Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Brian McKinney of Chocolate Lab on the iTunes LP

Posted By on 10.14.09 at 05:57 PM

Brian McKinney, head of local label Chocolate Lab Records, set off a storm of nerd rage a few days ago when gadget blog Gizmodo ran a post in which he said that a rep for Apple had told him that the company charges a $10,000 fee to labels releasing albums in the new iTunes LP format. This claim managed to piss off Apple fanboys and Apple haters alike, as well as supporters of independent music. If it turned out to be true, most indie labels would be priced out of the format—which actually seems to have the potential to be cool—by the up-front costs.

Fortunately, it looks like the nerds can chill about this one, at least for now. After the Gizmodo story made the rounds, Apple announced that they will be "releasing the open specs for iTunes LP soon" and assured the public that there is no fee for labels submitting iTunes LPs for sale.

Today I e-mailed McKinney asking how things have gone since his story blew up:

Have you heard anything from Apple regarding this decision? Or at all?

Since the original Gizmodo story ran, I haven't received any word from Apple or any Apple employees. There has been some follow-up on some of the tech Web sites that were covering the story, and it looks like someone at Apple denied the claims. I don't know who that was or what their position is with Apple. I just want to reiterate that I wasn't making up a story. I tried to go through my channels to Apple and iTunes to try and get information on how we could submit an LP, and that was the response that I got.

And how do you feel about the development?

If the statements from Apple are true and the iTunes LP doesn't have a large production fee and will be open to indies soon, then I'm very excited. I never felt like I was trying to go after Apple, but rather I was trying to do my civic duty and speak out against something that I thought was wrong; I always maintained that I love Apple, hate exclusion.

Do you feel like you're responsible for bringing this change about?

I definitely don't want to stake any claims as to whether or not I affected Apple's policies or business plans, but I definitely feel responsible for bringing some clarity to the situation. Just last week most people thought that iTunes LPs were only available to the elite of the recording world, and it looks like that isn't the case. The press is in place so that the few can provide information to the many and be a catalyst for change. Seems like it worked this time. It was never about me trying to put myself or my label in the spotlight—and a few people have insinuated that, which bothers me a lot. Though mostly on Apple fan sites, so I can't take it too seriously.

And are you still hoping to release an iTunes LP? Has this experience changed your feelings about Apple?

I always knew that iTunes LPs were built with HTML and JavaScript, which is pretty simple code for most Web designers. The problem was this alleged barrier of selling the format through the iTunes store. I've recently seen some homemade iTunes LPs and [played] them in iTunes, so knowing that it's possible, we will definitely look into offering LPs in the future. I don't agree with the added cost of $5 or so for LPs, but maybe those will be negotiable between labels and iTunes. Only time will tell. With these new statements coming from Apple, I'm ready to eat some humble pie. I did send an e-mail to an Apple representative this morning to personally explain my position and apologize for any misinformation I may have circulated. I hope I didn't hurt my relationship with iTunes, as I appreciate being able to sell our music through them and hope to have artists featured on their "Single of the Day" in the future. It's a huge bridge to burn for a label like ours. But on the other hand, I made sure they knew that I was not ashamed for trying to make a difference when I saw something that didn't look right. It's common knowledge that Steve Jobs was involved with singer-activist Joan Baez in the 80s, so surely Apple can cut me some slack, right?

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