to Lawrence Welk.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:25 PM on March 10, 2007


During a recent radio interview, outspoken British pop singer Lily Allen accused iTunes of "bullying" artists into supplying exclusive content.

Maybe Apple's in cahoots with Suge Knight.
posted by inconsequentialist at 8:42 PM on March 10, 2007


People who act as gatekeepers have a responsibility not to act like little thin-skinned bitches.

Why would they be acting like thin-skinned bitches? Like I said, there are thousands of artists that don't mind giving something exclusive for some space on the front page. It's a relatively small request in return for big rewards and any artist can afford it. So next time they want to give that opportunity to an artist, why bother with Lily Allen?
posted by gfrobe at 12:42 AM on March 11, 2007


I'm not into Lily Allen at all. Most of the people I work with are terribly excited to see her at SXSW.

Having said that, I think the author of the article uses the Lily Allen example to illustrate "the way Apple does business with artists and their labels" - not so much "Lily Allen's position on Apple as the new gatekeepers".

I will suggest that iTunes reps tend to be very friendly, and in the beginning, they were very supportive of independent labels. For good reason probably - mainly, some "content" leverage against the bigger labels - but I can appreciate how the demand for "exclusive songs" or "celebrity playlists" can be interpreted as "Apple flexing its muscle".

Apple is using these methods to compel artists to center their marketing strategies around its iTunes service. So what if you don't want to supply exclusive content to iTunes? Does it lessen your chances of getting on the front page? What if your contact is an asscake?

But at the end of the day, this is a simple example of cross-promotion. And let's not forget that you don't have to payola for iTunes front page real estate.
posted by phaedon at 4:20 AM on March 11, 2007


It's a tough line for apple to walk, the more assholish they are, the more music companies chafe and try to go elsewhere. Apple needs to make a choice between profit today and power tomorrow.

i totally agree with delmoi's point. The prospect that Apple can maintain its grip on the promotion and distribution of music files is totally uncertain. In my opinion, the only thing that keeps them in the game is the popularity of the iPod. I look at Steve Job's "letter to listeners" as an implied admission of just how tentative their current deals with record labels are, and how subject to change they will be in the future. I'm pretty sure Doug Morris won't take the hard position he did with the Zune, but there are simply no guarantees.
posted by phaedon at 4:41 AM on March 11, 2007


Based on this article I decided to go look at the iTunes home page, which I hadn't seen in a long time.

Ugly. Overload. Feeping creaturitis. Strip mall. Bargain bin. Not as bad as Amazon but getting up there. Ugh.

There has to be a better way to do this. Some of the other commercial online music stores seem slightly "cleaner".

Some of the less-commercial ones seem to be way ahead in terms of creating a space for listening to and exploring music rather than simply providing a sell-through space. Last.fm comes to mind.
posted by meehawl at 10:49 AM on March 11, 2007


« Older Images of Iran. Includes pictures of art, landscap...  |  We, the observers:... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments