Apple Revs Up Affiliate Program for iTunes

Just as challenger MSN began offering a preview of its music offering, Apple got to work shoring up its position. The company this week launched an affiliate program for its market-leading iTunes store.

The program, administered by LinkShare, will earn affiliates 5 percent of revenues generated within 24 hours after a buyer clicks-through from the affiliate’s site. Apple’s store offers more than a million songs, which sell for 99 cents each, and more than 8,000 audio books and public radio programs. LinkShare had already operated an affiliate program for the e-commerce store where Apple sells its own hardware and that of third parties.

To encourage affiliate participation in the new program, Apple is giving affiliates who sign up before September 15 a chance to win one of five iPod mini digital music players.

“This program is a clear win-win for Apple and our partners, both large and small,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of applications. “By working with affiliate Web sites we’re not only expanding access to iTunes, but are giving site owners the ability to connect to one of the hottest brands online, creating a quick and easy way for them to generate additional revenue.”

The affiliate program launch comes just as 800-pound gorilla Microsoft has joined the battle for digital music revenues. The company Wednesday unveiled a preview of its music store at At launch, MSN’s store has about 500,000 songs in its catalog. The company has already licensed more than a million songs, and will be making them available in the coming weeks, matching the mark that Apple attained only last month.

Apple has long offered a “link maker” tool to encourage its users to link to the iTunes store, but it has never compensated them for generating that traffic. It also has tell-a-friend viral tools within the iTunes application.

Apple’s other marketing programs include a volume discounts program for companies and other institutions. It also offers “iTunes on Campus,” a program that provides an institutional site license for the iTunes application, along with materials for student communications.

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