According to Lilly Allen, the answer is ‘yes’. Hot on the heels of her MTV ban Lilly Allen has now ruffled the feathers of those Apple people. In an online interview she criticized the way in which iTunes try to extract exclusive content from artists. She said that iTunes was:
“bullying people into corners by making sure they have extra, you know, extra songs so they can put them on the front page. And they won’t [advertise] your album unless you kind of give them extra material and so on.”
Of course this is all part of how the music industry works but it is also indicative of the growing importance of the role of iTunes in the artist marketing cycle. With physical singles sales declines hitting terminal velocity digital is the dominant singles force. A well placed single on iTunes is undoubtedly an important win for an artist. However just to get to that point a huge amount of other work has already taken place, including utilizing many other crucial digital tools such as MySpace, email blasts, ring tones etc etc. Also, iTunes isn’t yet at the position where it can break artists. Digital downloads account for just a few percent of total sales. So being shunned from the iTunes front page isn’t going to stop, for example, Lilly Allen selling, but of course it could result in strong download sales resulting in higher chart positions, increased air play, increased albums sales etc.
So whilst iTunes might not yet be able to break artists, it can certainly help make them.
I’ll leave the last words to Lilly Allen who has a refreshingly punk rock attitude to how to deal with the issue:
‘Okay, fine, give iTunes the rubbish remix, and then what I’ll do I’ll get the people remixing it to do a good remix and then we’ll give it away for free on MySpace.”