iTunes headlines music fest

60-plus acts play London during July

London — iTunes is entering the live music business.

Apple Computer's market-leading digital music store said Tuesday that it is throwing its considerable clout behind the free iTunes Festival concept, which will take place in London throughout July.

Amy Winehouse, Crowded House, Travis, Editors, Stereophonics and Beverly Knight are among the 60-plus artists booked to perform during the monthlong event at the 350-capacity Institute of Contemporary Arts on the Mall in London. Pop artist Mika will kick off the music festival July 1 with a headline performance.

"I would say it's absolutely the biggest live initiative we've ever undertaken," Alex Luke, iTunes director of programming and label relations, said in an interview. "And with over 60 bands playing, we'll be capturing audio and video products that we'll be putting into iTunes worldwide. Across our retail stores worldwide, we would normally capture that many products in a year. For us to do a full month of these performances and recording sessions in one city is very special for us."

Each concert will be taped and made available for purchase via iTunes from the end of July, Luke said.

Plans are to revisit the iTunes Festival next year, with other markets getting a piece of the action.

"I think the festivals season in the U.K. in summer is known worldwide," Luke said. "Artists pass through the U.K. en masse, and we saw an enormous opportunity to connect artists with their fans in this intimate setting, while they're in the country either touring or playing some of the larger festivals."

Tickets will be distributed through competitions on the official iTunes Festival Web site. Throughout the 31-day program, organizers will update the site through a mixture of photographs, festival blogs, videos, podcasts and artist interviews.

Lars Brandle is global news editor at Billboard.
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