29 April 2003

Some additional Apple music thoughts (now that I've slept on it). For those complaining about 99 cents a song -- that's cheaper than buying a single, you can burn it (which is the *big breakthrough* with the record co's), its easy to buy, and I'm willing to bet that price will come down . I'd also guess new pricing structures will emerge -- perhaps a subscription for a certain number of downloads so you can pick and choose. It's a bit silly to complain too much about delivery cost via internet vs. something in a store -- yes, it is much cheaper (but not costless -- there's a store to maintain, software, tech help, and all the rest) but you can't just undercut your entire CD/tape market either. To get Coldplay at more than $3 less than in the US online stores, and $8 less than the list price (and a LOT less than it would cost in Ireland!!), is a good bargain for me. I'd like to see the price eventually at about 50 cents. But of course, single songs can't work out cheaper than buying an album. At 50 cents, most albums would be only $5-6 -- a nice price but realistically, can't see it happening.

I think if albums can be pushed down to around $10/10, the industry will have hit a really good price point for CDs and sales will immediately jump. I know that for me -- and so many of my friends! -- this price is the psychological barrier. I stopped buying music years ago as soon as the way-too-expensive CD became the set format for music, for all but the most sporadic purposes, and for CDs I know I really want. I have the discretionary income these days and I truly love music of all varieties but it is *just too expensive*. I end up resenting the purchase. And thus did the music companies inadvertantly nurture the ground for Napster & Co.

Finally, unless the costs in establishing the Store were/are very high, I think Apple could do quite well with such a service even if it only remained something for Mac/iPod users. Sure, Apple has a small market but it has done quite well in recent times as a niche player and it has little/no debt and huge cash reserves. But the plan definitely seems to be for something bigger.

10:10:11 AM  #   your two cents []
Bernie's finally back online.
9:49:43 AM  #   your two cents []

AAC format iconIn the interests of the readers of this blog, I have sacrificed my credit card upon the altar of the new Apple Music Store, and can report that 1) it is rather cool; 2) it can be a bit hard to find what you want, or even to find what all is there.

The music store service was launched yesterday, which you can read about in any number of places, and is only available to people with a US billing address on their credit card (I have a US card, and thus could sign up); you also have to have a Mac to access the website. Apple introduced new versions of its iPod music player and a new Apple compression format called AAC at the same time.

Apple has made buying the music really easy -- you don't need to create a shopping cart unless you want to do a batch download and this is definitely going to facilitate the old impulse buy. A 99 cent price point per song isn't bad. Once I had my account set up I downloaded an acoustic, music-store-only version of U2's Stuck in a Moment. It zapped over in about a minute on DSL with excellent sound quality in the new format. Then I tried an album -- Coldplay's A Rush of Blood to the Head, which was $10.89 (basically, the price of the eleven 99-cent songs that comprise the album). That came across in under 20 minutes -- fast. The price is less than Amazon ($13.49) and you get the instant gratification of having it immediately; no shipping charges, no wait. I think many people no longer care whether they have the jewel case and liner notes.

Apple makes it really easy to hear 30 seconds of every song, too -- you just double-click and it plays, no waiting for audio players to launch and buffer. One negative -- the front end of the store is a bit confusing. I eventually found the drop down menu for genres, which should perhaps be highlighted a bit better. One very innovative feature is that the story carries spoken albums -- such as comedy. And you can download an individual track on those recordings, too. So if you'd just love to have Steve Martin's famous "wild and crazy guy" track -- the one that launched his career -- but don't want the whole album, you can get that single track. What a great idea. I think I'll be blowing some cash over at Apple with this.

My guess? This is going to be a winner; prices will gradually come down somewhat; a real attraction will be the availability of exclusives, like the U2 single; the other music vendors will HAVE to match this; Apple has a new revenue stream. It just makes buying music so easy. And you know you'll get the full song, in excellent quality, something you never can guarantee with file swapping.

12:30:20 AM  #   your two cents []