iTunes to Triple Song-Preview Length

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In what was pretty much a fait accompli from Apple to the record companies Tuesday, the firm has announced that longer song samples are to be offered to users in the U.S. for tracks over 2 minutes and 30 seconds.

“We are pleased to let you know that we are preparing to increase the length of music previews from 30 seconds to 90 seconds on the iTunes Store in the US,” Apple wrote in an email to label representatives. “We believe that giving potential customers more time to listen to your music will lead to more purchases.” (See pictures of the unveiling of Apple’s iPad.)

But here’s where it becomes ever so slightly sinister: Apple’s statement may not ask much of the music industry — all the labels need to do is make the content available on iTunes — but if they don’t like this move, the labels will have to remove all their music from the store.

While it probably won’t prove problematic for the major players, smaller labels may not feel comfortable about accepting this change if tricky issues such as licensing and royalties haven’t been fully clarified with their acts. Apple has of course argued that by offering customers a longer sample (indeed, 30 seconds won’t often get you to the heart of a track), there’s a greater chance of achieving a sale which makes it a win-win for everyone. (See the top 10 best songs of 2009.)

One final caveat: if the song length is under the 2 and a half minute mark, you’ll still only get the 30 second preview. Or to put it another way, when it comes to the back catalog of The Ramones, it’ll be business as usual. (via CNET)