Labels seek end to 99c music per song download
April 11, 2004 9:04 PM   Subscribe

Labels seek end to 99c music per song download
"...the major five labels think that 99 cents per song is too cheap, and are discussing a price hike that would increase the tariff to $1.25 up to $2.99 per song." How about free legal downloads for $6 a month. DRM free. The artists get paid.? Will the RIAA ever see the light?
posted by diVersify (37 comments total)
Personally I don't use any of the online music stores because of the DRM. My MP3 player in my car doesn't support DRM, so I can't use what I download as I want to. Which is of course the whole issue with DRM.
posted by diVersify at 9:10 PM on April 11, 2004

No, the RIAA won't "see the light" -- they have no reason to. They don't exist to help the artists, they exist to help the record company execs, and one of the ways they do this is by taking all the negative press. don't hear people ranting about how much they hate EMI, you hear them rant about the RIAA. Which is exactly the way the record companies want it.
posted by aramaic at 9:18 PM on April 11, 2004

I think the 99ยข horse has already left the barn. Good luck record companies -- you price fixing bastards.
posted by birdherder at 9:35 PM on April 11, 2004

You mean people still buy music?
posted by fatbobsmith at 9:57 PM on April 11, 2004

Apple can stand on its own selling iPods with our without iTMS. The otehr online music stores will fold instantly if forced to up their prices to the suggested levels. Apple can just tell the RIAA to GFY and let people go back to getting their music off of p2p, no skin off their nose.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:15 PM on April 11, 2004

The other online music stores will fold instantly

Don't forget that Walmart is in this game and Microsoft will be as well. I don't think either would fold even if nobody bought from them for a year or two. Apple would more than likely run the iTMS at a loss as well. It makes them look like they're on top of the tech game and boosts their stock value by a decent amount.
posted by fatbobsmith at 10:34 PM on April 11, 2004

Wow... so when their claims that p2p and online music stores are damaging CD sales are disproven, they go the extra mile to *actually* damage sales.

I hope to see the day their idiotic business practices put them out on the street.
posted by Krrrlson at 10:40 PM on April 11, 2004

Unless they go through all the effort to change international treaties and laws, raising prices in the US will just increase the rate at which people start downloading from legal overseas distributors. immediately comes to mind, and I'm sure there are others.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:43 PM on April 11, 2004

But, is allofmp3 legal for someone in US, as well?
posted by Gyan at 11:31 PM on April 11, 2004

thank god theres enough music to fill a lifetimes worth of lifetimes outside these labels

big shit... who needs it? would a boycott on columbia kill dylan?
posted by Satapher at 2:29 AM on April 12, 2004

Anybody seen the primary WSJ source? It's hard to judge what's afoot here since the linked article does not quote anyone in the record industry. Not that I'm above a rush to judgment when it comes to these conniving bastids.
posted by Slagman at 4:37 AM on April 12, 2004

The playfair debacle is about to send iTMS belly-up anyway, I reckon -- not because being able to remove DRM from AAC will harm sales in any way, but because the record companies are gonna freak.
posted by reklaw at 5:12 AM on April 12, 2004


Idiots, and cretins.
posted by troutfishing at 5:22 AM on April 12, 2004

The whole cents-per-download thing isn't going to make it, I don't think. I've been saying for a while that we're ultimately going to end up with a mechanical royalties system based upon mils-per-megabyte of downloaded media.
posted by MattD at 5:24 AM on April 12, 2004

Personally I don't use any of the online music stores because of the DRM.

I have the same problem as you - I own a DVD player and a car MP3 player that don't support those formats, so I'm not even interested in trying. Aaah, but there are some that don't have any DRM. I've really gotten into buying MP3s lately, and haven't once had to deal with DRM. I don't know if it's because I'm not buying any major label artists, but that can only be a good thing, right?
posted by Jimbob at 5:24 AM on April 12, 2004

I've bought a lot of music off of iTunes, I didn't even realize how much until I looked at my "Purchased Music" tab. What's odd is that I rarely ever bought CDs any more. The iTunes Store isn't perfect but it's managed to part me from my money. I think the 99 cents download price is high for what you're getting but not so high it priced me out especially given that Apple really doesn't make money off of the iTunes Store. If the record companies insist on this idiocy then the point where I'm willing to purchase music will be crossed.

