Don't bother searching online music services for Linkin Park, Green Day or Metallica. Those heavyweight artists and several others are refusing to make their songs available as a la carte downloads, insisting that services sell their entire albums or nothing at all. Linkin Park, for instance, had the songs from all three of their albums available online until a few weeks ago, when they asked to have the singles removed.
Artists and their managers say their concerns are artistic, not monetary. "Certain songs might not fit on radio for one reason or another but are just as important an artistic statement," says Marc Reiter of Q-Prime, the management company that handles Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Garbage — all of whom are keeping their songs offline. "We refuse to kowtow to the fact that it's a singles market for downloads."
"We're in an in-between phase right now," says a source at Linkin Park's label, Warner Bros. "The way music is available now is going to force artists to rethink how they make it and labels to rethink how they sell it."
Though contracts for newly signed artists stipulate that they have to license their songs online, established acts still have final say on the matter. But one Apple source says iTunes won't accommodate artists such as Metallica and Linkin Park because their requests go against consumer demand. "People want individual songs," says the source. "And we want to be consistent. We respect these artists' points of view, but we want every song available as singles." Rhapsody and Pressplay agree that consumers overwhelmingly prefer singles, adding that their services aren't designed to utilize album bundles.
Apple announced in late June that the iTunes Music Store had sold 5 million downloads in its eight weeks online. Yet digital-music sales still account for only a fraction of the industry's revenues. The online services, whose success depends on their ability to offer as much music as possible, say artists who refuse to offer singles are contributing to the very problem they complained about during the days of Napster. "If you fail to make songs available legally, you're basically telling people to go ahead and download it illegally," says Matt Graves, spokesman for Listen.com, the company behind the Rhapsody subscription service. "You're shooting yourself in the foot."
This story is from the July 24, 2003 issue of Rolling Stone.