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Apple reverses iTunes Store changes to become more indie-label friendly

Apple has reversed course on some recent changes at the iTunes Store in order to make the shop more palatable to independent record labels, which voiced concerns that new algorithms would promote mainstream musicians at the expense of lesser-known acts.




During December and January, Apple experimented with a sales velocity algorithm to determine which music would be highlighted on the store. But since then, the company has "backed away" from depending so heavily on the algorithm, allowing staff to exert more editorial control over what's featured, according to Billboard.

"iTunes will always be driven by editorial discretion," one source claimed to be familiar with Apple's philosophy on the matter was quoted as saying. "Editorial choice will always be at the heart of what music is featured in the store."

Apple has in fact supplied a data snapshot indicating that indie music represents 40 percent of "flow" cases —the items featured in major ads on the store —plus 50 percent of albums in new music sliders, 37 percent of hot tracks, and 20 percent of "bricks," meaning the smaller ads under the hot tracks. In ownership terms, indie labels accounted for only 35.1 percent of the US market in 2014.

Another indie-friendly change includes a different formula for the impact of album pre-orders. Until recently, pre-order numbers were added to launch-day sales, something would often reinforce the position of mainstream acts on sales charts. Now those pre-orders are ignored, in theory creating a more level playing field.

Apple is also allegedly tackling worries about how it handles song duplicates. In some instances the company was removing songs despite them following store rules, but the executive of one indie label comments that the company is willing to fix mistakes.

"If you make your case for whatever music is no longer available in the store, Apple will listen," the person reportedly said.