Warner kills Estelle by pulling songs from Apple’s iTunes Store in attempt to force album sales

“British R&B star Estelle has seen her single American Boy plummet down the US chart after her latest album, Shine, was taken off iTunes in the States,” BBC News reports.

“Record label Warner made the move to force fans to buy the whole album, not just individual songs, reports said,” The Beeb reports. “Single American Boy, featuring Kanye West, was a UK number one in March.”

“It was in the iTunes top 10 in the US before its removal. It was also at 11 on the official Billboard singles chart – but has now dropped to number 37,” The Beeb reports. “The song has also fallen from number six to 59 on the Billboard download chart.”

“Meanwhile, Shine, which is nominated for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize in the UK, has dropped to number 159 on the Billboard album rundown,” The Beeb reports.

“She is signed to the same label as Kid Rock, who insisted that his hit single All Summer Long and album Rock ‘n’ Roll Jesus were kept off iTunes in the US,” The Beeb reports. “But the album still reached number one, selling 1.7 million copies.”

“That has led Warner to explore whether fans of other artists could be persuaded to buy the whole album, according to the the Wall Street Journal,” The Beeb reports. “That is more lucrative to labels and artists than if just a few songs were picked to download from iTunes, which does not allow albums to be sold only in whole.”

The Beeb reports, “A Warner spokesman told the paper the removal of Shine from iTunes was part of a broad range of strategies ‘uniquely tailored to each artist and their fanbase in an effort to optimise revenues and promote long-term artist development,'”

Full article here.

Translation of Warner’s statement from Bullshitese to English:

The removal of “Shine” from iTunes Store was part of a broad range of strategies whereby we use Apple’s store to identify currently popular songs, then immediately pull them and attempt to force bundle sales of artificial constructs that we like to call “albums” in order to couch the bundling process within a term that we’ve conditioned the public to believe is “art.”

We hope to get much more cash for blow by forcing people to pay 10 times what they would’ve for the song they like by bundling 10 or so filler songs that nobody was buying anyway; like the good ol’ CD days of the 80s and 90s. Hey, it worked for Kid Rock. We think. Unless we forced so many free downloads via P2P that we actually screwed ourselves while also waking up the few remaining people who didn’t realize that we are greedy, devious scumbags who think we’re smarter than our customers and who could give a rat’s ass about fans, artists or anything else that doesn’t offer the possibility of adding more cash to our own pockets.

We hope people don’t begin to believe that it’s perfectly okay for them to “steal” from extortionist scumbags or we’ll be even more screwed than we are now, if that’s even possible.


  1. “Almost right MDN, but I wouldn’t always refer to albums as being ‘artificial constructs’. Case in point, Pink Floyd’s The Wall is a better experience if you listen to the whole album rather than just the singles.”

    the .07% of all albums that work that way just don’t add up to a case for the rest of them. let it go, MDN is right on this one……

  2. @Alasdair Scott
    Yes, but Pink Floyd is a classic where as Estelle is not. The tradition of the album storyline is long dead. It was practiced in its largest form during the 70’s and petered out in the early 80’s when MTV came along. You just can’t follow that format anymore with today’s consumer, and this is MDN’s point: consumers don’t want to spend money on a whole album of crap!

    I think that this gives Estelle grounds for breach of contract (hopefully — since I do not have access to it for review) since Warner music has completely botched her promotion and sales.

  3. Then why is it I had to buy the whole album to get “American Pie” by Don McClean?

    You can force the purchase of a whole album on the iTunes store if you want. American Pie is a perfect example of that.

    So the truth is it’s NOT the reason Warner is pulling the music. What else could it possibly be? Oh I don’t know. Could it be…


    Warner is just another lame music label who wants to demonize Apple for making a model of efficiency that they don’t control to squeeze the last drop of blood from the turnip.

    I’d buy Kid Rock’s and Estelle’s albums used to get the music without letting the greedy Warner get a penny of my money. But their music sucks. So I don’t have to worry about it.

  4. Hey, sometimes you gotta chop off your nose to spite your face. Why?

    Well, storage space and screen size on the new Dell music player is going to be rather small. Faces without noses will fit much better.

  5. Yet at the same time Nokia are set to launch a phone which as part of the price of the phone allows you to download – and keep – unlimited music for a year. The music companies are willing to turn down identifiable sales for real money in exchange for a sytem that will be used by few and likely “abused” by most who do.

  6. Maybe this is Warner’s way of sticking it to iTunes. They are selectively pulling top singles from new artists who have signed away this control to Warner, and using this as a bargaining chip to force iTunes to work a deal whereyby Warner gets a larger cut of new songs that are climbing the charts. Or they may just be a bunch of jackasses.

  7. Like someone else pointed out, if the “album” is an organic whole, perfectly calibrated, finely tuned work of art which can’t be violated by the abomination of singles, then why do the record companies allow the radio stations to play singles and not force them to play the whole album, uninterrupted?

    Thot so.

  8. The other thing is that Apple has already set the agenda.

    If the songs stay on iTunes, Apple wins.
    If the songs come from a CD, Apple wins.
    If the songs come from Amazon, Apple wins.

    All Apple wanted to do with iTMS is make sure that
    1. Mac/iPod owners had plenty of content
    2. No one else set the DRM-agenda (Thank God, we aren’t dependent on Real or MS for DRM!)
    3. iPod users had a seamless, hasslefree experience.

    No matter what happens, Apple still sells gobs of iPods, iPhones, and just about any content can be synced to those devices.

    Warner’s puny, little tactical victories are meaningless. Like one of those Japanese soldiers who had complete domination of a Pacific island—too bad it was already 1952 and the poor guy was living in rags and starving to death.

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