Apple has finally let an indie video production, Forum Snowboards, get its foot in the door of the iTunes store, according to a report from Variety, “iTunes is all ‘That’ to indie producers.” That is the kind of independently produced niche sports video that’s been thriving in the pages of Thrasher magazine since my friends were buying skateboarding tapes mailorder to study the pro’s tricks and punk rock licks back in the eighties. Just the kind of hip, iPod buying demo that you’d want to foster brand loyalty amongst.
There’s already lots of independent content on iTunes — many web video productions and vloggers use Apple’s digital store. But they are not given the option of charging for their content. And in this case, what was a $29.99 DVD is now a $1.99 download from the TV section of the store, and that price was set after ten months of negotiations.
When I asked Drew Olanoff of Pluggd and Scriggity what he though, he was unequivocal. “I still think we still have a long way to go. Apple forced the DVD into the $1.99 bucket — creators should have control over [money] decisions.”
Steve O’Hear, who had expressed his frustration with the iTunes store when I interviewed him about his distribution of In Search of the Valley using Streamburst, was even more pointed in an email response to my request for reaction:
The thing that frustrates me is that Apple could pretty much own the long tail content market. If you look at what happened when they added podcasting, they — overnight — became the default podcast directory.
O’Hear proposes Apple should allow anyone to submit video without a middleman, as is the situation with podcasts, and set the price and DRM options themselves. Apple, of course, seems intent to keep such negotiations private. But as Cory Doctorow’s recent piece in Salon makes clear, Steve Jobs’ bloviating about DRM aside, it’s not a negotiable feature, even if rightsholders ask for it to be removed. So don’t hold your breath if you’re waiting for Apple to open up the most popular digital content sales platform to your project so that you can sell your wares alongside the big boys.