iTunes LP

Is Apple charging the big record labels $10,000 to create iTunes LP packages for them, and outright refusing to make the service available to the indies? That's the allegation Gizmodo brought forward, based on a conversation with one such indie, who heard it from their labels digital distribution manager. Further, when speaking to their iTunes rep, he was told Apple isn't offering them to indies.

Enter internet brouhaha. Some sites are calling the $10,000 fee exorbitant, and the lockout of indies untenable. Other sites are pointing out how much good quality interactive web development costs, and highlighting that Apple has only rolled out 12 iTunes LP's so far.

Here's the thing: when Apple announced iTunes LP, despite the fact that they're using the fairly open WebKit framework to make it, they didn't announce the specific TuneKit implementation as an open format, they didn't announce an SDK, and they didn't say they were offering it to every artist immediately.

It looks to us like this is just a case of Apple being Apple. iTunes LP is an experiment, clearly near-and-dear to them from Steve Jobs on down, and they're starting with a few, select albums and trying to provide as premium and experience as possible. That kind of development work isn't cheap, especially when you want to keep the numbers low at first, and it also means it isn't open to everyone. Heck, it only even works on iTunes on your Windows or Mac PC at this point!

If they're still nailing down the format specs, creating the development tools, and getting to set to roll out versions that will work with iPods, iPhones, and mythical, still unreleased Apple TV and iTablet devices, then this makes the kind of sense that does. And we're guessing, when the dust settles and all the above is in place, Apple will open up iTunes LP and roll the format out wide, even to indies, because it will do what Apple really intends iTunes to do -- help sell Apple hardware.