November 03, 2010, 4:27 PM — I always thought the 30 seconds that Apple allows iTunes users for song previews was too short, so simply as a consumer I'm happy to read the company plans to triple the sample length to 90 seconds.
Apple reportedly sent an email to music labels informing them that, for songs more than 2 minutes and 30 seconds long, users of the iTunes Store in the U.S. will be able to hear a 90-second sample. Previews for shorter songs will remain 30 seconds long.
"We believe that giving potential customers more time to listen to your music will lead to more purchases," reads a letter obtained by MacRumors that Apple sent to music labels, alerting them of the change. "All you have to do is continue making your content available on the iTunes Store, which will confirm your acceptance of the terms," the letter continued.
Given that the vast majority of songs purchased online (70 percent) are sold through iTunes, this change isn't likely to be a deal-breaker for any labels. Plus it's hard to argue with Apple's reasoning that allowing users to hear longer samples likely will lead to more sales.
I'm assuming Apple can break down iTunes sales by song length. It should be easy to measure the impact of 90-second samples on sales of songs 2 minutes 30 seconds and longer versus shorter songs, which will still have 30-second samples. But Apple doesn't break out iTunes sales for the rest of the world, so we'll never know if the change works unless Apple decides to tell us.
Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.