AMERICAN iDol: Apple has taken its place alongside other cast-iron corporate brands such as Coke, AT&T and Ford as a sponsor of American Idol, with the announcement on Monday that Apple’s iTunes store was becoming the exclusive outlet for this season’s Idol music and video downloads.

Clicking over to the U.S. iTunes site, an Idol section was already up and running, with placeholders for each of the top 24 finalists where you can pre-order – at 99 cents a pop - songs in advance of their airing on the show. According to a Variety story, the singles will be available starting today, and video of the top 12 performers will be available to download at US$1.99 each after March 11. Apple branding will start appearing on the product-placement-heavy show as well – “get ready to see Simon subtly checking his iPhone during the show,” Variety snarked.

I don’t need to add that Canadian iTunes customers won’t be able to purchase anything from the U.S. site – you already knew that – and I trust you’ll politely forget me reminding you that these tracks will start popping up in the usual file-sharing locations online, in the interest of pretending these things don’t really happen.


Forgive the digression, but it’s depressing, as you probably know, to visit U.S. iTunes – thanks to increasingly farcical territorial restrictions, the wealth of TV and movie material available for download makes iTunes Canada seem like a knickknack shop in an off-season tourist trap. Not that I would ever avail myself of such a thing, but here’s hoping that Idol’s Canadian producers have the entrepreneurial gumption to make a similar deal happen here when (shudder) the next season of Canadian Idol kicks off this summer.

In the interest of impartiality, the iTunes Idol store is making a point of keeping sales figures for downloads secret. “iTunes and Fox are committed to presenting contestants in a fair and balanced manner online and on-air," reads a disclaimer on the site. "For this reason, sales performances from American Idol contestants from the current season will not be reflected in the iTunes charts.”

This is, I think, a mistake. Idol is, in spite of whatever disavowals made by the judges every season, a popularity contest, so there’s no reason why contestants’ popularity shouldn’t be judged in the forum of simple commerce. Idol viewers already vote with their dollar by texting their votes – why shouldn’t they be able to use those same dollars to purchase songs by their favorite singers? Since the winners will ultimately be judged for posterity by record sales, I’d suggest that text voting be dispensed with altogether, in favor of tallies of iTunes downloads. Since it’s altogether less likely that people will purchase multiple copies of songs, the voting might be more realistic, and could prevent the freakish outcomes of the last few seasons, which saw cute novelties beat real talents. Not that I actually give a rat’s ass.

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