Article first published as Apple Extends iTunes Song Samples, Bullies Labels Into Compliance on Technorati.

 Being Steve Jobs is difficult. So was being his boss, when he had one. The Apple CEO keeps a busy schedule that probably makes his iCal look like a rainbow-colored war zone. When he’s not busy creating innovative products, or defending Apple patents, or firing off curt e-mails to consumers, or costing someone their job, he likes to boss around the record labels. All in the name of improving the consumer experience, of course. 

Late yesterday, TechCrunch broke the story that Apple is planning to extend the length of iTunes music samples from the current 30 seconds to a generous 90 seconds for songs longer than 2:30 hoping the end result is an increase in sales. Consumers will get more sample time, and Apple and artists alike will make more money. What could be wrong with that?

Not much. Except Apple didn’t exactly ask. Instead, the “iTunes Store Team,“ who by all appearances have the grace and skill of seasoned PR professionals sent off a letter to record label representatives about the new “pleasing” development.

“We are pleased to let you know that we are preparing to increase the length of music previews from 30 seconds to 90 seconds on the iTunes Store in the United States. We believe that giving potential customers more time to listen to your music will lead to more purchases.”

The email also notes that by continuing to offer their music through the iTunes Store, labels are opting-in to the new terms. If they don’t like it, tough. They can leave. Given that the iTunes store continues to dominate the world of digital music distribution giving artists both big and small a platform to connect with new audiences, the likelihood of that happening isn’t very high.

The central premise of Apple’s argument for increasing song length is debatable. Sure users will appreciate having longer samples to listen to, but it remains to be seen if doing so increases sales. Many users who buy songs through the iTunes Music Store probably aren’t doing so after a first listen of a 30-second sound sample. They’ve heard the whole thing on Pandora, or the latest episode of Glee, or their friend sent it to them, and now they cruise over to iTunes for a quick (and legal) purchase.

Still, the move is likely to be appreciated by music lovers just the same. Even if what they’re really waiting for is music in the cloud. They were close once with Lala, but as the saying goes, “If you can’t beat them, buy them, and shut them down.” Something like that.

What do you think? Will the new extended song samples make users any more likely to purchase songs through iTunes, or like Ping, will anyone care?