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Apple Pushing for Exclusive iTunes Releases


First published on http://www.theledger.com/

Apple Inc. has begun pressuring the major record companies to offer new releases exclusively through its iTunes store — a move that would initially block availability on streaming services such as Spotify or Beats Music, according to several people familiar with the matter.

Apple executives contend that on-demand music services have begun to cannibalize download sales, and its representatives are demanding the labels create a period reserved for digital purchasing.

Music industry insiders, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from the industry’s dominant retailer, said Apple’s push for a new release window — similar to the one that some Hollywood studios impose for films newly released for home viewing — shows the Cupertino, Calif., tech giant is scrambling to retain its competitive advantage in an evolving digital music market.

“These are really changing times, and I think everybody’s going to be trying different things, whether it’s iTunes, Spotify or the labels,” said Irving Azoff, manager of the Eagles, Christina Aguilera and other acts. “It’s kind of up for grabs.”

Apple’s iTunes online store accounts for about 80 percent of all download sales in the U.S. But after a decade of uninterrupted growth domestically, digital song and album sales began to slump in 2013 and continued to slide this year.

Song downloads were down 12 percent through the first eight weeks of this year compared with a year earlier, and digital album sales were off 13 percent, according to data from Nielsen SoundScan.

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