Apple Pushes Record Labels To Offer Exclusive iTunes Content, Block Initial Streaming

While Apple is still trying to fight its loss in last year’s e-book price-fixing lawsuit, a new report claims the electronics giant is making controversial waves in the music industry by pushing record companies to make Apple the exclusive venue for new releases.

Apple is pressuring major record companies and individual artists to offer new releases exclusively through the iTune store as a way for the company to bolster sales it may be losing to streaming services, the Los Angeles Time reports.

If record companies oblige, new content would initially be blocked from availability on streaming devices, such as Spotify and Beats Music, in order to create a reserved period of time for digital purchasing. A similar window has been imposed in the film industry for home viewing.

While Apple’s iTunes makes up 80% of all download sales in the U.S., a move by consumers to streaming services has led to a decline in digital song and album sales for the company.

According to data from Nielsen SoundScan, song downloads were down 12% during the first eight weeks of 2014 compared to a year prior, and digital album sales were down 13% for the same time period.

Additionally, nearly 48% of smartphone owners use their device to listen to streaming music, while only 42% used the device to download music. For it’s part, Apple debuted it’s own streaming service, iTunes Radio, last year.

Despite a decrease in music downloads some record executives say the push for exclusive content isn’t new for Apple.

“I’ve never had anyone [at Apple] say streaming is killing our business,” an executive who handles bands such as No Doubt and Trent Reznor tells the LA Times. “They’ve been very specific for 10 years about wanting extra content — just like Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Target. They’re very aggressive about trying to do something that will differentiate them from everybody else.”

In December, Apple reminded the industry it knows how to spur sales when Beyonce released her newest album exclusively on iTunes. The album became the fastest selling in the digital store.

Just last week, Kid Cudi released a new album exclusively for download on iTunes and other digital retailers. His album debuted at No. 4 on Billboard’s Top 200 album charts and sold 87,000 units.

Still, some industry insiders say the digital music market is evolving and Apple appears to be scrambling to retain a competitive edge.

“These are really changing times, and I think everybody’s going to be trying different things, whether it’s iTunes, Spotify or the labels,” a music manager says. “It’s kind of up for grabs.”

Apple is asking record labels for exclusive iTunes releases [Los Angeles Times]