If you can’t Beats them, buy them

The month-long iTunes music festival could be a game-changer

Electric Picnic has come and gone, but it not's quite all over yet for the year's music festivals: iTunes is currently staging its month-long extravaganza in London's Roundhouse Theatre and streaming it to more than 100 countries.

Two major events will take place during iTunes Festival. One is the launch of the super-dooper new IPhone 6, which is expected to come preloaded with The Beats headphones music app (Apple bought Beats for $3 billion earlier this year). The other is whichever big names will fill the September 19 and September slots. The smart money is going on Adele for the former and an outside bet on U2 for the latter – both have new albums they want to get out early in Q4.

With a line-up that includes Deadmau5, Calvin Klein, Sam Smith, Pharrell Williams, Paulo Nutini, Jesse J, Mary J Blige and Ed Sheeran, there's something for most everyone in the iTunes audience. The Roundhouse only holds 2,000, but iTunes has linked up with Live Nation to stream all the shows globally.

Next Tuesday, hours before Sam Smith takes to the stage of The Roundhouse, Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine will be in Cupertino to do the shill for the iPhone 6. If the new device does indeed come with Beats, it will have major impact on the music streaming service. iPhone 6 is predicted to shift 10 million units in the first three days of sales and 50 million sold by the end of the year.


Apple's digital musical supply chain has been severely battered by Spotify and YouTube. Apple didn't pay $3 billion for Beats because it's a great way to hear music (in fact, it isn't), but for Dre and Iovine's considerable musical expertise and the "coolness" of the Beats brand.

It all comes together nicely for Apple this month. The primary value of the iTunes fest is that artists use the globally streamed shows to announce their new albums, which is sure a lot easier than a traditional territory-by-territory marketing spend).

During past iTunes beanos, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Arctic Monkeys and Avicii all used their iTunes shows to plug their new albums. Adele will release in September; if, as a company, you've just spent $3 billion on a new way to hear music over your phone, then, of all the artists in the world, you'd want the new Adele album to showcase your flashy new sound.

It’s an open secret that Apple has been increasingly working with major labels to sync important new album releases. It’s ironic that, post-Napster, Apple was often accused of “killing” the album due to opening up all the tracks as individual downloads (meaning people don’t buy too many albums over iTunes – they just pay for the three best songs on it). But as the cliché goes: content is king. And with labels only making money from album sales (singles are usually a loss-leader), Apple has had to take one step back to the album to go one step forward with its preloading of Beats.

By the evening of September 19th, we should know an awful lot more.