Wednesday, June 11, 2003


CD Prices Inching Up at iTunes Store

by Wayne Robins

Figured I'd make my first purchase at the Apple iTunes store: the new Radiohead CD. Radiohead, after all, may be the most technophilic of mainstream rock bands, and certainly uses the Web to reach and connect with its audience. But the new Radiohead isn't available on the iTunes store: in fact, none of the Radiohead catalog is available here. Nor is that of the Beatles, Beach Boys, Bob Seger, or any of the other major Capitol artists.

And prices for full CD's are escalating. No longer can you assume that albums will be $9.99. A surf through the catalogs of popular artists showed that Coldplay's "Parachutes" is up to $11.99. "A Rush of Blood to the Head" ($10.89), comparable (or more than) recent sale prices at Target. Since the eleven songs of "A Rush of Blood" to the head are for sale at 99 cents each, iTunes and Parlophone (Coldplay's label) are no longer discounting for purchase on the whole album.

Pink Floyd's "Animals" (1977) sells for $11.99, "The Division Bell" (1994, both Columbia) is $9.99, while the double-cd of "The Wall" is $25.74. What's available from Bruce Springsteen's catalog shows wide variance in price: "The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle" (his second album, circa 1973, and perhaps not recently remastered) sells for only $6.93, "Darkness At the Edge of Town" is $9.90, while the recent collection "18 Tracks" goes for $11.99. Again, much closer to retail sale price than downloadable discount.

My best guess is that the industry is getting cold feet over the initial widely advertised $9.99 pricing, which still exists for many current hits. Should the Coldplay model stand, it's obvious that bloggers, and fan newsgroups will take a more active critical role in getting the word out on what songs are indispensable and which ones you can live without. So instead of registering full album sales, the major labels are risking returning their business to a kind of quasi-singles industry. Unenlightened thinking, but then again, what would we expect from a business that sues some of its best customers?

(c) 2003 Wayne Robins. All rights reserved.

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