An iTunes Feature Request: Create a new user recommendation/reward system

Posted on September 08, 2005 at 12:55 AM

Update: reader Simon pointed out that Apple already has a user affliate program, which I neglected to discuss. What I am proposing would be a better alternative to that program. See my comments below.

With the slew of Apple branded iPod equipment now available to the consumer and an enormous on-line music store, there is no denying that Apple has an absolute juggernaut on their hands. As some of you may already know, Steve Jobs held a music event in San Francisco yesterday in which he revealed a bevy of new products. Some of the highlights include: a more refined version of iTunes, the iPod nano, and the Motorola ROKR phone which is the first mobile phone to have iTunes built in.

Now having just finished viewing the stream of that event, I couldn't help but be amazed by the staggering statistics Steve Jobs revealed:

  • 500 million songs downloaded.

  • 10 million user accounts.

  • 2 million songs in the iTunes library.

Jobs also estimated that iTunes is the worlds 2nd largest online story behind only But what is the one thing that has that iTunes doesn't? A good system that rewards it's users for recommending products to others within that on-line community.

For example, I have an associates account with This allows me to create links to movies, music, and other products on and list them on this blog. If you were to buy something I've listed, I would then get a percentage of that sale. The thing is, I've never purchased any of the music I've listed on my blog via But, up to this point, is the only on-line retailer that lets it's users benefit by promoting products on their own website. (see comments) Amazon excels in creating a community of people recommending products to others. So a logical step for Apple would be to create a similar user referral system for the loyal iTunes user.

Sounds simple, Right? So how would it work?

Every iTunes user, when logged on with their iTunes account, would be able to create a custom URL that contains a unique user account ID linking to a song or album in the iTunes library. When a visitor to their website clicks on this link, it would open iTunes on their computer and take them directly to that song or album. If that visitor then buys the song, the iTunes user who recommended it would get credited for that purchase. After an iTunes user amasses a certain number of these credits, that user would get free music. As an example, for every 10 songs purchased based on your recommendation you would receive one free song.

iTunes already has the ability to create URLs that link to music, here's an example of how the link works:

Criteria - Prevent the World

If you have iTunes loaded on your computer and you clicked on the above link you should notice that it took your directly to this song (first time you click on an iTunes link it will ask you whether or not you have iTunes on your computer). Now under the proposed reward system, if you enjoyed the song enough to buy it, I would get credit for that purchase based on my recommendation.

Other features that could be included could be publishing links based on:

  • Your top rated songs

  • Most listened to songs from your iPod

  • iMixes you've published to the iTunes Music store

  • 10 most popular songs from the iTunes Music store

I'm not a professional software programmer, I only play one on this blog, but I would imagine this would be an easy system for Apple to implement. A system that would not only benefit Apple, but also their loyal users.

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You mean you want to be an iTunes affiliate?

Posted by: Simon | September 8, 2005 04:21 AM

Not sure why I neglected to mention the iTunes affliate program in this post. Their affliate program does reward users by paying them 5%, but it is a service that is offered outside of iTunes and seems more geared towards businesses than the individual user.

I should have been more clear in my post and it's description. The type of affliate program I would like to see is one that exists entirely within the iTunes interface and is an alternative to the iTunes affliate program, geared more towards the average user.

In my estimation, rewarding the user with free songs instead of money would allow Apple to keep the required number of songs purchased low and attainable (to around 10). It seems as though awarding money to affliates would be a cost prohibitive approach for Apple when you factor in the system it would take to track how much money is owed to each affliate, cutting checks to affliates, postage to mail the checks, the tax ramifications involved for the affliate, and the human resources to manage this entire system.

Also, under the current affliate system you would have to sell approx. 20 songs (before taxes) in order to have enough money to buy one song from iTunes. As I mentioned previously, I would hope that under my proposed system that number would be lowered to approximately 10.

My system would also be more beneficial to the user when they sell an entire album. Under the itunes affliate system, you would only get %5 of the $9.99 cost of the album. Under my system you would get credit for the number of songs, which in some cases a $9.99 album may contain more than 10 songs.

I just find it odd that the iTunes affliate program has been around for more than a year, yet I have rarely seen any iTunes affliate links on blogs or websites. A few tweaks to the affliate system would do wonders for Apple, driving more visitors to iTunes than to places like

Thank you for bringing this up Simon.

Posted by: joeschmidt | September 8, 2005 10:25 AM

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