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Apple Inc. reportedly is pushing major record companies to offer their newest releases digitally through the iTunes store for a period of exclusivity before making them available via streaming services or as physical CDs sold in stores or online.

According to the Chicago Tribune story, "Apple executives contend that on-demand music services have begun to cannibalize download sales, and its representatives are demanding the labels create a period reserved for digital purchasing.

"Music industry insiders, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from the industry's dominant retailer, said Apple's push for a new release window — similar to the one that some Hollywood studios impose for films newly released for home viewing — shows the Cupertino, Calif., tech giant is scrambling to retain its competitive advantage in an evolving digital music market."

The story notes that "Apple's iTunes online store accounts for about 80% of all download sales in the U.S. But after a decade of uninterrupted growth domestically, digital song and album sales began to slump in 2013 and continued to slide this year." A bright spot for Apple last year came when Beyonce released a studio album exclusively through iTunes last December, though it was a move not without controversy - it "also provoked a backlash from retailers Target and, which refused to carry the CD when it was released."
KC's View:
This is an interesting story, not least because can you imagine how Apple would react if the record companies decided to give the likes of Walmart and Target and Amazon an exclusivity on records by allowing them to sell physical versions for a period of time before making them available digitally? Not well, I expect .. but then again, when you have changed and dominated an industry to the extent that Apple has changed and dominated the music business, you get to make greater demands.

The broader lesson that every retailer needs to learn, I think, is the importance of having products and services that are unique, that provide differential advantages, that are not identical to what the guy across the street or down the road is selling. And the secret sauce, I think, comes when a retailer can combine those unique products and services with the ways in which they define each of its customers as being unique entities, thereby creating a far more sustainable and compelling connectivity. If you have the same products and services as everybody else and treat all of your shoppers as if they were the same as everybody else, you risk getting this lowest-common-denominator business model that is entirely undifferentiated, and therefore at risk.