Download music receives a price hike

Wed, Apr 8, 2009, 01:00

THE COST of many music chart downloads increased by 30 per cent yesterday as online music store iTunes began a new pricing regime.

Previously all songs cost 99c to download but new prices for Irish users are 69c, 99c and €1.29. The cheaper price is intended for some catalogue music or new acts with the higher price for new releases and hits.

Apple’s three-tier pricing was announced in January and was introduced worldwide yesterday. iTunes, which began its Irish online store in 2005, is the Irish market leader for music downloads. While paid downloads dominate the singles chart, they account for less than 10 per cent of overall music sales.

The more flexible pricing regime was welcomed by the Irish Recorded Music Association. “We have been looking for this for years and some deals with iTunes nearly broke down because they wouldn’t do it,” said the association’s Dick Doyle.

Record companies hope it will also help to make music retail profitable again. Future moves such as offering a ring tone bundled with a song could also increase sales.

But the increase in prices did not make sense to some in the independent music industry. “There is no justification for raising the price on digital music. It should actually be brought down so as to increase the volume of sales,” said David O’Grady, owner of Irish label Independent Records.

Of the top 20 songs in the Irish iTunes single charts yesterday, four were priced at €1.29 (including the number two song Poker Face by Lady Ga Ga) while one song by US band Metro Station (Shake It) was 69c.

Announcing the move last January, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs said there would be many “more songs priced at 69 cents than $1.29”. iTunes worldwide offers over 10 billion tracks to its over 75 million users.

Many back catalogues remained at 99c yesterday with popular hits by older artists like Abba and Bob Marley raised to €1.29 per song. However, record companies indicated that a reduction in price for catalogue music was in the pipeline.

Earlier this week dropped the price of some songs to 29 pence in anticipation of the iTunes move.

This is only available to UK users, but Vodafone, which charges Irish customers 99c for indie tracks and €1.99 for major labels, said changes would be announced shortly. Eircom already undercuts iTunes for many tracks, charging 77 cent.