It is interesting to note that in an announcement today from Apple on its iTunes Store launching in 56 new international territories, the tech company named only four countries -- Russia, Turkey, India and South Africa. Nowhere in the news release was there a word about Burkina-Faso, Kenya, the United Arab Emirates or Mauritius and the many other countries where new iTunes Store is also launching -- which begs the question, why?
That can bet be answered in two words: market share. According to the most recent International Federation of the Phonographic Industry's (IFPI) 2011 Recording Industry in Numbers Report, India is ranked 16th in terms of its total global music market share while South Africa comes in at 20th, Russia is at 23rd, and Turkey is 26th. Which when you consider there are some 196 countries in the world, these nations rank in the top 15% of the world's music market share.
But what of the other fifty-two countries launching iTunes? Not a single one made the IFPI's latest Country Data Index. None -- not Egypt, not Nigeria, not even Indonesia (the country with the world's fourth-largest population) ranked above Estonia, the IFPI's lowest ranked global music market which had a share of less than 1% (which isn't bad when you consider only 21 of the 58 IFPI's ranked countries have a music market share at or larger than 1%).
In some ways Apple's announcement is analogous to George W. Bush's Coalition of the Willing, the alliance of countries who supported the U.S.'s war effort in Iraq. Sure, both entities have/had their share of powerful partnerships: iTunes is available in the world's biggest music markets (Japan, Germany, the UK, France and Australia -- the largest after the U.S.); and the Coalition of the Willing had strong and/or active partners (the U.K., Japan, Poland, Italy, Australia and South Korea among them). But the Coalition's numbers also included a large number of countries not known for their military might while Apple's latest slate of iTunes Stores includes countries with miniscule global music market shares. In fact, some of the very same nations show up on both the lists, including Azerbaijan, Micronesia, Moldova, Mongolia, Uganda and Uzbekistan (and also Fiji, which was never officially a coalition member but was reported to have helped the coalition.).
Whether or not you supported the war isn't relevant here, but some might think that Apple had a similar agenda as the U.S. when it filled out its iTunes launch with countries whose miniscule music market size and strength may have made today's launch look more impressive than it really is.
Then again, perhaps the real story here is that as digital services expand internationally--see Deezer, Spotify, Rdio and others - there will likely be more nations whose share of the global music market grows as legitimate music revenues increase. And when you add it up -- especially these days -- every little bit counts.
Full List of Countries Where iTunes is Launching
2. Antigua & Barbuda
13. Cape Verde
14. Cayman Islands
26. Saudi Arabia
27. South Africa
29. United Arab Emirates (UAE)
36. Micronesia, Fed States of
45. Papua New Guinea
47. Saint Kitts and Nevis
50. Trinidad and Tobago
55. Virgin Islands, British
Coalition of the Willing*