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Just A Thought
by Vern Seward

Are iTMS Rankings Becoming Important?
January 23rd, 2004

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

The Times They Are A-Changin', Bob Dylan

It seems Mr. Dylan was a prophet as well as a poet; times are certainly changing in the music industry. One of the latest indicators of that change comes from an innocuous little press release posted at eMedia concerning a new album from pianist, Laura Sullivan.

Pianoscapes for the Trails of North America debuted today in the Apple iTunes Music Store at #5, a very strong Top 100 Albums debut. Featured by Apple on the front page of the store for the quality of music and committment to her music, Sullivan's new release of Contemporary Instrumental music is quickly finding a wide and enthusiastic audience. Each song on the album is dedicated to a National Scenic Trail, such as the Appalachian, the Pacific Crest and the Continental Divide and A portion of the proceeds of the CD will support the National Arbor Day Foundation in their tree planting programs.

Composer Laura Sullivan is the latest artist to successfully emerge from the same stream of music as George Winston, Will Ackerman, David Lanz and Liz Story. "A strong and passionate pianist, Laura Sullivan brings a distinctive new voice to contemporary piano." Kathy Parsons, Solo Piano Publications.

Stop by eMedia for the complete press release.

What's interesting about this press release is that it takes the album's popularity on iTMS as something to crow about. To be sure, I think that it is news that Ms. Sullivan's new album is doing so well, but what's really the news here is that Delvian Records, the record label that produced Ms. Sullivan's new album, thinks that the album's position in iTMS is news.

When CDs are released, there are all sorts of charts and indicators that give record companies some idea of how well the new release is doing. Everything is tracked; how often a single from the new album is aired, how often it is requested, and, of course, how many CDs are sold in a given time period. It's how the music industry determines which song belongs in the top 10, and which album is a platinum seller.

But that's old school, when records and CDs were exclusively sold in stores. When the Internet came along, music was still sold in discreet CD 'packets', but the Web offered other indicators of how well an album did by tracking sales from web-based distributors like Amazon.com, and by how interested the public was in a certain artist by tracking the number of hits on that artist's Web site.

Now along comes the iTunes Music Store. People can now directly purchase and download albums as soon as they are released. If people like the album then it gets downloaded more often. What better indicator of an album's popularity?

As more music appears on services like iTMS, especially new music, how that music ranks in sales on iTMS will become as important as an album's position on a Billboard's listing, and that's putting Apple into some really interesting territory. Artists can easily see the benefit of posting music on iTMS; it's an instant gauge of an album or song's marketing potential, so artists may start to insist on having music listed on iTMS. This, in turn, makes iTMS more popular, which, in turn, makes iTMS more important to artists and record labels. For Apple, who claims that iTMS exists primarily to sell iPods, all of this is nothing but good news.

What is for sure is that iTMS ranking likely won't supplant Billboard's tradtional Top 20 Listing anytime soon, but it is certainly an indicator that change is in the air in the music industry, and Apple has found itself at the center of that change.

is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

You can send your comments directly to me, or you can also post your comments below.

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