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Apple Shifts iTunes Pricing; $0.69 Tracks MIA 429

Hodejo1 writes "Steve Jobs vowed weeks ago that when iTunes shifted to a tiered price structure in April, older tracks priced at $0.69 would outnumber the contemporary hits that are rising to $1.29. Today, several weeks later, iTunes made the transition. While the $1.29 tracks are immediately visible, locating cheaper tracks is proving to be an exercise in futility. With the exception of 48 songs that Apple has placed on the iTunes main page, $0.69 downloads are a scarce commodity. MP3 Newswire tried to methodically drill down to unearth more of them only to find: 1) A download like Heart's 34-year-old song Barracuda went up to $1.29, not down. 2) Obscure '90s Brit pop and '50s rockabilly artists — those most likely to benefit from a price drop — remained at $0.99. 3) Collected tracks from a cross-section of 1920s, '30s, and '40s artists all remained at $0.99. Finally, MP3 Newswire called up tracks in the public domain from an artist named Ada Jones who first recorded in 1893 on Edison cylinder technology. The price on all of the century-old, public-domain tracks remained at $0.99. (The same tracks are available for free on The scarcity of lower-priced tracks may reflect the fact that the labels themselves decide which price tier they want to pursue for a given artist; and they are mostly ignoring the lower tier. Meanwhile, Amazon's UK site has decided to counter-promote their service by dropping prices on select tracks to 29 pence ($0.42)."
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Apple Shifts iTunes Pricing; $0.69 Tracks MIA

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  • Who cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:04PM (#27498631) Homepage Journal

    We have Amazon. The only thing keeping iTunes relevant is the fact that Apple won't let anything else talk to the iPhone, and they refuse all other music players for the device.

  • by robkill ( 259732 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:14PM (#27498705)

    In the Label's mind:

    1.) In demand tunes should be higher-priced due to supply and demand.

    2.) Older obscure tunes should be higher priced to recoup production costs over the smaller sales volume.

    Historically, big labels would have lower prices on new releases by B-list or unknown artist that they were pushing to break big, or leftover stock that didn't sell and was never going to sell. Digital downloads mean no leftover stock or inventory costs. There may be some "teaser tracks" out at $0.69, from major labels, but not many. I could see an artist on their own label or a small independent selling that low if it would bring a much wider audience to their work.

  • by Dutchmaan ( 442553 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:15PM (#27498717) Homepage

    This is Apple we're talking about, so what would anyone expect? I mean, they add money for adding a white apple to a laptop, so clearly, a few cents here and there on each and every song wouldn't warrant a change.

    Actually this is not Apple we're talking about. From what I understand, the labels are the ones behind the price increases. Apple had to basically agree or the labels wouldn't allow Apple to have them on ITMS.

    Brand fanboy, brand hater; Opposite sides of the same coin.

  • by CheeseTroll ( 696413 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:18PM (#27498745)

    I don't get the correlation between the size of one's hard drive and the price of music. Why does owning more storage space entitle a person to fill it up for the same price as last year's smaller drive?

  • pathetic situation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:23PM (#27498791)

    It's amazing to see that people are being forced to pay anything at all for music recorded in the 1920's, 30's and 40's. With the huge majority of these recordings, none of the artists are still alive, nor the producers or other personnel who worked on the recordings.

    To say that somehow somebody today still effectively "owns" those recordings and deserves control over them as "properties", and ought to be able to force other people to pay for them, is just a completely absurd situation. These "owners" had no involvement at all in producing the recordings. And the recordings themselves likely made all their investment back plus profits several decades ago.

    So why is it that people today are still willing to pay money to get the recordings of these long dead artists? Because they fear legal prosecution for pirating them, of course. The "owners" of this ancient music are nothing other than manipulators of a team of lawyers that will threaten anyone who attempts to access the recordings without payment. Are there some who really feel ethical compulsion to pay for such recordings? Do they really feel they're stealing from somebody by not paying? It's pure absurdity.

