Thursday, November 21, 2002

Universal-ish deal

Well, Universal Music Group is committed to offering 43,000 tracks for download - only to music fans, mind. The exact when all forty-three thousand will be availble isn't clear; they're starting off with a Mariah Carey song, which suggests that they're a bit reluctant to put anything good up, and are equally cool about her career. They say stuff will be burnable to CD and "secure" portable devices - they've plumped for Liquid Audio technology which, while at least not being bloody Windows Media still isn't what people actually use. But most odd of all is the price - 99 cents per track in the US.

Let's compare that with the price of Now Thats What I Call Music volume 10 in the US - a similar proposition, we'd suggest. For twenty tracks, you pay at Amazon, USD15. In the shops, even if you don't get a place which offers a handsome discount, it's twenty bucks. Or roughly ninety-nine cents a track. And there, you get a booklet and don't have to buy your own CD to store it on. Plus, there's the whole panoply of distribution, warehousing, retail mark-up.

So, basically, then, in the US, the price is a rip-off. They claim that it satisfies "public demand" (but don't they say the public don't want to pay at all?) and the need to "compensate artists and copyright owners" (our stress) - but which artists are getting a dollar a track?

What they actually mean is that at ninety-nine cents, they'll actually be making increased profits on a system that has very little expense involved for them. They're taking a risk that the public are that stupid.

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