Music is about moving air with a compelling sense of timing and message. Apple has an almost intuitive grasp of this concept, which is why it does so well in music-related endeavors. Apple and Target Stores’ announcement this week that they have partnered to offer prepaid iTunes Music Store cards (ITMS) to Target’s retail customers is a perfect example.
Last month, Target teamed with Napster, Roxio and Imation in a similar deal to offer a “one-stop shop” that included music download cards, software, and Napster-branded CD-Rs. Napster was then, and remains, the number two choice for downloads. But a San Jose Mercury News report on Thursday indicates that the company is experiencing a
series of setbacks
that leave its future in doubt.
Following its relaunch in October, Napster had the inside track on an agreement to install a link to its online music service on Hewlett-Packard computers. HP backed out of the deal, and last month chose Apple as its music partner instead. Napster is steadily losing money, four of its top executives have recently left the company, and this week parent company Roxio announced that an unspecified number of Napster employees are being laid off.
Apple’s timing couldn’t be better.
The use of ITMS download cards is a great idea, and Target will sell them in two spots within its stores: at special kiosks that also feature iPods, and within its CD department. Eight months ago, the latter site would have seemed a bad idea because physical-media music sales were falling, but that appears to be changing now. SoundScan, which has been tracking music sales since 1991, reports that last week’s sales were the
largest non-holiday sales
it’s ever tracked — 17 million units. That’s a 25 percent jump over the same period a year ago.
And those sales aren’t coming at the expense of downloaded music, because last week also marked the first time online sales exceeded 2 million tracks. It’s not clear (but doubtful) whether that number includes figures from Pepsi’s iTunes songs giveaway, but it is clear that Apple’s marketshare means a lot of those songs are destined to be played on iPods. Of which Apple just released new models that have more than 100,00 pre-ordered sales.
Well, you might ask, is Target the right retailer to partner with? Isn’t Wal-Mart a bigger and better choice? Bigger certainly, but
Bill Palmer’s informal comparison
of ITMS and Wal-Mart’s own music download store finds the latter “laborious, clunky, featureless, (and) doesn’t work with the most popular mp3 player.” Not conclusive proof, I’ll grant you, but I think Wal-Mart’s much better suited to selling appliances and linens.
And since Apple’s implicit message couldn’t be clearer — “We do music right” — I’ll trust that they’re once again hitting the right note with Target.
Apple offers prepaid iTunes Music Store cards at Target
Apple and Target Stores have partnered this week to offer customers a $15 prepaid iTunes Music Store card. Target will now also feature iPod kiosks in its stores allowing people to get some hands on time with the iPod. The prepaid cards will be available in two areas of the Target stores: the CD section where customers traditionally purchase music and at the kiosk.
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