Challenge to $0.99 Songs
I have been reading about the heat that Steve Jobs is taking for offering songs for .99 US on iTunes. Apparently the large record labels feel that they could get more money for downloads and cite the popularity, and cost of ringtones, as their justification for raising the prices. I am in no way one of those Apple people who claim that Steve Jobs is the Messiah and that every word he uttereth is the gospel, but in this case I agree with him. Apple's price point is exactly how much the market will bear. Not a penny more. I don't know anyone who would be willing to pay more than .99 US for a song. I downloaded a couple of ringtones, and then I got my phone bill. I subsequently have not downloaded any more ringtones.
These same big record company execs feel that they should be able to vary the cost of albums based on whatever whim they feel on that particular week. Again, $9.99 US is all anyone will pay for a download. That price point is sweet, and resonates with most users as how much an album is worth. I fail to understand how someone could have money coming in hand over fist, and then want to tamper with success. But if I could believe that such an entity could exist, the record companies would be it. Their logic just doesn't add up. I think that most of it is just that Jobs' holds too much power over them, and his power is increasing by the week. People have been saying the day of reckoning for the recording industry has been coming since the '80s when CDs crept up to around 20 US. Even the artists themselves are disgusted with how the industry is run. In black and white. I would not buy any more music from the iTunes store if prices started creaping over .99 US for songs and 9.99 for albums.
Instead of chasing their tails over DRM and pay-per-listen business models, how about offering consumers some innovation. Most of the music is currently delivered on CD, how about DVD. It would be much more difficult to rip, and it offers substantially better sound quality than a CD. DVD offers the ability to use DTS for surround sound, opening up new avenues for audio engineers who have to be going bananas with being limited to 44.1KHz at 16-bit sample depth. DVD offers a crisp 92KHz and 24-bit sample depth, and for those audiophiles, like myself, who insist that LPs still sound way better than DVDs, there is a stereo format for DVD-Audio that weighs in at 192KHz at 24-bit depth, and listening to that, the DVD spinning noise nonwithstanding, I can almost forget I am listening to digital.
How about including all the lyrics of the artists in the metadata with the songs so that I don't have to type it all in and can use Spotlight or Google search to find songs by a bit that I may remember. How about throwing videos and extra content on a DVD-Audio disc and selling it for 14.99 US?
I am not slighting CD audio. Some of the tricks recording engineers have used to get every last bit of sound quality out of an old technology are simply amazing. There are some darn good sounding CDs out there, but consumers are being offered nothing for their money except for the same old, same old. Hey, listen, record execs, technology has changed. The potential for digital audio is much higher than most people know. Why not try to get new people to fall in love with the format. The fact that people are choosing a sonically degraded format over whatever is being offered should tip the industry off that something is wrong. CDs are inconvient and offer nothing in trade for their lack of quality. DJs lug 12″ vinyl around because it sounds good. There is nothing conveninent about a 50lb crate of music, but they deal with it for the quality.
The product being put out by recording companies in the way of pop music leaves much to be desired also. The quality of the music has dropped as the result of using formulas to try to grab every last sale from either a stale loop, or an ancient guitar lick, or some inane hook. How about some experiental music. Digital distribution will win because it breaks new artists to the public.
It is incredible that in the face of declining disc sales, all they can do is figure out new and improved ways to hurt the consumer. Most businesses would have been destroyed by competition now, and I guess that is what is happening right now. Now if only someone could get the artists out of their contracts and get them to record directly to digital, and compress the songs at a higher bitrate with new features like the surround MP3 format, digital music would explode. The best thing about it would be that consumers would have a choice, and artists would finally be compensated in the way that they should.