Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has announced an impressive lineup of artists for its upcoming iTunes Festival in September, as the event returns to London for the eighth year. For the sixth year in a row, the event will be hosted in London’s Roundhouse performing arts venue. The event’s return to London follows the first stateside iTunes Festival that was held in Austin, Texas during the SXSW (South by Southwest) Music, Film, Interactive festival in March of this year. However, while the SXSW iTunes Festival featured a week of performances, the annual event in London will run throughout September and will feature over sixty acts. Fourteen performers have been revealed by Apple so far, including Maroon 5, Pharrell Williams, Beck, Sam Smith, Blondie, Kylie, David Guetta, 5 Seconds of Summer, Calvin Harris, Chrissie Hynde, Kasabian, Robert Plant, Kiesza, and Jungle.
“The iTunes Festival in London is back with another stunning line-up of world class performers and tremendous new acts,” said Apple senior vice president of Internet software and services Eddy Cue. “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.”
For the third year in a row, Apple users will be able to watch a live stream of the event on their iPod touch, iPhone, or iPad via an iOS iTunes Festival app. The iTunes Festival broadcast will also be free to watch through the iTunes desktop app and Apple TV. As usual, tickets to the event will not be sold and will instead be distributed through contests with Apple’s media partners and via a lottery system on iTunes.
The iTunes Festival has long served as a way for Apple to promote its iTunes music services, which now includes the free ad-supported iTunes Radio service, as well as the traditional sales of digital music downloads. However, while Apple continues to dominate the digital music download market with its iTunes store, the overall market has been in decline over the past several years as more consumers shift to the subscription-based music streaming model used by companies like Spotify.
According to the Nielsen Entertainment & Billboard’s 2014 Mid-Year Music Industry Report, sales of digital albums saw a year-over-year decline of 11.6 percent in the first six months of 2014, while digital track sales fell by 13 percent. Although Apple’s iTunes Radio is a free service, it does include a “one click” purchase option for users. Unfortunately, according to unnamed label executives cited by Billboard, only 1 to 2 percent of iTunes Radio listeners opt to buy music they hear through iTunes Radio. Meanwhile, the on-demand audio streaming market that includes services like Beats Music saw a year-over-year increase of 50.1 percent, according to Nielsen data.
For this reason, it is widely believed that Apple acquired Beats Electronics in order to instantly gain the Beats Music subscription music-streaming service and give the Cupertino-based company a quick way to offset its sagging digital music download sales. While two of Apple’s primary music services remain under the iTunes banner, it appears clear that Apple’s future success in the digital music market will be closely tied to the success of its newly acquired Beats Music service. With Apple’s acquisition of Beats expected to be finalized sometime this quarter, don’t be surprised if Beats Music is heavily promoted at the next iTunes Festival.
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