Has the iTunes LP performed sluggishly in its first few months on the market? GigaOm's Paul Bonanos took a hard look at the digital album format and found record label disappointment over sales so light they may not cover developer costs that can run upwards of $60,000 per title.

When the iTunes LP format was launched in September 2009, it was touted for its ability to offer a deeper experience with album artwork, lyrics, videos and other media. Wrote Bonanos:

Six months later, however, iTunes LP doesn't prompt much consumer recognition, and none of the industry sources with whom I spoke said they viewed it as being anywhere close to game-changing from a format perspective. Rather, it's considered more of a curiosity. Like an enhanced CD or a DVD packaged with a physical album, iTunes LP's bonus materials may interest super-fans, but they aren't generating much buzz among mainstream consumers, and don't appear to be stimulating LP sales at all. "It's something most people will look at once," is how one person put it.

To be fair, anybody who expected big things out of the iTunes LP was being too optimistic. The format stood little chance of actually boosting album sales. Instead it was a more expensive, more media-rich product for existing album buyers. But even those sales may not be enough to justify the added expense of creating the iTunes LPs.

At least one person is on the record as being pleased with the iTunes LP's early results. On Tuesday (March 9), David Dorn, Rhino Entertainment's senior VP, global sales and digital strategy, U.S. repertoire, told paidContent the new format has had a "very successful" first six months. "We sold thousands and were very happy," he said. Granted, a few thousand units is nothing special, but they can be considered a good start for a new product.

As Bonanos notes, it is premature to mark the end of the iTunes LP. More and better releases are needed, and it will likely take one or two must-have iTunes LPs until the format gains necessary momentum with consumers.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

Print