By Richard Menta 4/7/09
Today is the day that iTunes shifts to a tiered pricing plan and while most pundits fixated on those downloads that will now cost $1.29, I was more interested in those that will now run $0.69. Here's the problem. I can't find any $0.69 tracks on iTunes.
It is very clear that iTunes has plenty of $1.29 song downloads. As expected, prices on the most popular tunes were jacked up 30%. When I looked up older music on iTunes - some of it decades old - I saw no $0.69 tracks. In fact, I found some of them had raised their prices too.
Do you want to download Heart's 34-year old Barracuda? That will now cost you $1.29. Of course, to some Baby Boomers that song serves as a mini national anthem to the 1970's so it may not be the best example. Maybe, I should look at not just at older music, but music that is less popular too.
So I next checked iTunes for the Katydids wonderful 1991 album Shangri-La. That album was not a big success and hit the bargin bins early on. It has been out-of-print on CD for over a decade, but it is on iTunes. Surly, those tracks had to be priced at $0.69! Nope, all were $0.99. All the tracks from late-80's college faves Camper Van Beethoven and the Lyres also stayed at $0.99.
Maybe, I have to get much older, like 50 years or more. Elvis Presley had no $0.69 downloads on iTunes, but he is the King so that popularity factor plays here again. So I tried his fellow Memphis High School graduates, the more obscure Rock and Roll Trio. Their sublime version of Train Kept a Rollin was....$0.99.
Maybe, I just need to get away from Rock and Roll and Hip Hop. Let's go way back to the mid-1940's to peruse the early BeBop recordings of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Nope, no $0.69 track in the entire oeuvre of both men. The same for 40's jump blues king Wynonie Harris and 30's-40's R&B hitmaker Slim Gaillard.
Now I am getting real frustrated. I venture this time into the late 1920s and search for the old Jazz greats like Sidney Bechet, Kid Ory and Bix Beiderbeck. All of it, every single track, was listed as $0.99 on iTunes.
Finally, I go to the Music of Ada Jones. Who is Ada Jones? She was the number one female recording artist for over 25 years, between 1893 when she made her first recordings with the North American Recording Co. and into post WWI era. Think of her as the "Madonna" of the gaslight set. Jones died in 1922 and all of her recordings fell into the public domain by WWII under the old US copyright laws.
Did I find any $0.69 tracks. Nooooo. I find it interesting that whoever is selling the music of Miss Jones and collecting profits from it are dictating price even though they don't hold any rights to the music - IT IS PUBLIC FRICKEN DOMAIN!
I give up.
I surmised that the reason Apple announced the new pricing plan weeks in advance was not only because they wanted to give consumers time to get used to the idea, but to give them time to make all of the price adjustments in their system. They had no problem doing that for all of the price hikes. The lack of any visible price drops makes me sadly suspicious that it was all a come-on.
I am afraid that Ted Cohen's announcement that the tiered pricing plan would "be a PR nightmare" were words of wisdom from a insider who knew this was really only just a price hike. The claims that there would be $0.69 track downloads appear to just be press fodder to buffer the price shock for consumers.
We'll have to wait and see if iTunes makes good on Steve Jobs' promise that there would be more $0.69 song downloads than $1.29 tracks. I am not confident that will happen after what I have observed, but it is only fair to give them a little more time.
I have a bit of money in my iTunes account waiting for lower prices to take effect and motivate me to spend. Let's see if iTunes comes through.
Follow up: A day later iTunes has posted a few dozen mixed $0.69 tracks on their home page. I could find no other reductions beyond this meager offering.