Why doesn’t Apple help the indie music movement by recruiting unsigned artists?

“The recording industry continues to move toward digital distribution. Yet the Internet has also given unheard musicians a platform for getting noticed, while technology has made home recording affordable,” Rick Munarriz writes for The Motley Fool. “If change is in the air, why is the indie movement left gasping for it?”

“Digital distribution has become a tantalizing notion now that companies like Apple and to a lesser extent Roxio are showing the major labels that it can work,” Munarriz writes. “As the uncola to commercial pop swill, this should be the golden age of garage bands. Instead, it has been as stifling as carbon monoxide. Home-recording software like Apple’s new iLife ’04 has made quality digital recording affordable and accessible. Satellite radio upstarts Sirius and XM have broadened the radio dial, including stations playing unsigned artists around the clock. The Internet should be arming clever marketers with ways to drape cyberspace with lawn chairs to enforce their grassroots efforts.”

“The entire pre-recorded music industry can afford to get leaner because the CD is dead… The savings in an inventory-free digitally distributed future are huge, and third-party outlets for distribution like Apple’s iTunes store are more motivated in making it work than the layered labels themselves ever were,” Munarriz writes. “Which may make it surprising to note that Apple never made a play for Vivendi’s MP3.com site and has not taken an active role in recruiting unsigned artists.”

Full article here.


  1. It sounds like a worthwhile endeavour. Cutting out the middle man offers new opportunities for profits as well. Perhaps part of Apple’s original deal with the labels was to not do this very thing. Depending on when these deals renew, it might be interesting to see if things will change.

  2. FYI, it seems that independent artists WITHOUT labels are already on iTunes. Services such as RainDog and CD Baby take the place of the label, proving very low-cost services to musicians and giving most of the profit to the artist. In return, they convert and upload the music to iTunes (and other services as well).

    Two examples here:

    Note that Apple doesn’t “just take anything” to make their catalog sound bigger–which some other online stores DO do. You can’t just send some random low-quality recording off your built-in mic ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

  3. There are a couple of problems with this. As the “desktop publishing” wave of the early 90’s taught us, simply giving the tools to the people doesn’t mean that everyone is going to produce great work. Apple has put great digital music tools in the hands of regular folks, but if you visit macidol.com you’ll see that it doesn’t turn them into stars. It still takes talent, and one role that record companies have always played is that of talent scout. I know what you’re thinking. “These guys don’t care about talent, only making money.” That may be true to a point, but remember that music is subjective and there’s no such thing as “good” or “bad” except within the realm of one’s own personal taste. Besides that, you can hate Brittany Spears all you want (I know I do) but to say she’s not talented doesn’t give credit where credit’s due. I don’t like any aspect of her music but it does take talent to do it. I’ve been a musician for 24 years, and been playing in clubs for 11 years, but I couldn’t do what she does. The point is, there has to be some kind of gatekeeper. In a perfect world the gatekeeper would be searching for anyone who was truly talented, not just those who show a huge potential for making money. There are many gifted musicians who never get heard because they don’t have the right look, sound, whatever, and that’s a shame. Still, Apple would either have to put just anyone’s music on iTMS or build a whole division to become a record company.

    That brings me to my next point. It’s possible that doing something like that would be in direct violation of their agreement with Apple Corps. Distributing music is one thing, but actually becoming a music producer is something altogether different.

    I think the recording industry is at the very beginning of a revolution. As a semi-professional musician, I can tell you that cutting out the middle-man would be great, and it should be possible now that recording equipment is becoming so affordable. All artists would really need from record companies is promotion, and that model will change as well. It’s going to take time though, it won’t happen overnight. People need to keep in mind that iTMS hasn’t even been up a year yet. I can see this type of thing happening in the next 5 to 10 years, but I question what Apple’s role in this should be.

  4. Corporate music companies follow production formulas where music is made like Dell computer – a product of accounting and advertising rather than art. Music is created by a bunch of creatively void clones (kinda like a Dell). The general population can be easily brainwashed into wanting whatever is continuously advertised and promoted on MTV and radio. This system has served them well for the last 30 years. The music companies used to be operated by musicians who could differentiate credible talent and the music of the 50’s and 60’s. The internet could be an incredible venue for the undiscovered talent that does not fit into the music factory mold. Ultimately there arre too many wanna be stars to wade through and some “authority” is required to filter the material for the audience. It is time for a real change.

  5. I don’t like the idea of Apple recruiting unsigned artists. Let someone else discover the talent and bring it to Apple.

    If Apple were to take on that role, every garage band would consider it Apple’s “responsibility” to promote them. If Apple agreed to host the music files without providing any promotion, how would that benefit Apple? It would clog up iTMS with a bunch of crap that no one is looking for. I hope Apple only accepts music that is already being promoted or handled in some professional way, otherwise iTMS will turn into a Google.

