You’ve heard me go on and on about iTunes before, but I’m curious to know how it can further turn the music industry upside down.
Today Relevant magazine pointed out that Switchfoot’s song “Meant to Live” was up to #23 on the iTunes Top 100 Songs chart. Last I checked it was up to #22. Switchfoot’s recent appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno certainly helped, as well as the fact that their latest album, The Beautiful Letdown (Amazon.com), has gone platinum.
But what’s really curious is the place of Christian music on iTunes. While Switchfoot is scoring high on the top songs list, the best they can manage on the inspirational charts is #35 with “Learning to Breathe” from the 2000 album of the same name. That’s because The Beautiful Letdown is classified as “rock” while their other albums are classified as “inspirational.”
The other oddity is that new music is not king. The Billboard charts usually tell us the best-selling albums, but it’s rare that an older album would make it on the charts. Yet iTunes top album charts lists albums like Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ Greatest Hits from 1993 at #51, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon from 1973 at #56, and U2’s Joshua Tree from 1987 at #93.
The iTunes format is encouraging people to explore older music, enabling old albums to compete and beat brand new albums. The backlist is king. What are the record companies complaining about?
Though it’s interesting to note that individual songs are another story. The oldest song in the top 100 is from 1997 (the Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony”) and 96 of the top 100 songs are from 2002 or sooner.
The ability to buy individual songs or complete albums is the most unique feature of iTunes, and it’s interesting to see what that does. The only repeat on the lists of top 10 songs and albums is Maroon 5 with “This Love” and Songs About Jane.
The other unique factor is that iTunes is an incredibly cheap delivery system. I wonder how long it will be before record companies take advantage of this and start releasing review copies of albums through iTunes. I have to imagine that the distribution cost of iTunes would be cheaper than writing off a full album package or even burning extra minimally packaged review copies as many record companies do, not to mention the postage involved. It seems like the music would be better protected as well.
The music industry is changing before our eyes.