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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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  • Meanwhile, Amazon's UK site has decided to counter-promote their service by dropping prices on select tracks to 29 pence ($0.42).

    At the risk of sounding like an Amazon shill, Engadget helps those of you looking to get this week's disposable music [] that's shoved down your gullet on the radio.

    They are not without flaw though, even their Barracude by Heart [] is a confusing $1.29 (must have been an expensive song to produce) and I also rarely find their $0.79 tracks. I think albums on both sites are a standard $10 though, correct? So it's not that big of a difference for people like me that are interested in the artist and the album as a whole when the other 11 tracks aren't phoned in. Sometimes I find shorter albums a few bucks cheaper on Amazon. Haven't cared to check iTunes for that.

    Hope the Amazon US site follows suit with that 29 pence action.

  • Surprise? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SultanCemil ( 722533 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @09:53PM (#27498553)
    Does it surprise anybody that the labels would not drop prices when not forced to? 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) ?
  • by l00sr ( 266426 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:03PM (#27498619)

    The funny thing behind the "lowered" prices is that various albums used to be offered for $10 with no hullaballoo at all. I bought Throwing Copper (a 90's alt-rock masterpiece) in 2005 for $6, and I bought Blues Travelers' Four just last year for $6.41, both from ITMS. The price of each of those albums now: $10. Admittedly, I didn't get DRM-free versions for the lower prices, but it still seems fishy.

    Makes one wonder how many albums like this have actually seen stealth price increases.

  • by CyberZCat ( 821635 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:06PM (#27498635)

    This is a bad move in my opinion and will only encourage piracy. If you do the math, you'll realize that for someone to legally acquire say, 20GB worth of music (3MB avg.) at $1.00 per song, it would cost nearly $7,000. The thing is that as time goes on, hard drives are only going to be getting bigger and cheaper. Additionally as fast broadband becomes even more widespread it will mean that illegal downloading will become easier and the price factor with eventually decrease to nothing.

    How much do you think some TV show is worth to a typical viewer? How about a song? Even though it might be $1.00-$1.29 today, as people get more media with the same investment in space and time the value is only going to decline. Your iPod can hold more, so you want more media to fill it up. 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). Only a dollar per song sounds pretty reasonable, but if you have a 160GB iPod, filling it up will cost $48,000! $48,000?! Just think of what that kind of money can mean to somebody. Pay off the credit card debt. Get a new car. Remodeling. Any number of major things.

    I'd say we are QUITE past the point of something "worth paying for". As soon as a person downloads a song "illegally" they cross an invisible line and are now "pirates". And of course once you do it once, it's so easy to do again. That makes it sound like a drug but it's true. If you can get something easily for free, what's the point in paying for it? The best reason I can think of is if you get a significant amount of value added by actually paying for it. When this happens people become significantly more selective about what they DO actually pay for verses what they download for free. And of course, the media itself is practically free.

    Basically I think that if companies what to directly sell their media to consumers, it will have to cost fractions of a cent, and they're going to have to come up with some clever ideas on how to provide it to make it easier than simply downloading it for free. It'll probably have to offer other value as well.

    For example with TV shows companies should experiment with broadcasts which actually "upgraded" for the web. The idea is that you put your show online with ads for people to see for free. In terms of music, I think bands should get "distributors" which distribute all their music in very large inexpensive packages. Then the band can offer their music for free download on their website for their casual fans, but while simultaneously selling media and merchandise to their more loyal fans (who don't mind spending a little bit to support the band) with added value. I think there are still many ways to make good money off of media, but the truth is that the pay per unit or copy model is dying and won't be around much longer.

  • Who cares (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tuxgeek ( 872962 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:09PM (#27498657)

    Support you favorite artist by buying his/hers CD.
    Rip it to your favorite format. I prefer ogg.
    Copy it to your favorite personal player, I prefer the Cowon iAudio 7

    Last I checked, (I could be wrong) iTunes and iTunes products are locked in DRM hell, preventing you the freedom to copy your bought merchandise from laptop to portable player and vise versa.

