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iTunes adopts variable pricing, DRM-free majors

updated 01:55 pm EST, Tue January 6, 2009

iTunes at MW09

In concluding its Macworld 2009 keynote, Apple has confirmed a switch to a variable pricing model for iTunes music, where previously the company charged a flat 99 cents per track. Beginning in April the company will offer three tiers of pricing: 69 cents, 99 cents and finally $1.29, with a greater proportion of tracks falling under the bottom tier than the top; all tracks aged less than six years should remain at 99 cents. The scheme is said to be attributable to flexibility demands from record companies.

It has likewise resulted in a substantial expansion of iTunes Plus, which as of today is offering over 8 million songs DRM-free, through the addition of tracks from all major labels including Universal and Sony BMG. The song count should expand to 10 million by the end of the first quarter of 2009.

Apple finally notes that the iPhone's Wi-Fi Music Store is now simply named the iTunes Music Store, as it supports downloading over both Wi-Fi and cellular connections. Content and pricing should remain identical to the desktop store.

by MacNN Staff



  1. chas_m




    Mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, we got em DRM-free and at a higher bitrate, which is very good.

    I personally am perfectly fine with idiot Top 40 fans having to pay more while I (who buys mostly older music) pays less, but I doubt that's how it's always going to play out. As long as "indie" and "obscure" artists remain cheap, I can live with this.

  1. SirCastor

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I hope I'm wrong but...

    I can't help but feel that the $.69 songs are going to be the knock-off compilation albums by cover bands, most music will remain at the $.99 mark and the most popular music (fortunately for me I don't care much for top 40) will jump the the $1.29 price point.

    I'm pleased that $1.29 is all the higher they go, but I also can't help but think that in a year or two songs will be hitting the $2 and possibly $3 price point. The music industry has been frustrated with Apple for years, and I expect this denotes the beginning of the end of consumer-advantaged online music sales.

    The DRM-free stuff is a boon, and I'm glad to have it on principal, but doesn't mean a whole lot to me... all my stuff is Apple.

  1. appleuzr

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Any change to top 40 albums? Take for example the new Kanye West album. It has 2 hit singles on it. Is every track on the album going to be 1.29 for DRM-free or just the 2 songs that are hits?

    Rarely is there a new top 40 artist that I like enough to purchase the entire album but if album sales for these artists start going beyond the 9.99 mark I'd don't mind stopping by Best Buy to pick up the album on disc. At least then I can rip it and have a backup.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: I hope I'm wrong

    but I also can't help but think that in a year or two songs will be hitting the $2 and possibly $3 price point.

    There's an old economic theory called Supply and Demand. If enough people are willing to pay $3 for a song, they will sell for $3 (why wouldn't you charge more if it works out that way? That's what people say about $2500 15" macbooks.)

    If enough people don't even spend $1.29 for the music, the price will have to fall (or the record companies go out of business - it's win-win!).

  1. chucker

    Joined: Dec 1969


    top 40

    I know it won't bother all the Jethro Tull fans around here, but most of the top 40 songs sell DRM free for 79c on Amazon, which I think will keep the pressure on Apple to keep prices down.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Phil spends an HOUR talking about iLife to fill in the time since there was really NOTHING groundbreaking to report. New 17" MBP? Big deal, that was a no-brainer.

    NO new iMacs, NO NEW Mac Mini (that is a complete insult), no new displays.

    Yet ANOTHER u n d e r w h e l m i n g MacWorld. Instead of going out with a BANG for their last MacWorld, they go out with a WHIMPER.

    At least it was funny to see the MacRumors liveblog get HACKED by Windows folks. That was the ONLY highlight of the keynote.

  1. TheSnarkmeister

    Joined: Dec 1969


    And this was the good...

    From a bottom-line perspective, this, and direct to phone purchases, were the good news. Investors and Hollywood are going to be very happy with this development. When the analyst start crunching the numbers in a few days, this will give Apple's stock a bounce, that it will likely need by then.

  1. Flyzone

    Joined: Dec 1969




  1. Flyzone

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Not for Canada

    if you want to "upgrade" your songs to iTunes Plus in Canada it will cost you an extra 40 not 30. That means the total cost would be $1.39 x song ... weird

  1. aristotles

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Higher prices=Inflation

    The US dollar is in the crapper so you are seeing higher prices all over the place.

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