Bands Avoiding iTunes For The Wrong Reasons

from the it's-not-going-to-make-people-buy-the-album dept

This is hardly a new phenomenon, but the Wall Street Journal is noting that some bands and some record labels are avoiding putting music on iTunes (or in some cases, pulling music off iTunes) in an effort to force people to buy the full album, rather than just a few tracks. There are plenty of reasons to dislike iTunes, but it seems hard to believe that this does anything positive for the bands in question. The article quotes Kid Rock’s manager, who compares apples to oranges, by pointing out that people who are on iTunes sell more single songs than albums, but that’s rather meaningless in comparing to an artist (like Kid Rock) who’s not on iTunes at all. Not putting your music where people want it is only going to piss them off.

Hell, even record industry execs are getting frustrated by bands not having their singles anywhere that can be downloaded legally. And, yet, the sister record label to the one that employs the annoyed exec above is experimenting with an even more annoying proposition: pulling popular songs from iTunes after they’ve become popular, to see if it gets more people to buy the CD.

Honestly, is it really that hard to understand the concept of providing the customer what they want in a convenient manner?

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Comments on “Bands Avoiding iTunes For The Wrong Reasons”

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33 Comments
Xanthir, FCD (profile) says:

Re: Re: iTunes suck

Seriously. Converting the files into a portable format is so easy that I was able to teach my (non-technical) dad how to do it. I had to set everything up originally, but even a mildly techie person can do this with a bit of googling. I didn’t know a thing about how to do this before I sat down for 20 minutes and learned.

NSMike says:

Re: Re: Re: iTunes suck

“Seriously. Converting the files into a portable format is so easy that I was able to teach my (non-technical) dad how to do it. I had to set everything up originally, but even a mildly techie person can do this with a bit of googling. I didn’t know a thing about how to do this before I sat down for 20 minutes and learned.”

Why should I bother with all that rubbish when I can buy MP3’s from Amazon? Without the annoying crappy software?

Anonymous Coward says:

The nefarious baker's day-old donuts

Only want to sell the whole CD, huh? That sounds somewhat elitist. It wouldn’t be bad if the CD was good.

I see it akin to buying a dozen boxed day-old donuts for the co-workers, but when you get them to the office, 10 of them have obviously fallen on the floor and have hair, dirt, and other floor crap on them. Your shocked, and amazed that the baker didn’t throw them away. But there they are, in the box on your desk staring at you, the chocolate one in the back having a mustache made of half-eaten black licorice.

Eat them? Give them away? No, you have a conscience! They just plain suck, and you want to admit you were the sucker who bought them. It isn’t worth it to fight over a refund for cheap donuts. You eventually throw them away and never buy from that nefarious baker again.

David says:

It's not completley bait and switch

The thing is, these industries are just used to telling the consumer what they’ll buy. That’s the mindset. “Get them hooked, the empty their pockets.” It’s not hard to understand.

The record companies just don’t comprehend that they have competition now. It’s a foreign concept. They’ll come around in 10-15 years or so, once they lose enough money and change enough of the old guard.

Josh says:

Pulling songs from iTunes

the problem is and has been for any industry that has a customer; They don’t care about their customers. No one has. If that were the case, part of the brainstorming sessions that take place before new products come out, would be to get the consumer involved.

It’s like a software company, they design decent software, but by the time the next release is out, the pull the main features away and can’t understand why people get pissed.

Keith Jolie (user link) says:

it's up to them

So if record companies want to pull songs from one service or another or try different ways of selling…let them, but please tell them to shut up if they whine about what people are or aren’t buying. If people aren’t buying it’s because you’re not selling right or the product isn’t good. end of story.

I have all my music on every service that I can get my hands on. iTunes is the biggest seller of my music, but others are getting more popular. Likely because they offer more choice. I love choices.

NSMike says:

Meanwhile, in Recording Industry Headquarters...

Exec 1 – “Hey guys, remember how we used to sell full albums?”

Exec 2 – “Yeah, those were the days, man.”

Exec 1 – “I’ve got an idea to bring those days back! We simply take the songs OFF of iTunes! That way, the ONLY place to get them would be the CD!”

Exec 2 – “You, sir, just blew my mind.”

Pirate – “Yarr Maties! Baten down the hatches, we be sailin’ for Peer2Peer Island!”

Anonymous Coward says:

Why the Hostility?