    $1.29 per track? WTF, are they made of gold?
    What prevents anyone from just copying a favorite tune from the airwaves and slapping it to silicon, for free.
    Sounds like a scam.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:12PM (#27498689) Journal

    It will be very interesting to see what happens to sales on this.

    There is a price where profit is maximized. Go too high and the sales drop eats more then the added profit per unit provides.

    Old saying: "Fast nickels are better than slow dimes." Let's see if Apple has switched from the former to the latter.

  • by Pearson ( 953531 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:14PM (#27498709)
    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. If a song isn't getting downloaded, then drop the price to $.69. That way if a song becomes hot for some reason, they would get more money, and if a song is forgotten, the bargain shoppers will be more inclined to buy it (assuming you could search by price).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:26PM (#27498819)

    Yep, that's what I call the "Newegg" pricing model. From what I have seen this is exactly what Newegg does. I imagine it's automatic, I don't know but the more something sells the higher the price goes and it's lowered as demand lowers. Kinda funky if you ask me but that's what they seem to do.

  • by nebopolis ( 953349 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:29PM (#27498841)
    Haven't the labels been chafing under the fact that itunes has a majority share in the online music market for quite some time? Is there a possibility that the labels know that the new pricing (set by them and not apple) will driver customers away from apple, and are setting the prices "too high" deliberately in order to do just that?
  • Re:Surprise? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Suzuran ( 163234 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:41PM (#27498911)

    If you are running a business, ASCAP will bill you for ANY performance, whether or not you are playing free music.

  • convenience fee (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:42PM (#27498925) Homepage Journal
    The iTunes music store is one way of buying albums. They have never been the only game in town, and often buying the physical media is cheaper. The only reason to buy from itunes is that it is hooked up with the ipod and easy to do.

    Another reason is that the tracks are not available elsewhere. One can pick a single anecdotal example and say, look, they are selling music that is free elsewhere. My anecdotal example is that I have bought tracks there that I needed in a hurry that I have found no where else. A dollar to solve a problem was a bargain. Some people hate paying a penny more than they have to, likening it to theft, but I am willing to pay for service.

    That said I find myself buying from Amazon, both physical media and downloads. This will only increase as ITMS is now 1.29. I wonder if this is a ploy by labels to forestall the monopoly that the iTMS might become, or a ploy by Apple to sacrifice quantity and make it up in higher per sale profits. Honestly it is not every user that is sophisticated enough to do anything outside of the program they use. Look at how many people are afraid of Look at how may people said how horrible VLC was in a recent thread here on /., even though we can assume many that those people probably have little experience with the program. Now assume they are also afraid of many other things outside of their comfort zone, like ripping a CD or importing music from Amazon.

    In any case music has been in a deflationary spiral for years. The last time we saw music keep up with inflation was the introduction of the CD. Now tracks have been stagnant at 99 cents for 5 years, and even if we believe that they were massively overpriced to begin with, we must assume that an adjustment would happen, at least for premium tracks at a premium store. So instead of all tracks inflation adjusted to $1.15, most tracks stay cut rate, while some rise above inflation. And there are still discount places like Amazon, which, as i said, is where I prefer to shop.

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

    by Mordok-DestroyerOfWo ( 1000167 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:43PM (#27498935)
    In my mind they're competing against illegal downloads. Some people would rather torrent rather than purchase an album at $1.29 per track, having a lower price could start converting fence-sitters like these.
  • Re:Surprise? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by maxume ( 22995 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:48PM (#27498973)

    There is competition, just not exact competition. If you have $5 to spend on music and enjoy 15 different songs about the same amount, you will maximize your enjoyment if you buy the cheapest songs. That's incredibly contrived, but I don't think it is completely ridiculous.

