October 16, 2007 |
Confirmed: Apple has dropped iTunes Plus track prices to $0.99.
Word has it that Apple?s planning to cease its systematic gouging of its customers as far as music sales go. Jacqui Cheng of Ars Technica claimed yesterday evening to receive advanced notice from a source close to Cupertino?s super-secretive avenue, Infinite Loop, that those buying single iTunes Plus tracks now (and the last hundred or so yesterdays) would soon find prices affixed to the online store?s DRM free selection drop by $0.30 apiece, landing at the $0.99 token tag millions of consumers have come to
If this is indeed the case, it?s news worth a friendly welcome. After all, it?s certainly better to pay less for something that?s technically worth little than pay a premium that, at the end of the day, isn?t worth a penny extra, all things considered.
According to Cheng?s report, the price drop for iTunes Plus tracks will likely happen concurrently with the entrance of a number of independent music labels to the iTunes Store. For years Apple has been dealing pretty much exclusively with the industry?s Big Four, so, if I may say so myself, the involvement of the indies, despite their very belated addition to the marketplace, is no doubt encouraging to hear.
The only bad news that could likely come of independent labels? imminent debut on iTunes is that eMusic, the second-largest digital music marketplace in the US specializing in indie offerings not found in Apple?s more mainstream venue, will now likely have to face the prospect of losing market share to the already very dominant iTunes empire. Yikes. Sorry, eMusic. Capitalism has both a light and dark side, eh?
All in all, the price-per-Plus-track drop, as well as the establishment of a significant indie presence on iTunes, are likely to be greeted with yet another general uptick in sales for Apple, both on the digital front and on the hardware side.
If the iTunes-iPod picture is looked at logically, it?s really in Apple?s best interest to continue to command the market as it does today. Dropping the price of its DRM-free selection shows that it indeed recognizes the seriousness of the competition posed by Amazon (among other forces), and knows it needs to keep consumers well within its own hardware-software-entertainment ecosystem to 1) keep the company going steadily uphill, 2) make stockholders happy, and so on and so forth.
And as much as Apple seems willing to fight the record companies tooth and nail on pricing (they want higher prices for new and popular stuff, and lower prices for the stuff you?d see in the bargain bin at the local record shop ? if the local record shop were still in business, of course), they?ll work out whatever deals are necessary to keep consumers safely within the Apple bubble long before they relinquish the great-majority hold on the digital download market they have.
The question I?m still grappling with is this: Who?s going to blink first? iTunes? Or those stubborn Big Two? (As we all know, EMI signed on to the DRM-free mantra months ago. EMI was later followed by Universal, though Universal has offered its catalogue DRM-free only via AmazonMP3 for the time being. Most likely to piss off Jobs & Co. Sony BMG and Warner are holding out on going ?unprotected.?)