    This is certainly not what the copyright system is for but it's no surprise that there are people out there abusing the legal system in pathetic attempts to leech "money for nothing" from people who just want to hear the great music produced in those time periods.

  • by sqrt(2) ( 786011 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:24PM (#27498803) Journal

    Why? The supply and demand model is based on the idea of scarcity of a resource. The product they are selling, a digital copy of a piece of music, has no scarcity. You can make as many copies as you want for virtually no cost.

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by tyrione ( 134248 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:25PM (#27498811) Homepage

    We have Amazon. The only thing keeping iTunes relevant is the fact that Apple won't let anything else talk to the iPhone, and they refuse all other music players for the device.

    You do well at being mentally stunted. Apple sells more music than WalMart. No way in hell will Amazon overshadow Apple's solution.

  • by lucas teh geek ( 714343 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:25PM (#27498813)

    The scarcity of lower-priced tracks may reflect the fact that the labels themselves decide which price tier they want to pursue for a given artist; and they are mostly ignoring the lower tier.

    that's ok, I'm just gonna "mostly ignore" the legal alternatives to bittorrent

  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:26PM (#27498821)
    ...That makes no sense in the digital world. Whereas a physical CD could be overstocked, theres no way you can "overstock" a digital song. So while it might make some economic sense to do it that way, most labels will just price everything at $1.29 and keep on going. The .69 price point will almost never be reached because either A) The song needs to be expensive to justify recording it, B) Its a popular song C) When its old its still known as one of the artist's greatest hits, and their lesser-known hits will be marked up because of reason A.
  • by CyberZCat ( 821635 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:41PM (#27498907)

    Well let's say you have a 50GB MP3 collection, would you spend $12,000-$13,000 on it? Ten years ago, would you have even IMAGINED that you'd have a 50GB MP3 collection?! I mean, I remember when 4GB-8GB drives were "freakin' massive!" and that was well into the "Napster era".

    Granted, people buy larger storage devices because they don't have much of a choice (I can't count the number of times I only *needed* a small drive but ended up getting something way overkill because it was the smallest drive I could find), but people still find ways to use them. Also, storage capacity and price-per-gigabyte has improved far faster than bandwidth and other technology. So we are hitting that point where people have more hard drive space then they intend to use. That doesn't mean people will never find a way to use it. Remember 640k is enough for anyone and all that jazz...

    I mean, do you *really* think that the value of media PER UNIT is ever going to *increase*? My only point is that the value of an individual song or video continues to decrease as people consume more. And people consume more as technology progresses. Bigger hard drives, faster burning devices, more bandwidth, streaming flash videos etc. have all given people access to more material. And whether or not they were ever going to pay for that media and whether or not media companies are losing money because of it is irrelevant. The point is that the value to the consumer keep decreasing and it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The Internet is a content delivery platform and with that comes media delivery. The more media someone is exposed to the less value each individual "unit of media" has.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:44PM (#27498941)

    A) I can't stand this stupid idea that people pander around about how much it would cost to fill an iPod. Yes you idiot it would cost that much to fill it with just songs! No, no one I know actually fills their iPod past 20% to 50% with about 10% to 15% being iTunes music.

    B) ZOMG!!!111!1!1! You pirate! No, actually about 40% of my iPod is pictures (remember it can do that?!), 15% is music (for me about 5% is iTunes, 10% is stuff from my CDs), 10% is contact information and calendars, 15% is podcast (I drive two hours one way to work), the rest is just junk files from iWork and stuff. I have about 70% of my 160GB iPod filled.

    C) Please stop this crap argument! You got +3 interesting for what I equate as a giant pile of horse shit. I know, that's my view point on your comment, but getting down to brass tacks your argument is moot because no one fills their iPod with just music, if they wanted to just listen to music they could have bought any number of MP3 players at a fraction of the cost. Music companies want to make their dime plus whatever they can extort you for, it's just the way people hustle other people, get over it (Dr. Musiclove: Why I stopped worrying and learned to love the ass raping from the RIAA, no really I don't care that it is over priced) OR buy indie music if you really want a flipping change.

