Greed In The Digital Age

Remember those early days of the compact disc?  The price of music nearly doubled to $15.99 because of the new technology.  I recall reading that the increased price would come down once new disc making factories were built. Never happened.  The majors (Warners, Universal, Sony, Polygram) got fat.  Consumers replaced their music collections with the new technlology, all in the name of convenience and better sound.

It wasn’t long before we were told that there were imperfections in the new digital recording technology, which gave a “hard” sound to the music.  The companies sold us new versions, with better sound.  Soon, it was additional cuts (B-sides for you youngsters), new remixes and versions sanctioned by the musicians themselves.  All of it was nothing more than large  corporations screwing the consumer.

And then the digital age decided to bite back at the corporations with perfect song copies (files) of our favorite music, available on the internet for all to take for free.

Before you begin to group Apple with those same greedy music monoliths, acknowledge that iTunes began as a daring and radical experiment that turned into an overwhelming success. After creating the coolest digital music player in design, style and ease of use, Apple decided to create a music store to accommodate it.

iTunes — an online music store, with an unlimited quantity of music from all genres, that would legitimately  sell digital downloads of music, for a fee.  Now, any participating music label could join the digital revolution, sell product and make money (more than two thirds of the sales that come in).

With Apple running the show, the music conglomerates began to grumble over not having the ability to set their own prices for their own content, but the iPod was the hottest consumer entertainment product in years and they had to play the game if they wanted to stay in it.

Today, as more music companies wake up to the fact that digital downloads are here to stay, the greed has gotten back in their bones.

Recently, Universal Music announced that they would no longer sign a long-term contract with Apple and would make their own decisions on what titles and artists they would sell through iTunes. And NBC has stated that they would no longer sell two of their most popular (and Apple’s) video titles, ‘The Office’ and ‘Heroes’ for iTunes sales. Obviously, NBC feels that they can get more money somewhere else, perhaps through their own online channels? Apple has stated that at the price NBC wanted for these shows, iTunes would have to sell them to the consumer at $4.99 per episode, a significant bump from their current $1.99.

Perhaps the day will come where iTunes no longer holds more than 70% of the legitimate online sales for music and video content. But after Universal’s and NBC’s recent actions, one can’t help feel that it’s the same old big media corporations getting greedy again, and wanting an even larger piece of the pie that they have been gorging on for years.  





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