iTuned in

A few months back I mused wistfully about the prospect of iTunes for sg - heavy on the wistful since I don’t really think that will ever happen even if it does make me giddy just thinking about it. No, what’s more likely is that iTunes and few smart record labels will figure out the benefits of plugging sg into iTunes. And perhaps we’re seeing the beginnings of that with SSQ’s new Christmas project available in full on iTunes (I’m not at all shocked that EHSSQ is out front on this … they really seem to be making a concerted effort to use new media fully, as evidenced, for example, by their extensive and regular use of video clips online). It’s not the first sg stuff to be on iTunes, but the existing selection is spotty enough that EHSSQ’s presence there is still worth mentioning as a major find (assuming you realize that sg Christmas projects are, like SSQ’s, very lite on the sg). Which is to say, the sg selections currently on iTunes do not constitute a serious offering for serious sg fans. A quick spin through iTunes this morning, and - not surprisingly - I discovered that iTunes thinks sg = Gaither, so pretty much the only groups or performers with stuff on iTunes are those who have recorded music with Gaither: SSQ, Easters, Mark Lowry, Cathedrals, Martins (I assume that Gaither connections are what got SSQ’s holiday project on iTunes even though the recording is not specifically related to any Homecoming product). The only non-Gaither related sg I found was one tune by the old LeFevres (”Old Gospel Ship”) and a Rambos retrospective project, but I’m almost positive the Rambos are there because of Dottie Rambo’s far-reaching influence on American music as a songwriter and not anything specifically related to sg. I’m even more convinced this is true because the Rambos collection was classified as “Inspirational.” (Classification, in fact, is one big problem with iTunes, especially as it relates to sg. SSQ’s Christmas project is listed primarily as “holiday” music, but is not cross-listed with gospel, much less southern gospel, nor is the Rambos collection cross-listed.)This issue of selection, in turn, raises the question of how tunes become iTunes. From what I can gather, the iTunes store is stocked by a group of editors at Apple working in conjunction with record companies, who can petition Apple editors and submit their songs to the iTunes editorial staff for inclusion in the iTunes store. Certainly, the selection of sg on iTunes is so paltry right now that just getting the artists and groups on major sg labels into iTunes would be a huge accomplishment. But beyond that, iTunes has responded to the healthy criticism leveled at the online store that its original setup unfairly privileged big labels and so simply replicated on the internet the pre-existing and ever narrower musical choices in brick-and-mortar stores under the sway of major music labels. According to the iTunes watchdog site,, “Apple, which had previously indicated that [it] would only allow artists signed to record labels to offer music on iTunes, has recently begun including music from CD Baby. CD Baby allows any artist to join their service and takes a very small cut from each song.” Of course I’m getting way ahead of myself here, but I offer this bit as a way of suggesting that the iTunes infrastructure is thoroughly capable of dealing with the varying degrees of sophistication in distribution that exist in sg. The real trick, of course, is familiarizing iTunes editors and executives with the too-often hidden universe of sg. Familiarizing sg to mainstream music execs and stringpullers seems like a logical thing for the big sg labels to do, what with their corporate connections to parent companies iTunes would pay attention to, and all. So go forth and familiarize.

Addendum: I confess to being pretty baldly self-interested in my stance toward iTunes. My opinion of it tends to rise and fall proportionally with the number of tunes I want that I can or cannot find on iTunes. But I would be remiss if I did not at least gesture toward the raging debate surrounding music sales, distribution, and online music content provision. As a way of suggesting the issues involved (issues that have very real and direct impact on the lives of musicians, songwriters, and performers), I highly recommend the site I referred to above. It is well sourced and, even if you don’t agree with the site’s position (which is highly critical of iTunes), you will likely learn a lot by the questions and information laid out in the discussion there.

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