Price Hikes & Status Tracks

Shit, I almost forgot to post something everyone could hate together. You may or may not have heard that iTunes will probably raise its prices from 99 cents. Back when the industry first started pushing Steve Jobs for a hike, he called them greedy and said it’d only increase piracy.

Now, I’m not an expert in digital music sales, but bumping it up 20, 30, or 50 cents probably won’t do too much to increase piracy. So why is Apple fighting this? Well, control, according to Joel on Software:

Here’s the dream world for the EMI Group, Sony/BMG, etc.: there are two prices for songs on iTunes, say, $2.49 and $0.99. All the new releases come out at $2.49. Some classic rock (Sweet Home Alabama) is at $2.49. Unwanted, old, crap, like, say, Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl) — the crap we only know because it was pushed on us in the 70s by paid-off disk jockeys — would be deliberately priced at $0.99 to send a clear message that $0.99 = crap.

And now when a musician gets uppity, all the recording industry has to do is threaten to release their next single straight into the $0.99 category, which will kill it dead no matter how good it is. And suddenly the music industry has a lot more leverage over their artists in negotiations: the kind of leverage they are used to having. Their favorite kind of leverage. The ?we won’t promote your music if you don’t let us put rootkits on your CDs? kind of leverage.

And Apple? Apple wants the signaling to come from what they promote on the front page of the iTunes Music Store. In the battle between Apple and the recording industry over who gets to manipulate what songs you buy, Apple (like movie theaters) is going to be in favor of fixed prices, while the recording industry is going to want variable prices.

Like I said, I’m not an expert, and it’s a complex issue, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they dream of exploting that cultural impulse to covet $500 jeans for their exclusivity by offering $5 “exclusive” singles and $0.99 “bargain” music. I mean, there’s also this quote from the CEO of the Warner Music Group: “Some songs should be $0.99 and some songs should be more. I don’t want to give anyone the impression that $0.99 is a thing of the past.” Why should some songs be more? Is it because they’re better?

It’d also have the effect of making inexpensive tracks by, say, indie bands look cheap, as well, right?

(via Slashdot)