These artists and labels can sell however they please; we can or cannot buy their goods. Do we have a right to have them on iTunes?

The article provides pretty solid evidence that they have calculated they can make more money by selling full albums and not doing iTunes; is it bad in a capitalist society for a band to want to make more money rather than less? Or does this undermine your free economics model?

The article clearly notes they are risking fans downloading unauthorized versions of singles; that seems the larger risk than losing the pennies they make on single tracks on iTunes, which in some cases may also deter full album sales.

Anonymous Coward says:

“is it really that hard to understand the concept …” No, it isn’t. They understand. They simply do not want do what you want.

Mike, they aren’t morons. Writing like everyone with whom you may have a disagreement about what is, after all, their business practice, are Idiots Who Just Don’t Get It isn’t a way to send a positive message. It makes you come off like one of those insufferable Linux snobs who look down at people who don’t happen to use their favorite distro. We’ve got one of those, Richard Stallman. We don’t need any others. You’re smart, Mike. I’m smart, too. Sometimes I want to whack people and call them idiots for not getting it, but that generally doesn’t work out. Sometimes people don’t agree with you. This doesn’t make them morons who “don’t get it.”

Some of the bands are betting that Scenario One: five people buying one single will make less money for them than Scenario Two: one person buying one album.

On top of it, look at where the value is at for a band – if a couple of those single-focused people in Scenario One would just pirate an MP3 anyway, their album focus makes sense.

Albums as a whole unit can (not always, but certainly can) make sense from an artistic perspective. Some artists still try to do that. This happens in other artistic endeavors. David Lynch released the DVD of Mulholland Drive as a single chapter because he wanted people to grasp it as a whole piece, not in chunks. He felt that he wouldn’t be sending the message he wanted if it was broken up into chunks.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No, it isn’t. They understand

If they understood, they wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing.

Sometimes I want to whack people and call them idiots for not getting it, but that generally doesn’t work out. Sometimes people don’t agree with you. This doesn’t make them morons who “don’t get it.”

I have no problem with people disagreeing with me and making a strong argument for why. But when we’ve got over a decade of seeing the recording industry make the same exact mistake over and over again, at some point I believe it’s reasonable to come to the conclusion that they have no clue about how to rescue their own business. I believe there is significant evidence to back that up.

Albums as a whole unit can (not always, but certainly can) make sense from an artistic perspective.

Sure, and that’s a great way to *convince* people to buy the full album. Forcing them to do so, however, is simply a bad business practice.

Sniffing Arrogance says:

Re: Re: Re:

And, once again, Mike is always right, disagree-ers are always wrong (and stupid), and he doesn’t have to acknowledge anything you say that just might be true if he doesn’t like how it reflects on him.

A little humility would go a loooooong way, Mikey boy. You’re smart, and have some good ideas, but many people don’t listen because you often come across as a pompous ass.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

And, once again, Mike is always right, disagree-ers are always wrong (and stupid), and he doesn’t have to acknowledge anything you say that just might be true if he doesn’t like how it reflects on him.

Not at all. I’m wrong plenty of the time. But if I’m wrong, then someone needs to explain why, not just scream about me being wrong.

Explain why I’m wrong here and I’ll admit to being wrong. But if all you can do is whine about me, then I’m guessing that I’m probably onto something.

Prophet V says:

itunes or mytunes-

I have an ipod so I use itunes. I like Ol Skool music too, and some of those ‘albums’ had only one hit. I prefer to get the music I choose instead of being stuck with a product I don’t care for (or care to listen to).

Life is too short for scaricity so the more variety the better. But, whatever happenned to artist, I mean real artist producing music for the people to enjoy, regardless to a song or an album?

John (profile) says:

Power and promotion

It’s all about power and promotion:
“Look how much power we have. We can pull our songs from iTunes whenever we like. So what if it pisses off customers who would have bought our songs. We can do it, so we will.”

And…

“Look how much attention we’re getting and how many stories are being written about us pulling our songs from iTunes. We can’t by this kind of publicity. Let’s pull some more songs!”

Anonymous Coward says:

It's up to them....

I guess it is up to the record labels to decide if they want to do this or not but I think they are shooting themselves in the foot.

Maybe I’m the minority but I wouldn’t buy an entire album I didn’t like just to get one song. That is just a waste of my money. If that one song I like isn’t available then they’ve lost a sale. It seems like they are using the same logic on this topic as they are on illegal downloads, that every download is a lost sale. Which is far from the truth.

