Dashboard, Interpol May Be Headed For iTunes As Apple Woos Indies

Label reps will meet with computer giant Thursday for demonstration of download service.

Just a month after opening its doors, the Apple iTunes store is looking to expand.

With content already available from all five major labels, the online music service is reaching out to independent labels in hopes of offering the broadest, deepest catalog of downloadable music.

Apple has invited hundreds of indie label representatives to a private presentation on Thursday at the computer giant’s Cupertino, California, campus to discuss hopping onboard and adding their content to the more than 200,000 songs already available through the service.

“The plan was to go out of the gate with the five major labels, but there’s always been an interest in expanding the store beyond that,” an Apple spokesperson said.

Senior iTunes music store staffers will show the label reps how the store runs and they’ll perform some hands-on demos, though it is unclear whether Apple boss Steve Jobs will attend. The spokesperson declined to specify which, or how many, labels were invited to the meeting.

One label president who has already booked his flight is Sub Pop co-founder Jonathan Poneman. “I’m very interested in this as the owner of a label,” Poneman said. “The Apple store is accessible, well organized and attractive. I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”

Poneman said the decision to join the iTunes store would come down to the compensation package that Apple is offering, which he has not yet seen.

With one of the deepest catalogs of alternative rock, including seminal albums by Nirvana, Mudhoney and Soundgarden as well as discs by bands like L7, Hole, Sebadoh and Hot Hot Heat, Sub Pop would be an attractive addition to the iTunes galaxy, Poneman said. But, he cautioned, were Sub Pop to join iTunes, the inclusion of music from many of the signature bands on the label’s roster would have to be negotiated on a case-by-case basis. “As for the new bands,” he said, “I would find it hard to believe that they’d be as aggressively technophobic at this point.”

Another indie boss who will make the trip is Matador Records co-owner Gerard Cosloy, who said he has no idea what to expect. “I’m just going to a meeting. It would be premature to speculate on what may or may not come out of that meeting. I do hear we’re going to have lunch, however,” Cosloy said. Matador’s catalog includes albums by Pavement, Guided by Voices, Interpol, Pretty Girls Make Graves, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Cat Power.

The iTunes initiative has been more successful than even Apple predicted, selling more than 3 million songs since its April 28 debut. The New York Post recently reported that there are discussions to bring the iTunes store to Amazon.com, which would give Apple a larger distribution channel while giving Amazon.com greatly expanded digital music offerings. The Apple spokesperson declined to comment on the report, and an Amazon.com spokesperson could not be reached by press time.

Among the American indies whose catalogs are not yet available on iTunes are such venerable blues and folk labels as Alligator (Buddy Guy), Blind Pig (Muddy Waters), Rounder (Alison Krauss) and Razor & Tie (Prince Paul), as well as the world music powerhouse Putumayo and the punk labels Kill Rock Stars (Sleater-Kinney), Fat Wreck Chords (NOFX), Lookout! (Green Day) and Vagrant (Dashboard Confessional).

If any deals are signed following the meeting, the Apple spokesperson said there is no timetable yet for when the songs could be added. “It’s quality over quantity at this point,” the spokesperson said.

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