Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Big Music: Cheaper Music Coming to iTunes. Trust Us.

69-centsYesterday I noted that Apple and the big music labels had effectively raised prices at iTunes via a tiered system that priced most songs at 99 cents and many at $1.29. The question: Where are the cheap songs–the ones that the labels had promised to start selling for 69 cents?

They’re coming, music label execs tell me. Just hold your horses.

None of the label executives I contacted at Warner Music Group (WMG), Universal Music Group, Sony (SNE) and EMI Music Group would talk to me on the record. But several of them promised that consumers will soon start seeing lots of old stuff marked down at the new bottom tier price. “For every one track at $1.29, there are about 10 tracks at 69 cents,” one told me. “75% of the tracks are staying at .99 and we will be pricing down a far greater number of tracks than we will price up,” added another. (Another inexplicably argued that the labels don’t set retail pricing at all, but that’s a stretch: The labels do set wholesale pricing, which correlates to Apple’s retail price).

The label folks say that it takes longer for Apple (AAPL) to ingest the pricing changes than you’d think, and that’s the reason for the delay. Then again, this stuff has been in the works since early January. And you’d think that Apple or the labels would have made a point of coming out of the gate with lots of cheap stuff so that folks like me wouldn’t obsess about the more expensive tracks.

But they’re getting there. Today, for instance, iTunes is promoting two collections of “Great Songs At A Great Price”–a “Classic R&B” set and a “Rock” set. The R&B collection has some pretty good stuff, in my humble opinion: Tracks like “O-O-H Child” by The Five Stairsteps and Marvin Gaye’s “Can I Get A Witness?” The rock collection is a little more, um, eclectic. But you can get the Clash’s “London Calling” there. And anyway, one man’s trash is another’s treasure, and I’m sure someone’s psyched to get Blue Oyster Cult’s “Godzilla” for 69 cents.

And here’s another track I like from the R&B set, or at least a YouTube video of someone playing a vinyl version of it: Solomon Burke’s “Cry To Me”:

[Image credit: specialkrb]


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald