11 Comments

Summary:

The Apple rumor mill never stops. This week, the Financial Times is claiming that Apple is working hand-in-hand with record labels to redesign how it sells music albums on its iTunes store. According to the FT’s sources, Apple is working with EMI, Sony, Warner and Universal […]

itunes_logo20080909The Apple rumor mill never stops. This week, the Financial Times is claiming that Apple is working hand-in-hand with record labels to redesign how it sells music albums on its iTunes store. According to the FT’s sources, Apple is working with EMI, Sony, Warner and Universal on a project code-named “Cocktail.” The goal is to provide a more interactive album-purchasing experience, one that is distinctly different from that of buying just one song, by “bundling liner notes and video clips with the music.” Users would have an interactive “book,” presumably built into iTunes, including photos, lyric sheets and liner notes. But will such inclusions spur record sales? Having lyrics built into a track might save a trip to one of the billions of lyric sites on the Net, but shouldn’t that stuff be included anyway?

Sites like Last.FM make music listening more interactive, letting you share what you’re listening to with friends — but with iTunes and the iPod having 70 percent market share in the U.S., the killer app for any social music service would be full iTunes integration. Apple, which launched the iTunes store with a 99-cents-per-track model, has never really seemed to care whether users bought one or two songs from a particular album, or the whole thing, much to the chagrin of some artists who believed their work was being ruined by being sold piecemeal. As more and more people buy music online, per-track purchasing has become commonplace. However, the digital experience is still not the same as the offline one — and it never will be. But perhaps it is time to make the digital experience unique and better.

Once again, the record industry is short-changing itself. Unless Project Cocktail is way better than the FT is describing, it’s going to be unexciting. Integrating Facebook into iTunes would make the store truly interactive. Users would be able to tell their friends what they’re downloading (or not, in the case of some more embarrassing purchases), give reviews, and more. The Financial Times article quotes one exec saying that Cocktail is “all about recreating the heyday of the album when you would sit around with your friends looking at the artwork, while you listened to the music.” That’s great, but liner notes aren’t the way to do that.

Almost two years ago, I wrote about how Facebook was preparing to launch a platform for musicians in order to target MySpace’s continued dominance in the music space. A music platform never came to fruition on the site, though the company instead created Fan pages that are considerably more useful than creating normal profiles for bands — they aren’t subject to the 5,000-friend cap, which was the most limiting feature of the service for celebrities.

People don’t think about music in sleeves and album covers — they think about the first time they kissed their boyfriend, or about the song that pumped them up before the big game, or whatever. Songs have meaning, and it’s not because of some behind-the-scenes video or notes about how the album was produced. Bands should be able to combine their Facebook and iTunes pages; post to a blog and interact with fans; post exclusive content for their Facebook fans on iTunes — you get the idea. By creating a community around iTunes by integrating Twitter and Facebook, all three companies would create a huge splash in the music downloading business, and knock MySpace off its pedestal as the go-to site for music fans and artists.

If the goal is to recreate the heyday of the album, let folks share and experience their music with friends, with videos, with the liner notes and album covers. Apple doesn’t need to reinvent iTunes as a music service or a social-networking site. With listener reviews and the iMix, Apple is halfway there. Full integration and partnerships with Facebook, Twitter and maybe a site like Last.FM would increase engagement, boost page views, and establish the dominant music platform on the Net. It might just sell more music, too.

  1. [...] more here:  iTunes Needs to Get Social – Gigaom.com tweetmeme_url = [...]

    Share
  2. “The Financial Times article quotes one exec saying that Cocktail is ‘all about recreating the heyday of the album when you would sit around with your friends looking at the artwork, while you listened to the music.'”

    There are two problems with this. Music downloads have done far more to bring back the heyday of the *single*. Part of this is because of declining music quality, part due to decreased attention spans.

    Which brings me to the second problem: friends, artwork, music, the 60s and 70s. There’s something missing from this picture that makes 2 hours of egregious music listening entertaining–something that also quite a heyday in the 60s and 70s.

    “By creating a community around iTunes by integrating Twitter and Facebook, all three companies would create a huge splash in the music downloading business, and knock MySpace off its pedestal as the go-to site for music fans and artists.”

    Only one company listed there actually makes a significant amount of money. Tying these products together would be neat, but I wouldn’t expect to see anyone other than iTunes make more money…which is only useful because people would buy bigger iPods–iTunes is practically a loss leader.

    “(or not, in the case of some more embarrassing purchases)”

    “Soulja boy off in this…”

    Heh. Probably a good idea, there.

    Share
  3. I don’t want that Farcebook crap anywhere near my Mac.

    Share
  4. iTunes need to become social but not only for music (by the way Simplify Media is already helping in that direction) but also for Apps. This is why we created http://appsfire.com so iPhone users can easily share their favorite. If you want to give it a shot let me know

    Share
    1. Apple has to be the one that does this, because of the closed iPhone ecosystem. An outside company is going to have an extremely hard time gaining any ground.

      Share
  5. iTunes absolutely needs a social element beyond the reviews. They have the foundation in place. They have dominant market share at the moment. They just need to model social interaction a la last.fm within the current service.

    Share
  6. The idea of iTunes having a social media touch sounds good. But hopefully,they stick to sharing music and anything to do with it. I hope they don’t give in too much and put other things that are uncharacteristic of the brand. If they do, I don’t really see the point of having their own network.

    Share
  7. I am a big fan of DoubleTwist – it’s what iTunes would be like if it wasn’t such a stiff program. Folks love sharing and interacting around the topic of music and this is never going to stop.

    Technology companies that intend to provide mediums for music sharing must, if they seek sustainability, incorporate social interaction points. This is why I love the http://www.jamWee.com project

    Share
  8. iTunes needs to burn in hell for eternity. Any app so inefficient and piggish that it requires me to modify my service start-up configuration on my machine is something only the most evil minds at 1990s Microsoft could think up.

    Share
  9. I think Last.fm (or iLike, etc.) integration would make a ton of sense for iTunes. Hell, iLike already sounds like an Apple product. I don’t think Apple should integrate with Facebook though. I enjoy both iTunes, and Facebook, but I don’t really want the world knowing everything I listen to. I don’t care much for Facebook’s privacy and rights policies, and I’d prefer if Apple stayed away from them. Apple really could take advantage of the fact that Last.fm/iLike are truly media oriented, and I bet they could get a much better revenue sharing deal with either of those sites than the Microsoft-backed Facebook.

    Share
  10. [...] iTunes Needs to Get Social [...]

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post