Last week, Billboard’s Shirley Halperin and Ed Christman published a story on Apple’s rumored plans for a new music streaming service. A paragraph from the piece stood out to me:
Other clues suggest a major scrub to the iTunes store, which will rid itself of thousands of titles including soundalikes and certain covers, all at Apple’s discretion, say insiders. Moreover, the disallowed music includes artist rerecordings, favoring original or best-of versions and, critics contend, the major labels that retain those rights. Additionally, featured-artist sliders, previously chosen editorially, may now be determined by sales velocity, leaving some to wonder if iTunes is becoming less like a Tower Records and more of a Target – limited selection and a focus on hit titles. “Until now, iTunes has been good to the indies,” contends one vet. Conversely, an Apple source says such case-by-case house-cleaning to eliminate duplicative and deceptive versions is routine.
The “scrub” to the iTunes Store has been previously reported, and, as Halperin and Christman note, it has, to an extent, been performed in the past as well.
I have, however, a hard time believing Apple will transform featured recommendations into Top Charts-like carousels determined by “sales velocity”. The company has traditionally taken a lot of a pride in its editorial curation with sections refreshed on a weekly basis and highlighted on the front page of iTunes. They bought Beats Music last year, which included an in-house editorial team of music curators and critics. And, they recently hired Zane Lowe, well known for his excellent taste in emerging artists and classic albums. If Apple is indeed planning to abandon editorially curated sections on the iTunes Store, all signs point to the contrary.