Tuesday, November 9, 2010

iTunes 90 Second Preview Troubles

Even for the 800 pound music distribution gorilla in the room that is iTunes, sorting out agreements with record labels is not easy. It seems that Apple's recent October 20th press event was really to announce that Apple had negotiated 90 second previews for all the songs in the iTunes library. The only trouble was, they only did half the negotiating.

While Apple successfully negotiated with the major labels for 90 second preview clips, they forgot that publishers actually have a say in things as well, which meant that the announcement had to dropped at the last minute until that could be sorted out. Since Apple always has multiple products per press event, they were able to change the focus of the event at the last minute so that no one was the wiser.

But the music world is more than the major labels, and Apple didn't do any negotiating with the various indie labels either, instead preferring to simply "inform" them of the change. Unfortunately, the world of digital music isn't that easy, and the indies now have to go back to their artists and third-party publishers to amend their agreements from 30 to 90 second previews, a process that could take a lot longer than anyone would have initially thought.

I think that 90 second previews are great, since the best part of a song is sometimes not contained within the 30 seconds available previously. That being said, this seemingly simple change is a great example of the complexity of the modern music business. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

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