Apple as a Record Label: A Music Business Study

This comes from the Berklee College of Music’s Music Business Journal:

If you are an avid Apple product user or have been following tech news recently, then you’ve probably heard about Apple’s most recent partnership with U2. While Apple unveiled their new products, which include the iWatch, and two new iPhones, Irish rockers U2 pulled off the largest album launch in history by making their latest record available for free to half a billion iTunes users. Songs of Innocence, their first album in five years, was automatically downloaded onto users’ iTunes libraries and devices.

The rise of innovative releases

There’s no doubt that music distribution is changing as fast as the rapidly evolving industry. August saw the lowest weekly album sales ever recorded by Nielsen SoundScan. So far this year, US album sales have fallen 14.6%, while digital album sales are down 11.7%1. Artists and labels are grappling to find feasible revenue models in the new music business. Because of the rather bleak state of affairs, artists are looking for more creative and innovative ways of releasing music.

U2’s album launch has been compared to several recent music marketing campaigns, including Jay Z’s partnership with Samsung, in which one million copies of Jay Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail were released to Samsung Galaxy owners for free through an app2, and Beyoncé’s surprise album drop, which, like Songs of Innocence, was considered disruptive to traditional industry release models. Fans actually had to pay for Beyoncé’s album.

Unlike U2 and Jay Z’s albums, however, her unique approach still garnered 800,000 sales. Additionally, music-identification app Shazam, and social networking sites Facebook, and Twitter have released songs, and music videos for artists including Fifth Harmony, Bruno Mars, and Michael Jackson. Lastly, CBS.com debuted Bruce Springsteen’s High Hopes album before its worldwide release as part of a marketing campaign for the CBS show The Good Wife. Has the novel marketing push worked well for Bono and the rest of the rock band, as it did for other artists?

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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