    D) Really I don't think you're an idiot but I'm so tired of people saying this kind of crap. It's such an uneducated rationale.

  • by Mordok-DestroyerOfWo ( 1000167 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:46PM (#27498951)
    Do you really believe any label with an iota of intelligence would pull all of their work from a distribution network like iTunes? Both sides have power in a situation like this, and the $1.29 is most likely a compromise between the two. Apple is out to make money just as the RIAA is. They hold their customers with just as much contempt as any faceless corporation.
  • Re:Who cares? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:48PM (#27498963) Homepage Journal

    So? Dell sells three times as many computers as Apple, and nobody cares what Dell does. Those who don't know any better will continue use iTunes, and the sophisticated will use Amazon.

    Of course, the smart people buy CDs. They're cheaper than ever, and they come with art, lyrics, and backup media.

  • by Millennium ( 2451 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:49PM (#27498977)

    You didn't think the tiered-pricing scam was actually going to save you money, did you? No company ever does stuff like this unless they think they can squeeze more money out of their customers.

  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:51PM (#27498993)

    It doesn't entitle them to anything, it just makes it more attractive. "Hey, I could spend $1,000 putting music on my iPod, or I could just take it. Hmmmmmm."

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rsmith-mac ( 639075 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:55PM (#27499021)

    And more to the point, Amazon only gets special favors as long as the labels need them to be doing something to counteract Apple. Now that they have Apple buckling on variable pricing, there's no need for them to allow Amazon to maintain fixed pricing or otherwise grant Amazon favors. The next time Amazon's contract is up for renegotiation, they'll be forced to moved to move to variable pricing.

    Apple was the lynch pin, no one else is currently strong enough to stand up to the labels and block variable pricing. You can go to Amazon today and get tracks at $.99, but tomorrow anything you* would want will be at price parity with the iTunes Music Store.

    *You = the average person

  • by Idiomatick ( 976696 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @11:03PM (#27499095)
    The value of 10days of music versus 20days is not twice as much. This should be reflected. If I listen to 3hours of music a day with 10,000 or 100,000songs my enjoyment only increases marginally.

    If you think about it like a radio station it makes more sense. E-radio stations are charged per song they play. That price is based on number of listeners. So with an infinite number of songs available (like a radio station) paying to broadcast to an audience of 1 (me). It would probably cost me something like 2$ a month if i listened 5hrs/day (I'd pay 5~10x that). With INFINITE music available. Explain why this isn't available. I mean I suppose I could try to actually set up an e-radio with 1 listener and negotiate deals with record companies but that seems needlessly difficult.
  • by RudeIota ( 1131331 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @11:03PM (#27499097) Homepage

    I realize it makes too much sense for the RIAA to ever agree to it, but the prices should be based on demand. If a song gets downloaded a lot at $.99, then bump it to $1.29.

    Why? The supply and demand model is based on the idea of scarcity of a resource.

    Well, money isn't infinite... The "scarcity of resource" isn't the product, but rather the money used to purchase it.

    It may not be traditional economics, but there is an optimal price for every song that will make the most money. I don't have a formula to figure out what that might be, but using a system similar to what was suggested might get them closer to capitalizing more on music tracks than just flat fees based on guesses of what's going to be hot.

  • Re:Surprise? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheVelvetFlamebait ( 986083 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @11:08PM (#27499123) Journal

    There is no competition between different labels to sell the same product (song) so why would they drop the price on a desired product (song) ?


    a) You don't have to buy the song. You can keep the money and spend it on something better.
    b) You can buy other music with that same money. There's no reason why you can't get similar satisfaction from a different song.

    When I go to bakery that bakes their own breads, I know going into it that I'm not going to be able to find that exact same bread anywhere else. Yet, for some reason, they don't charge $100 per loaf. Strange.