I've never done it in a meaningful manner before but peer to peer will then be my prime means of getting music. I've grabbed a few tracks here and there off of peer to peer nets before just to see if I liked something or if I wanted to put a tune to a face so to speak. I've always gone out and purchased it afterwards though (when I could, not everything is still in print amd if I liked it)
posted by substrate at 5:28 AM on April 12, 2004

The RIAA, EMI, Sony, etc are not bothered about selling music online. They want to sell CD's, and they want to be able to make as much money from the sale of these CD's as is possible. I don't think they are particularly bothered about media players either. CD's need to have a short shelf life, and as soon as you fill your iPod up with music, then you're going to be actively listening to music the record companies would rather you didn't listen to. (Old Songs, non-commercial music, etc)
The only way out of the currently declining situation that I can see is for there to be an active push away from music that is sold & marketed by these large record companies, and a serious effort to increase the market share owned by these "new-format" record companies.
This has to include:
- Lobbying of Successful Artists with expiring recording contracts to avoid the big record companies.
- Charities to be set up with a mandate to publicise the new-format record companies.
- Easy Access to these Music Companies. (via a single web-resource, etc)
- Distribution / Sales people to Sell this new-format product to existing chains. (Virgin, small record companies, Walmart, etc).

Until people have a decent alternative, they'll carry on buying DRM locked music, and its up to the people who care about this issue to provide that alternative.
posted by seanyboy at 6:27 AM on April 12, 2004

Thanks for that link Jimbob.
posted by Foosnark at 6:41 AM on April 12, 2004

huh - perhaps this is an effort to push people back into p2p downloading, so the RIAA can sue them? to them moan about their losses, makes it sound like they're making more money suing 12-year olds and grandmothers than they are on CD sales.

only reason i like buying cds pre-packaged (rather than free download) is the convenience (post-napster, it's gotten harder to find complete albums) and cover art, etc. - kind of nice to have the liner notes, nice to shove at least a few pennies towards the artist (although most of it goes to the RIAA and the company, i know) in appreciation. even then i buy used as often as possible. 'course it's hard to buy used and find specific albums; back in the napster days, you could find almost anything, rare or otherwise. i think everyone i knew who was even slightly familiar with computers was downloading - even my aunt, my cousins showed her how and she was thrilled to get some of the songs she had on vinyl onto the computer. RIAA says she's a criminal. for downloading music she already owned, but in a different media format? riiiiight.

killing napster made it harder to download, so we go to paying a little for the convenience - but asking for 1/3rd the cost of a CD, per song, plus the DRM built into said song, is asinine. i really can't understand how anyone could think that this is fair. it probably will push people back to p2p free downloads or offshore or private "invitation only"-type sharing networks. RIAA has a choice between $0 per song or $1 per song, and they just think that we sheep will pay anything they ask for the tiny bits of decent music they allow to be made these days.

maybe i'll go back to pirating my music the old way... copying CDs from my friends. i mean, jeez - you get less of a punishment from actually walking into a music store and stealing an album than you do for copying a file from a computer, with no loss of property incurred on the original CD owner. how is this sane, in any way?
posted by caution live frogs at 6:43 AM on April 12, 2004

Let's do some cost analysis before it disappears from schools (oh wait it did already !) shall we

Let's take one album of some contemporary artist named Pink avaiable @Amazon at $14 + shipping cost.

Take the album cost = $14
Take shipping cost = $3
(ok it's only a figure, it can be more or less then $3)
Total Cost of Album = $14+$3=$17

You get: an audio cd with 14 songs, a container for CD, a cd booklet . You can resell the CD to a friend later if you
no longer want to have it. Assuming it is not protected, you can make a backup copy of it.

