Why more indie music isn’t on the iTunes Music Store

In record labels hit back at iTunes ‘ban’ (at silicon.com) one could easily get the impression that Apple has some sort of grump with the indies. What! Franz Ferdinand won the Mercury Posing, sorry Music Prize and yet aren’t on Euro iTMS yet!

OK. Here’s how it goes. As Bernard Ingham, the former PM’s spokesman (when the PM was Margaret Thatcher), this is more likely cock-up than conspiracy.

Think about it. Apple is not what you would call a bloated, personnel-heavy company, is it? I knew one guy who was managing one of its major development tools; and that was it. It was just him, alone, with a terminal. (It’s reasons like this that explain why it’s not going to produce a Tablet computer: it takes too much extra effort to write the software.)

And now you have the iTMS, which is a new venture within the company. Is it very likely that Apple has hired hundreds of people to put catalogue on? Or might it just be incrementally doing it, with a tiny staff trying to keep within something like the minimal revenue it gets to keep from each track sale?

Even the indie label reps I’ve spoken to don’t think there’s some conspiracy going on. They’re annoyed about it, but when you ask them whether they really think it’s some Big Plan to do them down, or just a lack of people to handle it all, they pause.

After all, it is a huge effort: tracks; metadata; band pictures; prices; album pictures; thumbnails; categorisation (and some of this stuff is really hard to categorise except as “alternative”); whether to feature it.

Plus Apple presently dominates, which means it has less incentive to hire more people. Whereas the other sites, which need to make up the gap, have a great reason to hire people like mad and put content up. The competition is certainly going to force some changes.


  1. Charles
    I think you’re absolutely right here – it has to be cock-up.

    Funny thing – go and look at the complete JUST ADDED on the UK music store (you have to click SEE ALL on the Just Added section). You will get a list of 4 columns for the last 4 weeks. If you look at the previous week, it is HUGE. BUT, if you recognise more than about 5 artists I’d be surprised. It’s as if someone somewhere said, “We’d better get all those Bollywood songs on this week, guys”. (I don’t know that’s what they are, but there sure is a lot of Asian influence there).

    When the first indy labels joined up, it took about 3-4 weeks for anything to appear. Even then, it has been selective. For instance, there are a lot of 4AD/Beggars stuff now, but some recent stuff and artists from there are still missing. (note, I never saw most of the indy stuff show up in the Just Added section anyway, and I looked quite hard)

    I can’t believe Apple would deliberately delay Franz Ferdinand for instance over the Ali Haider back-catalogue (sorry if I dissed an Ali Haider fan whoever Ali Haider is). It would be a very strange conspiracy indeed.


  2. It may well be that there’s only one person sitting at apple creating the digital content from a stack of CD’s.

    At least one of the majors decided that they’d do all the digitisation themselves, sorting out the metadata and so on, and deliver it all online. However, I happen to know that some of the majors have done little more than just truck over 5,000 CD’s and let Apple get on with it.

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