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Apple Gets Indie Bands

Deals could make iTunes the ultimate music store

Now that Apple has proved to the major labels that it can sell
their digital songs inexpensively and in mass quantities, CEO Steve
Jobs is going after the rest of the record industry. On June 5th,
Jobs invited some 150 executives from independent labels to a
summit at the company’s Cupertino, California, headquarters, with
the hope of adding their music to the iTunes store — which could
increase the songs it currently offers to 400,000 within the next
four months. “They made a valiant attempt to reach out,” says
Jonathan Poneman, co-founder of Sub Pop, which first signed Nirvana
and now has bands such as the Postal Service and the Shins. “I’m
psyched.”

Apple wouldn’t comment about details of the meeting, but
attendees say that Apple will buy the indies’ music for the same
wholesale price that it pays to the majors (roughly sixty-five
cents a song). The majors won’t hog all the publicity, either.
Apple reps said that the company will not charge labels for premium
placement on its opening page (something like the front window of a
record store). “They’re not doing the payola game,” says Benjamin
van der Wel, president of Bay Area electronica label Delvian
Records.

One key concern among labels is figuring out how to let kids who
don’t have credit cards buy music. “You look at Apple’s most
downloaded tracks, and it’s U2, Coldplay and Sheryl Crow,” says Dan
Gill of Vagrant Records, Dashboard Confessional’s home. “Our label
has a much younger demographic.” Apple reps say they are looking
into stored-value cash cards teens could use for music
purchases.

No formal agreements have been announced, but a survey of
executives who attended the meeting confirmed that many are eager
to sell their music on the iTunes store. “I was waiting the whole
time to find out, ‘Where is the catch?’ ” says van der Wel. “So
far, there hasn’t been any.”

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