You know why I don’t download movies anymore? It isn’t because I’m scared of getting busted by the easily beatable techniques they use to catch people. It’s because I have Netflix. Someone came up with a great system that provides me with the content I enjoy for a price that I find very reasonable. That is how you adapt and make money while keeping your customer base happy.

Woadan says:

It’s right back to the argument about whether the labels, and their artists, are selling plastic shiny discs.

Since most artists see little to no money from album sales, I’m not sure how much of an argument they can make over the economic part of this one.

I know that the current conventional wisdom is that there are 2 or 3 good songs on every album, and the rest is crap. Whether I (or any artist for the matter) agree with that wisdom is immaterial. In this case, the customer is right. So if the customer only wants one song, that’s what they should be able to buy.

On the other hand, when I was growing up, if you liked the band, you bought the album. If you didn’t like the band, you waited for the song you liked to play on the radio, or you stuck your quarter in the jukebox and played it.

I know that for many artists, the songs on a particular album have a significance for them. They might be writing songs that reflect the troubles the band has been going through, or they might reflect their optimism because their last album sold millions, and they headlined their tour. but even on albums that could be considered “concept” albums, each song still has to stand on its own. Knowing what came before can lend some context to the current one, but it still has its own story, even if it is a part of a bigger story.

Times have changed, and the labels and the artists will have to change with them. Perhaps if they discounted the price of the album so we’d be enticed to buy it? You know, subsidize the whole thing with the value that the 2 or 3 songs bring to the whole?

$9.99 for the whole album, in MP3 format, is not too big a draw for me. I want the song in a lossless format, so I’ll buy the CD and rip it myself. I can often get the album for $10 or $11 on Amazon and I get free shipping, so it’s worth it to me.

As always, YMMV. I just don’t see the value in pay $0.99 for a lossy format digital file.

Woadan

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I understand your points but I’d add the following:

1. It’s not really about whether they’re selling the shiny discs but rather that they’re trying to enforce the old business model and market economics onto the digital era. It’s not going to work, and that’s clear to most of us.

2. Your tastes obviously differ, but the vast majority of people either can’t tell the difference between lossy and lossless formats, don’t own equipment that makes the difference noticeable or simply don’t care.

3. Do you really pay $11 for a CD if you only want a single track from the album? Do you feel you got a good deal if you do?

4. People used to buy the album regardless because they had no choice. Unless a song was made available as a single, you had to buy the album. Those days are long gone. Trying to force the market to behave as if they’re not is what’s causing the record industry’s problems right now.

The simple fact is that 2 or 3 good songs is all that most albums have ever had. Even great albums often have one track that tends to get skipped. Most non-great albums (the majority of albums) are not coherent works but rather collections of songs. Most people just want the songs they like, and if they can get them without having to pay $10+ for the entire album, even better.

The whole “avoiding digital downloads to force people to buy the CD” thing is also especially stupid when you consider what people will do with that CD. Most will listen to the CD once, rip the tracks they like, then listen to them in the order they choose. In other words, they do exactly what they would have done with digital downloads, but feel like they got less of a deal. It makes little financial sense (many people will just choose not to buy the album at all), and it’s absolute nonsense from an artistic perspective.

crystalattice (profile) says:

Then they just lose money

What’s better, a guaranteed sale w/ a small profit or a possible sale w/ a big profit? Throughout my life, I’ve been taught that gambling on the bigger win is dangerous; it’s better to take the smaller, guaranteed win.

These companies need to realize that they are in the business of selling music, not shiny discs. If my music isn’t available how and where I want it, I will go to other places.

Many times on iTunes, a band/song I want isn’t available; often because American iTunes doesn’t have many foreign bands. Rather than game iTunes so it looks like I’m in a foreign country, I simply find the torrent. It’s easier and I get what I want.

Another good way is to capture streaming Internet radio. The vast majority of Euro-dance I have is from Shoutcast.

If these companies would simply offer me what I wanted, I would give them money. Why can’t they understand that?

Steve Purdham (user link) says:

In the end it is for the artist and label to decide whether to co-operate with iTunes’ policy, but surely the best way to encourage consumers to pay for music, whether through pay per track models like iTunes or through ad-funded models like We7, businesses and artists need to make music available in the format that consumers want and as easy for them to access possible.

Steve Purdham
CEO – We7
http://www.we7.com

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