Number of Songs = 14
You pay $17/14 = +-$1,20 for each song

Total Expense buying from Store = $17
If you buy used : $3 to $6 + s/h
Now let's imagine you're NOT buying the album at the store, but you're buying each song you like from internet

Let's assume the Song is sold to you at $1 for each song.

You get: exactly the song that you want. You can NOT resell the song to a friend because of Digital Rights Management. You can't make a backup copy of it because of DRM.

Total Expense buying from some store on Internet = $1

The deal breaker is , imho, that you can't resell the cd neither make a backup copy, yet you pay only 20 cents less per song !! Additionally DRM kills the used cd market and the backup markets.

Probably DRM is being present by some as a revolution that will "empower consumer" or "give benefit to consumer", but on the contrary it is taking away power from consumer and making consumer pay for the process ; in other words DRM is a step back in time, not a step forward for the consumer.
posted by elpapacito at 7:20 AM on April 12, 2004

Additionally DRM kills the used cd market and the backup markets

AFAIK, the record companies have been trying to kill the used CD market for quite some time now (really, I recall some lawsuits a few years back aimed at crushing used CD stores). Nothing pisses off record execs more than the idea that someone somewhere might be listening to music without paying the record company.

...just wait, they'll eventually try to make it impossible to keep any music at all. Per-listen charges are coming, mark my words.
posted by aramaic at 7:58 AM on April 12, 2004

I disagree. DRM or no DRM an electronic distribution system has several benefits to the customer.

I have a baby. It is really difficult for me to do my record store rotation -- which I used to do once a month and took about 6 hours. The iTMS allows me to buy music from my living room at midnight, which is about the only time that I can.

Song at a time buying is GREAT for the consumer. We bought about 30 christmas tunes last year from about 20 different albums. My wife also likes to buy just the songs she wants. This saves us a lot of money.

Electronic music purchases are much more environmentally friendly. No plastic, no paper, no fuel to cart the goods around. Also (speaking as someone with about 1200 CDs) managing the physical media is fun for a while, but it gets very old if you buy 5-10 cds a month for 10+ years. I'll just take the data, thanks.

Also, the previews are great as is the instant gratification of download then play. I love it. I've bought a lot of classical/modern music because I could hear it first that I would have never bought otherwise.

Point being that all the shrill arguments agains electronic music stores is regularly proven wrong by the market data. Of the people who have computers and iPods a LOT of them buy a LOT of music from the iTMS.

I think that this move by the RIAA is stupid, stupid, stupid. But what do you expect? Seems to be that $.99 a song is a great number, but not if you are in the business of selling shiny things. The RIAA hates change, that is obvious and it makes sense since one of the first things many people want to change is them.
posted by n9 at 8:01 AM on April 12, 2004

...just wait, they'll eventually try to make it impossible to keep any music at all. Per-listen charges are coming, mark my words

Yes. Virgin Digital is planning such a service. Subscribers will be expected to pay a fee per-listen. The apparent value they hope to eventually bring to the table is that you'll be able to listen to any song, anywhere, on just about any compatible device. You'd be able to create "playlists" of tunes you like and pay a micropayment-style fee for each time you listen.

Obviously, it's a long way off, but it's coming. The biggest hurdles are 1) convincing the labels to open up their catalogs to the service and 2) getting support built in to the next generation of playback devices.

Oh, and 3) convincing consumers that they want this service.

A lot of musicians are pretty happy about such a service, because it would be a heck of a lot more accurate in tracking and paying out performance royalties than organizations like ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.
posted by scottandrew at 9:23 AM on April 12, 2004

This is a Good Thing.

If the major labels insist that singles go for $2.99 in a market that has come to expect the $0.99 track, the independent labels on the iTMS will succeed brilliantly.

Ideally, Apple would allow price to be an advanced search criteria, or perhaps an 'Indie $0.99 store' category, and people will start to realize that major label != better music, and those smaller bands who were already elated to be let in to the iTMS will walk away the big winners.
posted by kfury at 9:33 AM on April 12, 2004

The days of making money with music as your product are OVER (well, getting there at least).