    Not that Google is bad, it’s just that we already have one ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” /> Have you noticed that “Personal Home Pages” is the biggest category on Google, and that pages in that category never come up in searches? They almost aren’t worth cataloging. It would be the same for garage music on iTMS.

    Google will automatically catalog your home page only if several other cataloged pages link to it. That is, in effect, a measure of popularity and promotion. If you have to tell Google about your home page and request that it be cataloged, it almost surely will never pop up in a search.

    Okay, the analogy isn’t perfect, but you get my point.

  6. This is where Apple Corps would REALLY be sueing Apple Computer!!

    That’s why they can’t do this…

    They (Apple Computer) cannot become a music label of any kind.

  7. a follow-on from Jack’s comment

    “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench,
    a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free,
    and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

    Hunter S. Thompson

  8. All I know is that Apple does need to start aggressively expand it’s musical selection now that more and more competition is headed its way. I put together a list of 50 songs that I wanted to add to my collection and after searching iTunes, I was able to only cross off 4 songs. I’m willing and wanting to set up a monthly allowance in iTunes for myself, but it makes no sense when I can’t get much of what I want at the moment.

  9. This article fails to mention that Apple, as part of its deal with Apple Music (of Beatles fame) cannot enter into the music business.

    It’s already being sued by Apple Music over iTunes/iPod. Becoming a music production company would be in clear violation of the deal and Apple would be sued in court and lose.

    Too bad, though– this is exactly what the music industry needs. If Apple did start recording music, they could easily break new bands by promoting them on iTunes and selling the songs for far less than 99 cents while still making a profit off of them.

  10. JJ“They (Apple Computer) cannot become a music label of any kind.”

    Too right. But what is to stop Steve Jobs personally starting one, with the understanding that all music would be distributed via iTMS?

  11. For better and worse we need middlemen to scout talent. And big faceless, Godless, uptight, corporate, fortune 500 killing machine korporations to advance money and make services available to new talent.
    Garage Band isn’t enough. $50,000 worth of recording equipment in your attic isn’t enough. You also need people like Brian Eno and George Martin, and world class recording engineers. Among other things. I’m a photographer repesented by a New York agency that sells my images around the world. I do the creative (fun) part. They put up the web pages, distribute CDs, catalogs, have offices all over the world, sales people, accounting departments, etc. I DON’T WANT to do all that stuff. So they take their cut. They are picky about who they rep because they want a quality product that their customers will return to. Is Apple going to sit through hundreds, THOUSANDS of demo cds? Are you? I happen to personally know A&R guys from huge recording companies, and they love to find talent and break new bands. There is no nirvanah where these guys get cut out completely, and the music is cheaper and the artists make more.

    (this continued in next post)

  12. (continued)

    And for the guy who said “The general population can be easily brainwashed into wanting whatever is continuously advertised and promoted on MTV and radio”. You sir are wrong, or there would only be hit records, movies, books, etc.
    EASILY BRAINWASHED? The reason that a lot of bad music is out there is because the record companies are getting alot better at guessing the taste of the general public.. which is not good.
    Sorry, we need the middlemen. As gatekeepers and for the cash. Oh sure, inevitably some flukes will happen when a bunch of musicians record something on a MAC and it becomes a huge hit. Count on it. But it will be a fluke, an anecdote, in popular music history. And then forever re-iterated as proof, PROOF that we don’t need Sony or BMG. Up and coming recording artists HATE it when I talk like this. Because they aren’t signed at the moment, and hope they can produce a CD, have Apple put it on their website, and BINGO they are rich. If you go to the ITMS ‘home page’ they have different artists being promoted by the nature of their placement there. So let’s say, hypothetically, Apple DOES put a ‘new talent’ section on the ITMS. The next thing will be people bitching that “APPLE promotes the new U2 music on the home page, but the young fresh indie or unsigned talent is relegated to the dusty back shelves of ITMS, is that FAIR?” Then Apple, for all it’s work, will be a villian. Somewhere along the line you need middlemen that you make FILTHY RICH because they are not doing it for the fun of making music. They have hard, grinding, boring jobs to do. And if they are going to risk enormous amounts of money, they expect to hit the jackpot from time to time. Only 5% of bands make money for anyone in the long run, which is another reason why CDs cost a lot. You are compensating for the money losing bands. These are the facts of life.


  13. iPhoto has a Web Album feature, where your album is automatically posted to your .Mac account as a webpage. Could such a feature be added to GarageBand? Giving away music would not violate the agreement with Apple Music, and it would be a convenient way for talent scouts to look for talent–by browsing a .Mac site. Perhaps a category like “.Mac Music” could be added to iTunes–free listening to GarageBand posts.

    If such a thing comes to pass, it wouldn’t be long before another company (unrestricted by Apple Music) would create a GarageBand for pay site. Apple could add to GarageBand automatic posting to that site, and add to iTunes a category that browses it. This would have the same effect, but Apple wouldn’t be in the business of hosting songs for every dreaming accordion player in America.


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