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

    by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot.hackish@org> on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:59PM (#27499067)

    Probably depends on the consumer. I personally always want more music than I'm willing to spend money on, so I will move around things in the purchase queue (I prefer physical media, though) based on price--- a CD selling for more than my usual price range (say, $20+) might get deferred or never purchased, while some band selling $10 CDs directly out of their van will probably get a purchase right away.

    Some people have more directed music shopping, though: they want a specific album or song, and are looking to go buy it. They might be less price sensitive, at least within reasonable ranges.

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

    by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @11:00PM (#27499073)

    That can't be the Label's bullying poor defenceless Apple.

    Actually, it can be. Just the same way that Microsoft charges more for Windows to OEMs which sell Linux-based products.

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

    by Adrian Lopez ( 2615 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @11:25PM (#27499249) Homepage

    If you are running a business, ASCAP will bill you for ANY performance, whether or not you are playing free music.

    They might, but they are not supposed to [].

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

    by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @11:30PM (#27499299) Homepage

    Well my first question would be, who put them on iTunes? Did Apple set the price, or did someone else?

    Now I don't know who would put up public domain songs, or who would collect the profits. Does Apple get the full $0.99? It seems like they should be able to do that, but somehow I doubt that they have. Anyone have real information on that? I tried looking it up on the store to see who it had listed as the record label, but with the only thing that was a full album of Ada Jones that I could see, it said it was "unavailable".

    There may be someone profiting off of public domain recordings, which incidentally isn't illegal. However, I bet that, as far as Apple is concerned, it's just another album that some label submitted with a $9.90 price point.

  • Ada Jones (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JewGold ( 924683 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @11:32PM (#27499315)
    Did anybody check out the Ada Jones link? One of the song titles is "If the man in the moon were a coon". Wikipedia reveals what may just be the silliest sentence I've ever read: "His first hit was "If the Man In the Moon Were a Coon" in 1906 The song combined two then-popular song themes, Moon songs and Coon songs." []
  • Re:Surprise? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @11:32PM (#27499317)

    It's time for Apple to start signing artists directly; bypassing the record companies for new recordings.

  • by Toonol ( 1057698 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @11:39PM (#27499347)
    There's a clear reason it is priced higher: It was in Guitar Hero II. Both my sons and all their friends know Barracuda, and not because of their love for classic rock.
  • by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) * on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @11:48PM (#27499401) Homepage Journal
    Bingo []. From link:

    "The amount being paid to the music industry, even though [these] games are entirely dependent on the content we own and control, is far too small," Warner Music Group CEO Edgar Bronfman told analysts last summer.

    Guitar Hero drives much more sales than your ad agencies and your lawsuits, assholes. The funny thing is that the recording industry are beginning to attack their own kin, MTV Games!

  • There is a price where profit is maximized. Go too high and the sales drop eats more then the added profit per unit provides.

    You think that's what this is about? First of all, I doubt the people at the record labels are really paying that much attention. The record companies have been complaining for years that Apple wouldn't allow them to set their own prices, and forced them to sell at $0.99. When customers said in return, "Good, we don't want you to drive up prices," the record companies came back and said, "No, we want to lower prices, too!" And no big surprise, they get their chance, and no prices have been lowered.

    Part of the problem is that they aren't really interested in the long tail. Competitive pricing devalues their product. If you can get tons of great old songs for $0.02, then it gets harder to convince their customers that another track is really worth $1.29, or more (I'm sure they'd love to be selling $2.00 tracks).

    Besides, it's sort of the nature of the beast that record companies are all focused on what's new, what was released last week, what's in the top ten, etc. The less likely it is to sell a lot, the cheaper it should be-- but then again, it's also less likely the record companies are going to worry about songs that aren't going to sell a lot anyway.

    Regardless, none of this is what this is about. The record companies are scared of Apple. Apple is the #1 music retailer in the US now, even ahead of all the brick & mortar stores, and Apple's newfound dominance threatens the record industry's control over the music industry. They're trying to prop Amazon up as a competitor by giving them preferable deals, allowing Amazon to sell tracks and albums at significantly lower prices.

