That time of year has come around again when the headline acts for the world’s most expensive PR stunt, the iTunes Festival, are announced.
The iTunes Festival is a yearly event help throughout the month of September at the Roundhouse in Camden, north London. The venue plays host to a different band each night, and the fans who win tickets from the iTunes store are able to watch.
What a generous thought of Apple to do this. Eddie Cue, Apple’s senior vice-president of internet software and services, told the Guardian today that “These live shows capture the heart and soul of iTunes and we love bringing them to our customers in the Roundhouse, as well as to the millions of people watching all over the world for free”.
This statement neatly summarises just about everything that is wrong with the iTunes festival, and a lot of the wider music industry that exists today. Something inside me balks at Cue’s unthinking referral to music fans as ‘customers’ and the idea that a corporation as ethically unsound as Apple has a ‘heart and soul’. This isn’t iTunes lovingly giving music fans a real treat (if it was, they probably wouldn’t have put 5 Seconds of Summer on the lineup), it’s just the world’s biggest business flexing its financial muscles and showing everyone else who’s in charge.
There are some credible artists on the bill, although seeing Kasabian, who just last week were so opposed to being watched by Google, comfortably going along with Google’s biggest rival is just weird. From my experiences attending the concerts, it’s a good opportunity at least for the lesser-known support bands to promote themselves through the huge range of channels iTunes stream the shows on, but in usual gig-style the crowd will probably just talk over them.
The randomized ticket allocation doesn’t work either as no one really gets what they want. In 2012, I was absolutely desperate to see Lana Del Rey and Benjamin Francis Leftwich play on one specific night. Instead, I won tickets to see Jack White as well as Norah Jones, neither of whom I was particularly bothered about seeing. If you don’t win tickets, you can queue up outside the venue but you’ll only be allowed in after a certain time, which means you’ll almost definitely miss the support act, if you get in at all after waiting for hours outside the Roundhouse.
There are also rumours that iTunes will be using this free music festival to launch their new services, iTunes Radio and Beats Music. The gigs may be free, but it comes at the cost of having a music industry with passion and personality. Enjoy!