Thursday, September 09, 2004

DOWNLOAD UPDATE: Plans for a Japanese version of iTunes have hit a stumbling block - Japanese labels are worried that iTunes would be too cheap and that allowing music fans to burn the tracks they've paid for to CD would bring the Japanese music industry crashing to the ground. Apple's marketing head in Japan, Yoshiaki Sakito, isn't panicing yet - he expects the iPod effect to force the Japanese labels into line fairly soon.

Meanwhile, Woolworths is planning to enter the download market. Actually, it's already there, selling tracks through Streets Online (no, us, neither) but now it's going to bring the Woolworths brand to digital downloading, modelling its store on the experience in branches of Woolies - thus, when you try to log on to quickly buy the Rachel Steven's single, you'll find the checkout page is already being used by an old lady buying a toaster, three teenagers returning "faulty" Robbie Williams CDs and a man asking if there's a new Vince Hill album out. The tracks will only work in Windows Media Player 10, apparently.

Also meanwhile, Real are about to take down the luminous pink stars with 'SALE!' written on them and return their download prices to where they were only making a small loss. They claim they've sold three million downloads, and signed up "thousands and thousands" of new customers - not tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, you'll note. Now, since they were losing at least half a buck on each sale (compared with their usual price), and if we assume "thousands and thousands" does mean ten thousand, we make that each new customer has cost Real Networks thirty dollars at the very least. We don't know what the full-price Real profit margin is, but assuming that it's ten cents (and we think that's probably generous), that means they're going to need each of their new customers to buy another three hundred tracks before they even break even. They might have spent their money more wisely doing a hook-up with one of the fast food outlets still to offer free downloads with their processed meals - Taco Bell? Harry Ramsdens?

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