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Apple denies downgrading indie releases in iTunes store

By | Published on Thursday 5 March 2015


Apple has responded to concerns raised by indie labels that recent changes to the iTunes store meant that major label music was receiving greater prominence, telling Billboard that this is simply not the case.

Last month, it was claimed that some independent music was being removed from iTunes due to changes in the download platform’s style guide, and despite some of those releases apparently adhering to the new rules. Also, a change in the way releases were selected to appear on the store’s ‘carousel’ feature – changing from releases being chosen by an editorial team to an algorithm that measures ‘sales velocity’ – raised worries.

But, according to Billboard, this latter decision has now been reversed, with editorial control restored following testing. And Apple claims that indie music is still well-represented within the iTunes store, with around 40% of featured music coming from non-majors.

Meanwhile, one unnamed indie label source said: “If you make your case for whatever music is no longer available in the store, Apple will listen. iTunes are flexible; they are not an account who says, ‘It’s our way or the highway'”. Which is not a sentence I’m used to seeing in relation to iTunes, but whatever.

And some recent changes are detrimental to the majors too, and possibly more so. For example, to date pre-orders have counted towards the iTunes charts as they come in, and then again on the day of release. For big releases, this often means they go straight to number one on the day of release, allowing labels to shout about how immediately successful their new release has been.

Now, pre-orders will not count to release day chart position, meaning new releases have to rely only on their day one sales, making a number one position less likely. One major label exec said of this move: “This is a big move, because everyone in the industry pays attention to the iTunes storefront more than any other store or service. No one looks at the Amazon, Google or Spotify music pages the way they pay attention to iTunes”.