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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

`Has Apple switched sides?'

Here's a piece I wrote in today's SF Chronicle op-ed page, about how Apple treats independent audio and video producers differently than big media, by forcing them to give away their products for free on its iTunes Music Store. Here's the gist:

    Apple has decided, essentially, that major media companies should be allowed to charge for what they produce, but individuals ought to give their work away for free. That's a big deal for solo creative types who want to make a buck: By Apple's account, its storefront controls 70 percent of the market for legally downloaded music, and customers have bought...more than a million videos for $1.99 each.

Your thoughts?


  • By bringing up the CDbaby example from the music industry, I think you defeated your main point. Right when the iTunes store opened, the initial outlook for independent musicians was not good, as Apple only signed a deal with the labels. However, things soon changed as indie labels and then (with the CDbaby deal) any unsigned artists who wanted to were added to the store. As it stands now, the iTunes store / CDbaby combo is a great service for unsigned musicians.

    We can assume the same thing will happen on the video side. Apple needed someone's content in order to make the announcement, so they dealt with ABC; other studios and hopefully independent sources will follow.

    I agree that Apple should centralize and facilitate the submission of content to the store. It's curious that they haven't done it yet - the easiest way would be to buy CDbaby. But that makes me wonder: would it be impolitic to do so? Would the labels view it as Apple muscling in on their turf, and is this why it hasn't happened yet?

    By Blogger D, at 4:47 PM  

  • Scott, I just replied on the HDforIndies comments page, but wanted to say kudos on this oped piece. I hope some folks at Apple are reading, and I couldn't agree with you more.

    By Blogger R. Zane Rutledge, at 5:22 PM  

  • d - thanks for your comment. CDbaby is a great service, but it inserts yet another intermediary in the music business that takes money out of the musician's pocket. Aren't musicians tired of that yet?

    I do agree with you that a similar service may emerge for video - or heck, CDbaby might do it - but it'd be nice to see Apple allowing individuals to market their content on their own. eBay is a great example: you don't need a third party to help you sell your old laptop on eBay. You do it directly.

    By Blogger Scott Kirsner, at 7:14 PM  

  • You're missing one important factor -Apple needs to make money.

    When Apple makes a deal with a big media company, they get access to large numbers of titles they know will sell.

    Now consider the cost of negotiating and making deals with every individual who wants you to sell their song or video. Songs and videos that may only sell a handfull of copies, if any at all. The bottom line is that it costs Apple to set up deals, host the content, and deliver the content. There's no way the iTMS would be viable if anyone and everyone could have their content hosted essentially for free by Apple.

    So using the method you seem to favor, how many thousands (millions) of songs and videos would Apple end up having to make available that will never sell? And who foots the bill?

    By Blogger John, at 12:59 PM  

  • Scott: I agree in principle that there should be fewer intermediaries and obstacles to getting independent content on the iTMS. In practice, though, CDbaby is a very good service since they take only a 9% cut and you keep the rights to the music. Compare that to the majors which take the copyrights and ... I dunno exactly, but a great deal more of the revenues. The best option would be an Apple-integrated solution, like you say (perhaps a "sell on Music Store" button in GarageBand or Final Cut), but in its absence the CDbaby route works quite well, so hopefully it will happen for video eventually.

    By Blogger D, at 1:52 PM  

  • John -

    Thanks for your comment. But Apple wouldn't have to personally negotiate separate "deals" with individual content providers, just as eBay today doesn't personally negotiate separate deals with each individual who wants to sell merchandise on the site. Apple could simply lay out what the business offer was - how much of a fee they'd take for operating the marketplace - and allow an individual to upload his/her video.


    By Blogger Scott Kirsner, at 11:15 PM  

  • Why are these companies not encouraging musicians and producers to create more content by paying them for their work. It makes no sense to me, it's creating a vacuum. Apple must make money so Apple is going to do what's right for Apple. So isn't this right for Apple?

    It's just a case where those who need opportunity can't get it and those who have it just get more of it. An artist should get paid for what they create, it's that simple.

    iTunes is a hub for exposure just like Amazon and Google are. I can't wait until the day where the technology is advanced enough that an artist can make their art and just sell it directly to the buyer via their website for download and to play on their television.

    By Blogger William, at 11:04 AM  

  • Interesting argument. However in about 6 weeks anyone will be able to put any content into an RSS feed and sell it through iTunes in the "Podcast" area. Both automatic downloads (charged when downloaded, not when subscribed) or simple lists of files for sale are supported by Regardless of whether Apple like it or not.

    Disclosure: I am co-creator of klickTab

    By Blogger Philip Hodgetts, at 1:29 AM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:01 AM  

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