  • by fullfactorial ( 1338749 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @11:12PM (#27499163)

    Mod parent up.

    To think that filesize and price are correlated is absurd. It's the production cost and value of those bits that determines price.

    Replace "MP3" with "software" and this becomes obvious. A bargain-bin game might cost you $5/GB, whereas a specialized 10 MB medical/industrial program could cost $10,000 per seat.

  • gift cards (Score:3, Insightful)

    by backdoc ( 416006 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @11:14PM (#27499173)

    This is why gift cards are a bad idea. They instantly made my $75 of gift cards worth about $50.

  • by mabinogi ( 74033 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @11:17PM (#27499201) Homepage

    Do you really believe any label with an iota of intelligence would pull all of their work from a distribution network like iTunes?

    No, but how many labels actually do have an iota of intelligence?

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @11:25PM (#27499261) Homepage

    Apple didn't fool the press. This is being reported as "Apple raises prices 30%". []

  • by eiMichael ( 1526385 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @11:40PM (#27499357)
    Just say you have lowered your prices, have a few token tracks that are actually cheaper (that you post everywhere you mention lower prices) and almost everyone will believe you lowered your prices.
  • by ianare ( 1132971 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @11:40PM (#27499359)

    NOBODY is going to spend $6,000 on their music collection. Well I suppose SOME people might, but certainly nobody that I know would ever even think about paying that much for something they can get for free (and at the same, or near-same quality).

    Actually, you can easily find entire albums on bittorrent at lossless quality (.flac) and of course DRM and watermark free ... only thing is if you're looking for something a bit obscure you'll have a tough time finding it.

    As I see it, the convenience factor is really all there is.

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ngg ( 193578 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @11:45PM (#27499377) Homepage

    Wait... I was wrong. There's a HUGE difference in ease-of-use.

    Believe it or not, those two extra steps make a huge difference for some users. My step-mom, for example, has a hard time making playlists in iTunes and syncing them with her iPod. I can't even imaging how much time I'd spend on the phone if she tried to buy songs from Amazon.

  • by ianare ( 1132971 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @11:46PM (#27499387)

    Instead of focusing on quantity, why not focus on quality ? If hard drives and broadband connections can handle it, why not offer songs in .wav or flac format ? That will fill a hard drive pretty quick, even by modern standards. It would also give a much needed competitive edge to legitimate sources of music.

    Of course this is assuming the pieces of shit running the major record companies have any amount of sense or intelligence.

  • Re:Who cares (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheVelvetFlamebait ( 986083 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @11:55PM (#27499449) Journal

    Being arrogantly ignorant makes you wrong.
    Being humbly ignorant makes you tentatively wrong.
    Being ignorant deliberately to incite strong reactions makes you a troll.

  • by Nitar ( 261628 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @11:57PM (#27499455)

    Not a big fan of logic I take it? Easier to try to tear someone down by claiming brand hatred than it is to prove your point, eh?

    If it was the labels 'forcing' this price down Apple's throat, it seems awfully strange that Amazon and Zune are unaffected. It occurs to me that since iTunes sells MORE music than any other music service, that they would have more bargaining power, and would be one of the last services to be 'forced' to change their pricing structure.

    No... based on Apple's past pricing structures, I'd be more inclined to believe that Apple is just taking the opportunity to pad their wallets even more. Don't get me wrong... they're perfectly within their rights to do that. Heck, more power to them!

    As long as I still have alternatives, I could care less about the people duped into paying the Apple tax.

  • Re:Surprise? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TheoMurpse ( 729043 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @12:11AM (#27499565) Homepage

    To be fair, though, your average $3 loaf of bread is a lot more fungible than your average song.

    There are, believe it or not, extremely expensive loaves of bread. This is because such bread is not fungible.

