I noticed this morning that Apple has released iTunes Plus, a new pricing model for versions of songs that are encoded at twice the bit rate (256k AAC vs 128k AAC) but with no DRM. These songs will cost $1.29 instead of the typical $.99.
I applaud Apple and Steve Jobs for their public support for music without DRM. I am a music fan. I have historically bought and listened to a lot of music. When I buy a song, I want to be able to move it around on different computers and iPods without worrying about whether it is “locked” or whether I will be able to listen to it. In general, I refuse to buy music with DRM on it, which means that I don’t buy music from iTunes, which sucks because they have a fantastic catalog. Most frequently I buy from emusic because they don’t have DRM. For me, providing music without DRM means that I will buy more of it. Which is a good thing for Apple and for record companies.
I think the pricing for this new service stinks. $.99 per track is ridiculous in the first place, and $1.29 is 30% more ridiculous. emusic is a subscription model, but generally works out somewhere in the $.20-$.25 range, which I think is pretty fair. If music was priced in this range on iTunes, I would buy a lot more music. I suspect that cutting prices by 1/4 would probably mean that I would buy more than 4x more music.
I think it’s instructive to look at allofmp3.com and what they did right. (Obviously, there are other legal and compensatory issues with allofmp3; I’m just talking about their model for selling music.)
- Reasonable prices – Usually albums work out to be in the $1-2 range. I think this is actually lower than they need to be. I think people would be happy with albums that cost $4-6. $10 for an album is too much.
- Choose your format and bit rate – allofmp3 lets you choose your download format (mp3, aac, ogg, etc) and your bit rate. They also tie the price to download size, which I personally think is pretty cool, but probably presents too many choices for the average consumer. Having a handful of predefined options would probably be sufficient. Choice is the key.
- No DRM – ’nuff said.
So, while I am interested in getting access to more DRM music via iTunes Plus, I likely won’t be buying much from it due to the cost. I think people are perfectly happy to pay for music, if they are treated like customers instead of criminals. I certainly am. I love music. I love musicians. I want them to be fairly compensated. But I think most music consumers feel like they are being taken advantage of by the combination of ridiculous prices and shackle-like DRM.
Free the music!