You might have noticed that every music blog in the world and half of its tech blogs are linking to Daft Punk’s iTunes page right now. As one example, Gorilla vs. Bear’s post simply includes an image, a video, and the words: “It’s here. Listen now at iTunes.” If you make the jump from any of these non-critical, “listen to this thing right now”-style posts to iTunes, you can indeed stream all of the French electronic duo’s latest album, Random Access Memories.
For some bands, premiering an album on Pitchfork is pretty much the best thing that can happen — even after the same publication turns around and gives the same “sought after” record a horrible rating a week later. For others, NPR has become a surprisingly effective tastemaker with its own line of album premieres from famous and/or culturally-significant music-makers.
However, Apple, and for that matter, Amazon and other stores make a lot more sense for album premieres, as Daft Punk is currently demonstrating (its album has risen to #4 on the iTunes chart a week before it even ships).
First of all, Apple doesn’t care whether the album is good or bad. No criticism! Perfect.
Pitchfork readers or NPR listeners still might decide whether to wait for the official review before they decide whether to like an album or not, because those publications also post professional music criticism — or, they might decide to maybe buy the album later, then forget about it. Daft Punk’s listeners this week, on the other hand, are already right there in iTunes — not even the web version, but the actual software itself — and chances are, iTunes already has their credit card information.
Premiering an album free stream in iTunes is a brilliant move for a band on Daft Punk’s level, because it reduces friction and criticism, and puts the fans on the buying page at the exact moment when they are all excited about hearing the record for the first time.
Not only that, but all of these links, which are seriously on just about any music, tech, or culture blog right now, will remain intact long after iTunes stops this free stream, which could happen at any time (probably the moment the album goes on sale next Tuesday, or Monday in the UK). They will live on for years, drawing curious listeners of the future to — where else — the iTunes purchase page for the record, which will then have only short samples of the songs, and of course the “buy” button.
This is the most high-profile pre-release album stream (the album comes out next week) in recent memory, but it’s not the first. Apple officially announced that it had been streaming pre-release albums for free last October, and we expect to see more of it in the future. It’s good for iTunes and good for Daft Punk.
ITunes’ value as an exclusive, pre-release album-streaming promotional resource could even be playing into the discussions, reportedly stalled, between Apple and record labels, in which Apple is reportedly seeking to pay lower royalties than Pandora does. Slacker Radio also pays a lower rate, and in return, probably has to occasionally promote a track here and there that it might not otherwise promote, although we don’t have confirmation of that, just basic logic.
Apple’s iTunes, on the other hand, still has plenty of muscle as a retailer, and that means more leverage. For all the talk about the “music cloud” killing off downloads here and elsewhere, let’s not forget that iTunes is still the biggest, most powerful music store in the world, of any kind. Its Daft Punk stream is pretty much winning the internets right now, and that can only help the company argue to the labels that putting an internet radio feature right next to those buy buttons could have a similar effect to these free album streams, thereby justifying a lower royalty rate.
Anyway, you can stream the new Daft Punk album on iTunes, for free, in its entirety. Take a listen.
Image courtesy of Daft Punk