Can iTunes LP Drive Album Sales?

Our music analyst, Josh Bell takes a look at iTunes LP as a purchase driver for music, in this guest post.

A number of announcements were made on Wednesday by Apple – cheaper and new iPods, a Genius feature for apps, etc. The lack of an announcement about the Beatles catalog being available on iTunes was somewhat of a downer, but I found the “iTunes LP” to be the most intriguing.

In short, iTunes LP is an attempt to convert digital singles buyers into digital albums buyers by offering extra content only available by downloading the album. The content might include lyrics, photos, videos and other goodies. However, there are a few potential issues that I see:

iTunes LP is designed for the hardcore fan who wants all of the info about the artist they can get their hands on. The problem here is that these people are buying the album anyway, regardless of whether it includes the bonus material. The casual fan – the one who hears the new Black-Eyed Peas on the radio and goes to iTunes to buy it – doesn’t care about the photos and the lyrics – they just want the song.
Most of this information is already available – free and legal – on the Internet. There are a number of sites that are lyric databases, and artist photos appear everywhere from magazine sites to an individual fan’s page. In fact, many artists have all of these extras on their own website or MySpace page.

Even more of this info is available illegally as well. Many of the more “trusted” BitTorrent users will compile photos, lyrics, set lists and other goodies with downloads that will likely rival the bonus content that iTunes is offering.

Most importantly, people only buy 1-2 songs off an album because usually only 1-2 songs off an album are any good. Consumers recognize this, which is why singles have dominated the downloading landscape. Even if an album has 5-6 good songs, a consumer still may not see the value in the bonus material for an extra $4-5.
Even worse, some of the iTunes LP albums currently available are more expensive than the regular edition, despite containing the same songs. Thus, they’re asking consumers not only to upgrade to an album, but to shell out an extra $1-$3 for content that does not include additional music.
The biggest issue of all, however, may be that in order to enjoy all the visual bonus content, you need to be sitting at your computer. This is somewhat anathema to the beauty of iTunes and mp3s – you can take them with you.

The curiosity factor may convince people to try an iTunes LP, but compelling content is the only way to keep them coming back.

MG. I totally agree (although I didn’t miss the Beatles that much, they alread live on my iPod.) While I love what Apple has done here with legal content, re-created and expanded the richness and the depth that used to come with buying a record album, at the end of the day, it is still and will always be about the music and making the music good enough to attract buyers.

2 responses to “Can iTunes LP Drive Album Sales?

  1. “In short, iTunes LP is an attempt to convert digital singles buyers into digital albums buyers.”

    I think this is an effort to extract more money from album buyers. They are already willing to buy albums sold at $9.99, some of them (hardcore fans) may be interested in buying some extra content for a few bucks more if the content is compelling enough.

    Other people (digital singles buyers) will cherry pick the songs they really want after hearing them on the radio, buying an album would be a big leap from $0.99 to $9.99 and I don’t think they’ll buy an iTunes LP that is even more expensive. They would be more likely to buy an album at a reduced price, like $5.99.

    “Most of this information is already available – free and legal – on the Internet. […] Even more of this info is available illegally as well.”

    Some of the information is available on the web but it’s not delivered to the fans, people have to search for it (multiple souces, it takes time…) and the quality may not be that good. iTunes LP is more convenient and there is a price for convenience.

    “Can iTunes LP Drive Album Sales?”

    Only hardcore fans will buy the deluxe edition. It seems that iTunes LP is supposed to help record labels increase their revenue instead of driving album sales.

    « Will the Cocktail format drive greater digital album sales? Probably not, but that’s not what the music industry is expecting from it. Instead, label sources position it as a way to further monetize existing digital album purchases. […] One major-label source notes that when a digital album is released as both a standard music-only download and a deluxe download with extra content, the deluxe version typically outsells the standard one by 85 percent to 90 percent in the first few weeks after its release, even though it usually costs $2 to $5 more. »

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