There was a nice long chunk of a century where musicians and the "people who own them" could provide us with a product that we, the comsumer, couldn't produce or duplicate ourselves, with any efficiency. With digital technology and the internet (etc. etc.), that just isn't true anymore. You can't tell people not to use the technology. Everyone has the power of digital media right in their own living rooms. We're not going to pretend we don't know how to use it. Which is what the record companies want us to do. It's not my fault that I can make infinite clones of digital files and offer them for download to the entire world if I want to. I didn't invent it. I didn't obtain access to this power illegally. But now I'm not supposed to use it? Please.

File sharing is a term I just don't understand. That's what the internet is - file sharing. Every time someone visits my webpage, I'm sharing my index.html page with them. I made it. I create it. It IS my art. I'm resposible for how it looks, how it navigates, the color choices, the content, the images, everything. Every time someone visits the page, they've downloaded it to their machine (temporarily in most cases, of course). What makes my index.html file any different from toxic.mp3? Nothing, to me.

I'm not suggesting that the music itself is over. People will forever make music... they have been since before recorded history. Music has always had many more reasons for being than just a vehicle for making money. Those are the reasons that should STILL carry the most weight... telling stories, preserving history, celebration, etc. So if you can play guitar, you better make sure you're still going to class and learning a trade. The beauty of the internet is that it does make it very easy for a no-name band from Jacksonville, FL to get "exposure" by having a website and offering some MP3s or whatever. But no matter how great there are, you just can't make a living selling your tunes online.

We'll probably always have a pop icon or two floating around, since they're so easily marketed in multiple ways. Other than that, selling music in this century, in the digital age, certainly won't amount to much more than a street performer with a saxophone, and a ball-cap full of pocket change. If someone WANTS to pay you for your art, consider yourself lucky. If the life of a wandering minstrel in what interests you, then you're good to go.

The system that the RIAA is trying to fix will pass them by before they will ever have time to implement it.
posted by Witty at 9:56 AM on April 12, 2004

Kfury -- I think it is difficult to say how little, how truly little, the major labels care about the independents.

The major labels have a simple business: create platinum-selling artists in their first contract term. They make little to no money off artists who sell fewer records, and only a little more money off later albums of established acts, even if move heavy volume, because established artists get fatter advances and royalty splits.

Until the indies get good at finding, signing, and promoting to platinum next year's Britney, no one at the majors will pay attention.
posted by MattD at 10:08 AM on April 12, 2004

n9: electronic distribution is great, but DRM isn't. Pay attention !

Remember that the 30 xmas tunes you bought may be deleted or damaged someday you prolly want to make a backup copy of it ; but if the DRM system prevents you from making backup copies, eventually you'll have to buy the xmas tunes again. It's likely to happen, did you ever accidentally erase some file from your PC ?

Or maybe the companies will decide to have your DRM expire your licence on the music you _tought_ you have bought (but you didn't from a law point of view). You bought limited time listening rights limit is that someday the CD/tape/whatever will break or become obsolete.

And DRM will prevent you from doing a copy, simply because record companies know you are be able to make a number of copies and sell them.

With cd backup or the ability to make copies of the 30 xmas tunes, you can virtually extend your listening rights forever and some record companies don't really appreciate that, as they would really like you to pay again for the same product ; why ? Because it's this way they pile tons of cash without innovating absolutely anything or investing in innovation and progress ; in other words they would like internet, p2p and PC to disappear as they are no good at adapting to changes.

Yet, we're fired or "downsized" because the company "must fight to remain competitive" yeah sure I believe that.
posted by elpapacito at 10:10 AM on April 12, 2004

I am paying attention, expapacito! You seem to be sleeping through class, however (!):

I can make as many copies of my xmas music as I want to -- There is no limitation on making copies. I have copies of the files on DVD backups right now.

There is no way for apple to expire the files that they have sold me, nor can they given the terms of the user agreement.

