What's the point?

There have been rumors that since online music stores such as iTMS have been doing so well, the music studios would like to hike up the price. This sounds incredibly hippocritical - "Oh, an online music business model *does* work, lets make more money on it!" Then, when sales begin falling due to the price/convenience ratio rising too high their new answer - "See, online music doesn't work - people must be pirating!"

And then there are the bands that see "the album" as a entire piece of work, rather than merely an amalgamation of songs onto one 60-70min CD. Therefore, in their artistic vision, they would prefer to not allow consumer's to purchase a song. While I respect artistic vision, in the end an artist in this case is still producing a consumer good which must be consumed. Therefore, if someone wants to buy a single song and "ruin the artistic whole", so be it. Take their money, thank them kindly, and scoff at them if you will.

So, this brings me to my point. I was ecstatic when I saw that Dave Matthews Band would be released on iTMS. For me, the iTunes pricing model, implementation, and integration is the very model of a modern major music service. It has the excellent price to convenience ratio where I can deal with slightly annoying DRM and the possibility of limited audio quality for the sake of getting a plethora of songs which I can listen to and are immediately available and I don't have to haul around with me.

But when a band/label now starts charging $11.99 for their album, I have several questions:

  1. Do they think their album has higher value/quality and therefore should charge more?
  2. If you want to sell the *album* and not songs, why make the price of the album almost in line with the price per song? It makes it very attractive to really just buy the songs one may like than say "hrm, I'll just get the entire album - it's not that much"
  3. Why should I pay *more* for limitations ala DRM, quality, lack of physical medium, and possiblity to lose the digital version with no recourse to recovery when I can pay *less* at my local record shop - there is no pricing for "new releases" on iTMS like there is in a store
  4. To even make matters e'en odder, I could have purchased a pre-release of one of the songs for the (current) price of $0.99, and then *repurchase* that song with the album. Hrm... "Can I sell one" - negative

Methinks I'll be stopping in at a local shop to get me the physical version of the new dmb album. Perhaps I'll even see some new local stuff I've been meaning to check out.

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written on
posted in Music Back to Top

About the Author

Andrew Turner is an advocate of open standards and open data. He is actively involved in many organizations developing and supporting open standards, including OpenStreetMap, Open Geospatial Consortium, Open Web Foundation, OSGeo, and the World Wide Web Consortium. He co-founded CrisisCommons, a community of volunteers that, in coordination with government agencies and disaster response groups, build technology tools to help people in need during and after a crisis such as an earthquake, tsunami, tornado, hurricane, flood, or wildfire.