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March 26, 2006

iTunes Gets Smart re: Music Videos

(Via Lost Remote)

Ever since Apple began selling hour-long TV shows on the iTunes store for $1.99, the willingness of customers to buy five-minute music videos for the exact same price dropped off quite a bit. This was understandable, as from the customer's point of view, the prices for music videos were an unconscionable ripoff. (I won't get into the behind-the-scenes realities of pricing structures, except to note that most customers really don't care if a music video cost as much to make as a TV episode.)

While I'd still be a little leery of the perceived value equivalency between a TV show and a "vingle" (a music video bundled with its associated single), the decision to bundle videos with music tracks is definitely a step in the right direction on Apple's part, as are the higher-margin music video bundles they're offering. Sending conflicting messages in media pricing has the potential to undermine the whole business, which is why Apple's move towards sanity in music video prices is a good thing, and the record industry's rent-seeking push to raise song prices to $1.49 (or whatever the market will bear) would almost certainly be bad for business.


I think we need to launch a serious campaign to stop this "vingle" silliness before it catches on. "Vlogs" and "vodcasts" are questionable, but "vingle" is way, way over the line.

In all seriousness, I don't think the $1.49 for a single track model is the end of the world. What concerns me more is the increase in album cost if this catches on. At the moment, most of the CDs on the store (and, really, is calling a collection of songs a "CD" any more anachronistic than calling it an "album"?) hover in the $10-12 range, which feels about right to me. When they jump up to the $16 range is where I'll start to balk. I don't wander into Tower Records and surrepititously buy an album anymore, because $16 is too much money. Personally, my acceptable price range is between $8 and $14. Under $8 and I start to question if it's been bargain-binned for a reason (unless, of course, it's an EP) and over $14 I start to wince -- and I suspect I'm not the only one.

I wouldn't be surprised if the single track price increased but the album prices stayed the same. That would be the option of choice if the record companies are trying to get people to buy more whole albums than singles, which sounds like an extremely probable strategy.

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