I can make CD copies of the songs as well! As many as I want.

You need to get a clue before you make posts like that as there is a circle of hell reserved for people who give bad advice.

There is nothing wrong with DRM as a concept. Just like everything else, each individual implementation must be evaluated on its own merits.

All done. Now stop being an alarmist FUD spreader. If you are going to take an anti-DRM stance go do some research.
posted by n9 at 1:47 PM on April 12, 2004

There is no way for apple to expire the files that they have sold me, nor can they given the terms of the user agreement.
Well, if they went out of business, you'd be stuck--eventually the machine you had authorized to play your m4ps would break down. I don't think that's likely, but it's hardly impossible. And as I understand it, ITMS has a more liberal burning policy than some of the other online music merchants.

Cory Doctorow recently found himself stuck, after a series of technical mishaps that were no fault of his own, with a big library of unplayable m4ps.

The FPP linked to a proposal to institute what would basically be a "download tax" of $6/mo, and for music to be freely sharable. I'd support something like that enthusiastically. Would you prefer DRM-locked files to that?
posted by adamrice at 5:01 PM on April 12, 2004

The FPP linked to a proposal to institute what would basically be a "download tax" of $6/mo, and for music to be freely sharable. I'd support something like that enthusiastically. Would you prefer DRM-locked files to that?

Yes, I would. I don't download music (or even listen to it other than when driving long distances). Why should I pay $6/month so that you can listen to all the music you want?
posted by obfusciatrist at 6:34 PM on April 12, 2004

I've had to email iTMS tech support twice to get a machine de-authorized. Once when a powerbook went belly up and wasn't worth fixing and once when I sold another powerbook and forgot to deauthorize. They took care of me both times. Since he is supposedly as leet as they come I think he was bullshitting in that interview or he was trying to use the files on too many machines.

DRM issues ought to have nothing to do with these kinds of universal policy decisions. The RIAA needs to get out of the way and let the market decide how best to sell music electronically.

I've done some checking and about 5% of the music that I've bought online (about $600 between iTMS and warp's bleep service) is from an RIAA-affiliated label. It's bullshit that they drive these kinds of decisions.
posted by n9 at 6:45 PM on April 12, 2004

Ob--I don't think the "download tax" would necessarily be universal--I can easily imagine it would be a subscription system that one opts into.

n9--if it weren't for the RIAA, we might not be worrying about DRM at all. There are a surprising number of small labels that are happy to sell MP3s.
posted by adamrice at 6:59 PM on April 12, 2004

why couldn't we have a tax on mp3 players and/or cd burners/blank cds, like Canada?
posted by amberglow at 7:02 PM on April 12, 2004

Because, amberglow, the US has better laws than that.

Unlike Canada, you can't get away with taxing items that are only used for Data. Standard CD-Rs are meant only for Data use. *AUDIO* CD-Rs are taxed world wide and are meant for Audio. Being able to put Audio on a Data CD is simply a niceity for those who have public domain music to record.

Hopefully the CD-R levy will go bye-bye in Canada, and I can start getting CD-Rs that aren't made in the back end of a Chinese Shop that only last for 2 years.
posted by shepd at 7:12 PM on April 12, 2004

adamrice, according these sentences, I'm reading it to apply to all broadband users. Besides, if it were opt in, then most of the people saying $.99/song is too much would say "why should I pay $6/month when I could just download it for free. I won't be able to support a pay-for-play system until it effectively costs me nothing and makes toast in the morning." But maybe I'm just cynical about that.

But what if it fell entirely on broadband users? Some might find the figure surprising: excluding all of the other penny taxes we've just mentioned, the cost will be $6 per broadband user per month. Um, is that all? Well, actually, yes it is.
posted by obfusciatrist at 7:56 PM on April 12, 2004

Ob--you're right. My mistake. I was letting my imagination get the better of me: all this is entirely hypothetical, and I was imagining some kind of loosely syndicated network for downloading that requires a separate subscription.
posted by adamrice at 8:40 AM on April 13, 2004

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