    So there a couple of things I'm left wondering. First, did Apple have anything in their contracts with the record companies that say only a certain percentage of songs from a label can be $1.29, and a certain percent must be $0.69? Second, if the record companies are propping up Amazon to keep Apple from drinking their milkshake, what makes them think Amazon will be any better?

  • by moderatorrater ( 1095745 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @12:05AM (#27499511)

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

    Yes. They already act together in lawsuits and pricing, why not act together in leaving iTunes for a company willing to give them the price they want? iTunes cannot survive without the labels, but the opposite isn't true (in the short term, anyway).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @12:31AM (#27499671)

    As an artist - I just hope to hell they are asking $1.29 for my music and they are paying me more!!!!!

    Not to say you'll buy it but if you do... thank you.

    but guess what.. realistically I don't see a penny more....
    Screw the labels.....


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

    by Dhalka226 ( 559740 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @12:49AM (#27499769)

    Unfortunately, they're also competing against themselves. Take my story from just today:

    I had heard a song and decided I wanted it. I poked around a little bit but couldn't find the song; I didn't see it in iTunes, not on Amazon mP3, not on Walmart's MP3 service. I could get the whole CD from Amazon, but apparently it was only released on a Canadian label in Canada, and I wasn't inclined to pay $25 to buy an import--particularly when I had never heard the other songs on the CD and only wanted that one.

    Eventually I went to the artist's website. "Ah HA!" I said to myself. There was a "buy this on iTunes" link. I had no idea how I missed it on iTunes the first time, but no matter. Click the link, iTunes pops up dutifully. And--what's this? "This item is not available in the US version of iTunes. Click here to switch stores." Okay, no problem. Except that apparently it is a problem, since as a US customer I'm not special enough to buy anything from the iTunes Canadian store.

    So I pirated the damn song.

    I literally tried to give these people my money. I went out of my way to do so, I registered with iTunes and was about to buy the first song I've ever bought from them (I don't care for it or Apple very much) just to give them my money--and they refused it. There's certainly no TECHNICAL reason they couldn't have given me the song; in fact, they had to go out of their way to impose the technical limitation that I couldn't get it. But for whatever reason, that was the choice they made. So I walked away.

    I say all that just to get to this: They still don't understand the Internet. They want to have their cake and eat it too*; to have their exclusivity and licensing deals, to continue selling music at frankly inflated prices and only pay lip service to the way the Internet has and WILL change their industry. Well, so be it. They're the copyright owners. But so long as they go out of their way to gouge us on prices (it seriously costs as much to buy the CD online as get it from the store now?!), prevent "undesirables" from buying their music and otherwise make the legal route the most unreasonable, largest pain in the ass way of getting music... they'll never stand any chance against piracy. I don't feel the slightest bit bad about what I did today. I would have paid the $1.29 even though I think it's too expensive. I would have paid the $0.99 feeling the same way. I couldn't. Until this sort of nonsense changes, they have little chance of actually getting any number of fence-sitters to their side. So long as piracy remains both the cheapest and the easiest way of acquiring things, it will remain the biggest.

    This is my annoyance as a US customer, and in reality I have access to the majority of things I might want. Imagine how many would-be customers they're shutting out even from US operations by no doubt excluding the rest of the world as I was excluded from the Canadian offering. Think they'll learn?

    * Stupidest expression ever? I think so.

  • is another viable alternative to Itunes.

    -No DRM
    -MP3 Format
    -Large Selection(Though it is true they tend to have better alternative selections and fewer name-brands)
    ->$1 per track. (I pay $0.21 per)

    There is life in music beyond what is shoveled through the pop radio and TV ads.

