R&B producer Jermaine Dupri is pissed that Apple allows customers to purchase songs individually from its iTunes music store:
Soulja Boy sold almost 4 million singles and only 300,000 albums! We let the consumer have too much of what they want, too soon, and we hurt ourselves. Back in the day when people were excited about a record coming out we’d put out a single to get the ball going and if we sold a lot of singles that was an indication we’d sell a lot of albums. But we’d cut the single off a few weeks before the album came out to get people to wait and let the excitement build. When I put out Kris Kross we did that. We sold two million singles, then we stopped. Eventually we sold eight million albums!
Did consumers complain? Maybe so. But at what point does any business care when a consumer complains about the money? Why do people not care how we – the people who make music – eat? If they just want the single, they gotta get the album. That was how life was. Today we should at least have that option.
I love the fact that he uses Kris Kross as his example. That album is exactly the reason why people don’t value albums. One great single and a bunch of mediocre filler. (Actually, Totally Krossed Out had three good songs: “Jump,” “Warm It Up,” and “Lil Boys in Da Hood,” but the rest was pointless.)
When are the major labels going to realize that you cannot force your customers to buy stuff they don’t want in a way that’s not how they want it? There’s nothing preventing iTunes users from purchasing whole albums. In fact, there’s a financial incentive to do so: albums cost $9.99, so as long as the album has more than ten songs, you’re getting a deal! Woo hoo.
More than that, though, is the fact that Apple figured out a way to sell people digital music. As of July 2007, they have sold three billion songs. At 65 cents per song paid out, that’s two billion dollars into the music industry that they wouldn’t have made without Apple.
One more thing, Dupri claims that businesses like MTV, BET and iTunes “exist solely because of our music.” That might be true. Unfortunately, your customers don’t want to buy the bulk of what you’re producing. They just want the singles. And you want to refuse to sell them what they want? Good luck with that business model, buddy.
And remember, Apple will do just fine even if all the major labels pull out of iTunes because it makes its money selling hardware, not music (despite the fact that its the third largest music retailer in the country). Steve Jobs admitted that customers purchased only “22 songs…from the iTunes store for each iPod ever sold.” Clearly, Apple doesn’t need to sell music in order to sell iPods.
Previously: Baby Got Backwards: One man’s tribute to Kris Kross (2002).
YouTube: Kris Kross – “Jump”