Following the huge success of Beyonce’s surprise album last year, which was made available exclusively through iTunes, Apple have reportedly begun to pressure record labels to get more and more lucrative exclusives.
The Los Angeles Times have cited sources that state Apple are keen to limit the threats posed by streaming services and falling sales by tying major artists to exclusives – meaning that future big albums will only be available to hear or buy via iTunes during the critical early-release period.
Obviously a mega corp like Apple trying to flex its economic muscle is nothing new, but the fact that Apple is – as the LA Times puts it – ‘scrambling’ to maintain its competitive advantage in the ever-developing digital music landscape suggests streaming services like Spotify, Pandora and Beats are really starting to challenge the more ‘traditional’ model of buying music.
Music manager Irving Azoff, who manages the likes of The Eagles and Christina Aguilera, said:
These are really changing times, and I think everybody’s going to be trying different things, whether it’s iTunes, Spotify or the labels… It’s kind of up for grabs.
iTunes is still obviously the major player in digital downloads – accounting for about 63% of all paid-for music worldwide, and about 80% of all downloads – but talk of streaming services starting to take a chunk of Apple’s market share dates back to last year at least.
Apple responded to the emergence of streaming services last year with iTunes Radio, but with the likes of the heavily backed Beats Music service launching and heavy-hitters like Google Play (and reportedly the Google-owned YouTube) getting involved, the digital music market is becoming more and more saturated with very powerful players.