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by larry bagina ( 561269 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @12:23AM (#27499627) Journal
    Why aren't the sophisticated listening to ogg vorbis and boycotting Amazon for the one-click patent?
  • Re:Who cares (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ubernostrum ( 219442 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @12:26AM (#27499643) Homepage

    "Your favorite artist" sees just about zilch from CD sales, unless they're totally independent. If you want to support them, go see them in concert.

    If "your favorite artist" is signed to a major label, or to an imprint of a major label, then he/she/they is/are in permanent debt slavery. Neither album sales nor concert ticket sales nor t-shirt sales nor anything else will remedy that; the outlay for concert tours comes from the label just like the outlay for recording, album production, distribution, etc.

  • by AlpineR ( 32307 ) <> on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @12:37AM (#27499715) Homepage

    I would happily pay for music from the early 20th century. It's hard to find, especially in high quality restoration. So if somebody goes to the trouble of collecting it, restoring it, digitizing it, and making it convenient to find and download then they deserve to make a profit.

    I agree that century-long copyright is immoral, but not because it makes old music commercially valuable. It's immoral because it denies the value of old music to society. I have some old 78 RPM Victrola records that I digitized and restored. I wanted to host them on an ad-supported site for others to download and thought I was in the clear since they have no copyright notice and seemed to predate the oldest active copyrights. But then I learned that their legal status is unclear and the still-existing record companies might have grounds enough to come after me. So now they're just gathering dust on my hard drive.

  • by GaryPatterson ( 852699 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @12:38AM (#27499719)

    It could be Apple charging more, or it could be the labels acting together to weaken Apple by setting lower prices on other retail outlets. The goal being to ensure that the power to control pricing remains with the labels, not with Apple.

    Based on past performance, I'm inclined to believe the labels are making a power play rather than Apple making a cheap profit.

  • by Gerzel ( 240421 ) * <> on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @01:22AM (#27499899) Journal

    The problem with economic "laws" is that unlike scientific laws they don't change even when a perponderance of evidence is put forth against them.

    The "Law" of Supply and Demand is still used as a foundation of many economic theories even though great evidence can be put forth that it is inadequate and poorly suited for explaining most economic climates.

  • Re:Surprise? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by afidel ( 530433 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @01:39AM (#27500015)
    Long ago that was made irrelevant by a private settlement between the parties beyond the original agreement.
  • Re:Surprise? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bubkus_jones ( 561139 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @02:17AM (#27500153)

    It's rather unusual these days for an album (or anything for that matter) to be released in Canada, but not the US.

    Most indie Canadian bands probably don't have a distribution deal that includes the USA.

    Anyways, the problem described is one commonly encountered by non-US residents trying to partake in certain services, including networks who put episodes of various TV shows online, Pandora, etc.

  • Played for sure... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by argent ( 18001 ) <peter&slashdot,2006,taronga,com> on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @08:00AM (#27501497) Homepage Journal

    My wife used a subscription service, I bought actual tracks. When I got laid off a couple of years ago, we cut our spending, she turned off her subscription service, I quit buying tracks... but I still had all my music. And Apple's raised the price on some tracks, eh? Doesn't have any effect on the ones I've already bought.

    And, of course, remember "Plays for Sure"?

    Err.. that would be "Played for Sure"...

  • by bwalling ( 195998 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @08:51AM (#27501869) Homepage
    Since you've been deemed insightful by the moderators, please elaborate on your insight about supply and demand being poorly suited. In your reply, please also bear in mind the assumptions and constraints under which supply and demand are presented in the model and the fact that the model is later used to incorporate the relaxation of the assumptions and constraints originally presented.
  • by Golddess ( 1361003 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @01:28PM (#27505975)
    I'll grant you that the electricity that powers the servers where you purchase your digital music tracks from is indeed limited, but I would hardly qualify HDD space as limited in the same manner. Or are you trying to imply that if Amazon wants to sell 500 copies of Weird Al's latest album, they need to have it duplicated 500 times on their server?

As of next Tuesday, C will be flushed in favor of COBOL. Please update your programs.