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Music Labels Cry Crocodile Tears

September 27th, 2005

Now that the initial contract between Apple and the music labels for iTunes Music Store sales is expiring, and the experiment has been so successful, the music labels want to do what have have been doing for a long time: screw over their customers like they screw over their artists. The labels want to allow for pricing tiers, charging variably per song and album. Already they are making more from iTMS sales than they make from brick-and-mortar sales, given there is no need for CD production, casing, packaging or physical distribution, and Apple likely takes a lower cut of the price than music stores do.

Yes, Steve Jobs is making a lot of money off of the iPods, no mistake about it. And yes, keeping the price of music to a dollar a song and ten for an album is helping him sell more iPods so people can use the iTunes Music store with it. So he has a bias to keep song prices low, while he charges a premium for the iPod itself.

This is the argument made by Warner Music Group CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr., who says that some music is more valuable than other music, and that mandating one price for all is “not fair to our artists, and I dare say not appropriate to consumers.”

While he’s right about Jobs, it has zero bearing on the pricing structure argument at large. So what if Jobs is making big bucks selling iPods? The music labels make far more selling music, even at current prices. And he is completely full of it when it comes to artists and consumers. What he wants to do is keep 99 cents as the rock bottom and charge more for hot songs. How is this “appropriate” for consumers, at least from the consumers’ point of view? As for artists, the labels give them next to nothing unless they are really big-time and able to negotiate–but on the whole, they rip them off royally, and there is no chance that the labels will give any but the most powerful artists a pay boost from higher iTMS pricing.

This is nothing but a naked grab for profits by the music labels, with no benefit for the artists and certainly no benefit for the consumer–quite the opposite.

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