I’m enough of a dinosaur that I want my albums in CD form, for the most part. However, I have bought some iTunes LPs and, if I decided to go all digital in the future, this is the format I’d prefer.
Unfortunately, it seems the iTunes LP isn’t doing well. But let’s back up. When the format was unveiled in September 2009 as part of iTunes 9, it was described by Apple as “the evolution of the music album” that delivers “a rich, immersive experience for select albums on the iTunes Store by combining beautiful design with expanded visual features like live performance videos, lyrics, artwork, liner notes, interviews, photos, album credits and more.” In other words, it was intended to evoke the feeling of spinning an LP record and holding the jacket in your hands.
However, according to some sources, the format doesn’t seem to be taking off. Paul Bonanos, writing for “Salon” (http://www.salon.com/technology/the_gigaom_network/tech_insider/2010/03/09/apple_e2_80_99s_itunes_lp_6_months_later_lp_what), says that iTunes LP provide little consumer recognition, “and none of the industry sources with whom I spoke said they viewed it as being anywhere close to game-changing from a format perspective.” Rather, it’s considered more of a curiosity and doesn’t appear to be stimulating sales.
In fact, Bonanos says that the iTunes LP wasn’t Apple’s idea in the first place, but was the result of the same renegotiations between Apple and the major record labels that yielded DRM-free songs and flexible pricing early last year. He says it was a “concession by Cupertino to make a gesture in favor of album sales as consumers increasingly show a preference for digital singles.”
Of course, part of the problem is the paucity of iTunes LPs. Only 29 are currently for sale in the iTunes Store. That’s hardly enough to create a groundswell of demand.
More albums in the format could spur demand. The iPad may also help save the iTunes LP. The format seems tailor made for the upcoming device’s bigger screen.
Also, some companies are happy with the results. David Dorn of Rhino Records told “paidContent” (http://paidcontent.org/article/419-warners-rhino-expands-global-digital-efforts-new-role-for-dorn/) that the iTunes LP format has been successful for them. Or at least partially successful.
“The initial launch was very successful,” he said. “We sold thousands and were very happy.” But the way iTunes is set up, the extended LPs don’t always show ahead of standard, which can cost sales, he added.
“paidContent” says that Rhino has talked about the situation with Apple and it sounds like a fix is in the works. Dorn added, “I think that the LP is a really important next step in digital product packaging.”
I like the idea of the iTunes LP. And the price — an addition three bucks or so — seems reasonable for all the extras you get. But until Apple really pushes the format (and maybe it will with the iPad’s debut), it doesn’t look as if the iTunes LP will gain much traction.