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

    by afidel ( 530433 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @01:36AM (#27499989)
    I wonder if that track really is in the public domain, there's a good chance that the recording on iTunes and Amazon has been digitally remastered. I know I was listening to Science Friday some time ago and they had a guy on who was a world class scientist in signal analysis and some label had approached him to come up with a way to recover the only know live (wire) recordings of Woody Guthrie. While that performance would not be out of copyright is the US anyways (damn Disney) the technical and creative masterpiece of recovering and remastering it probably deserves some coverage as a creative work in and of itself. You can read a bit about it here [] or listen to the interview here [].
  • Re:Surprise? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zugmeister ( 1050414 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @02:52AM (#27500301)
    So you want some pickles. The only vendor of pickles you can find has decreed that you may have them, but you must also purchase a beef patty, lettuce, tomato, a bun, a side of fries and a soft drink. Yeah, maybe you're in the mood for lunch (and maybe you're not)and while technically you can buy your pickles this isn't really what you're being forced to purchase. He wants a single song at a fair price, not a $25 CD containing that song and others he's never heard of.
  • Re:Surprise? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dave1791 ( 315728 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @04:37AM (#27500707)

    As someone who has lived outside the US for many years, I've seen this soooooooo often.

    I tried to buy Ken Burns' "The Civil War" a few years ago on DVD. They would not ship to my (at the time) German address. I wrote to PBS about it and they answered "licensing deals... blah... blah". So I bought it in Wal Mart the next time I was in the US and brought it back to play on my hacked player.

    My daughter is a big Avatar fan. They would not sell me the Season 3 DVDs as it was not yet released in Europe. My solution was to torrent it. I'd have happily paid, but they did not want to sell it to me.

    Same deal with Pen and Teller's "Bullshit". I can't buy it because I'm in Europe, but I can torrent it.

    Now that I'm in India, nobody will sell me anything. No problem. The govt. does not care a hoot about piracy so I can torrent as much as I like.

    My recently (legitimately) purchased copy of Prince Caspian is region 3. To play it in the US, I'd have to violate the DMCA. The structure of the music and film industry, like banking, is pre-internet. It lives on specialized deals with country specific distributors and prefers to ignore the fact that the world is flat. What I don't like is governments being convinced to help them solve a structural problem in their industry with draconian laws.

  • by Marcika ( 1003625 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @04:59AM (#27500775)

    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[...[

    It is traditional economics, and it is called the "single price monopoly pricing problem". Wikipedia [] has the formula and background info. Of course if they really want to properly gouge their consumers for all their worth, they'd also introduce some price discrimination []...

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

    by TheoMurpse ( 729043 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @09:49AM (#27502601) Homepage

    OK, I need to start being careful here I think. I'm not a lawyer (just a third-year law student). I'm not your lawyer. I'm not anyone's lawyer on Slashdot. This is not legal advice. This is merely my uninformed view based on research for an academic article. Anything I say would drastically change if I were representing you (which I can't anyway since I'm not a licensed lawyer).

    That being said, it seems like judges are more concerned with what the intent is rather than the underlying technical structure. Copyright law is poorly written for the internet. Judges are struggling to make it fit in the digital age. A good example of where copyright doesn't help is in sending a file to someone else. Where are copies made that are "fixed" enough to infringe? At upload? At download? On the myried Cisco routers on the way? Do you really make 15 copies of an MP3 when attempting to send one file to a friend? Should that make you liable 15 times (the answer here is "no").

    So I would expect the judge to say

    1. the file was sent for a one-time listen, not for multiple playbacks
    2. in order to play the file a second time, you have to do the transfer again
    3. thus, it's a performance, not a distribution

    In areas of the law like this, the courts are perfectly happy to perform a gap-filling, federal common law role in determining matters of law.

  • Anyone taking bets? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lpangelrob ( 714473 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @10:34AM (#27503263)

    What's the over/under on the length of time before the labels switch back to 99 cent pricing? I'm going to guess about 3 weeks.

    Roughly the amount of time it took to pull Tropicana out of its nosedive []. Yes, music industry; 99 cents per song is (was) your brand.

Lavish spending can be disastrous. Don't buy any lavishes for a while.