With a higher price than regular albums, no lossless audio and virtually no device support, iTunes LP seems like a hard sell. Turns out, it might be lame for musicians too—at least, the ones without platinum records. Updated
I spoke with Brian McKinney, who runs Chocolate Lab Records, a smallish label out of Chicago. As someone who actually makes records, he saw potential in iTunes LP, and after seeing how incredibly simple the actual LP files are, started looking into making some himself. It didn't go so well:
I contacted the digital distribution manager at my label's distributor. He had a conference call with an iTunes rep and asked how we go about putting an LP together. He was told that LPs aren't being offered to indies and that there are only about 12 LPs being offered right now. They also said that iTunes charges a $10,000 production fee for them as well. So that pretty much edges out the indie market completely.
Deflecting criticism that it's just another way to squeeze a few extra dollars out of customers, Apple pitches iTunes LP as a way to bring back "the visual experience of the record album" (Which they helped kill in the first place. Penance, or something!)
But if they're charging ridiculous, prohibitive fees and only letting a few major labels take advantage of this—you know, the ones that iTunes needs to keep happy to be a viable music store, not the ones that might actually make something artistically interesting with LP—that romantic cry for the return of the album (it's more like the return of the Digipak, anyway) sounds a cynical and disingenuous. More to the point, it'll forever doom LP to gimmickry, because, well, the Dave Matthews Band can only carry you so far. —Thanks, Brian!
Update: Apple just gave us this comment, which seemingly contradicts some of what was said above:
We're releasing the open specs for iTunes LP soon, allowing both major and indie labels to create their own. There is no production fee charged by Apple.
So, with the open specs in place it seems like indie labels (or any other label) will be able to create iTunes LPs as much as they want, and not at a mandatory $10k a pop.