With the major labels cajoling Apple into upping the cost of the most popular tracks on iTunes, I wondered how long it would take other music download stores to follow suit. Not long it seems – less than a day in fact – with paidContent and Ars Technica reporting that Amazon, Wal-Mart, Lala and Rhapsody have followed Apple’s lead and introduced ‘variable pricing’.
Of course, none of this down to the stores in question. The major labels set wholesale prices for tracks, and each download store then follows suit, give and take varying margins and the odd, possibly loss making, promotion here and there. Some might argue that ‘variable pricing’ alone isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although it does sacrifice the simple buying experience that Apple first introduced with its 99c per track rigid pricing structure on iTunes. What’s certainly short sighted is to use ‘variable pricing’ as an excuse to raise the upper limit of price per track, especially in a time of recession and when less and less people still pay for music anyway.
There’s also a complete inconsistency in pricing across each store on a track by track basis. It’s not even as simple as paying more for the most popular tracks. For example, Amazon is cheaper than iTunes on some top 40 tracks and vise versa. As paidContent notes: “comparing like with like can be difficult”.
Sources at Apple tell me that Apple is getting different prices than Amazon from the recording idustry. The record companies are, and have been for awhile, favoring Amazon. In fact, Amazon is selling songs for less than the price that Apple pays for them in some cases.
The motive: The majors are determined to weaken Apple’s power in the music industry, and with some success, punishing them for selling all those damn iPods.