Friday, August 03, 2007

A Fine Line Between Clever and Stupid

by Tom Bozzo

The Australian heavy-metalers AC/DC have decided that they are too good for the iTunes Store and have hitched their star (*) to Verizon — just as Apple has announced that the iTunes Store moved its last billion tracks in just about 6 months:

Anyone can visit Verizon and buy AC/DC music, but there is a catch. Verizon is not allowing you to buy individual AC/DC songs, rather forcing people to buy entire albums. That means if you want to download the song and bang your head to the AC/DC song “Shoot To Thrill” you’ll have to buy the entire Back In Black album. Back In Black the album through Verizon will run you $11.99 compared to the CD on Amazon that is $9.97. The only track available as a single download is “You Shook Me All Night Long.” That is also the only song Verizon Wireless subscribers will be able to buy and download using their mobile phones.

Compare Charlie Stross:

One of my points was that, from a reader's point of view, ebooks are worth somewhat less than paper books — and ebooks with Digital Rights Management [DRM] are worth even less than that.

However, the big publishers continue to publish ebooks with DRM at a price that's typically the same as, or at most 15% lower than, the most expensive dead tree edition of the book that's currently on sale. (This leads to the amusing situation that if you are so inclined, you can pay $24.95 for a DRM'd ebook of Accelerando. Or not.)

However, Orbit listened to me, and they decided that if their paperback edition of The Atrocity Archives retails for £6.99, they'd like to find out how many people would be willing to buy an ebook of The Atrocity Archives for £3.00 — half the price [sic].

I'm not in the market for that £3 expenditure, but that's just about the right idea. Verizon's music FAQ list implies that their wares are much more restrictively DRM'ed than Apple's 99-cent tracks. Following Stross's (correct) reasoning, the Verizon DRM'ed AC/DC should be priced below the unrestricted CD. Forcing buyers to take the whole album — not to mention cutting out owners of a certain popular line of digital media player — would be expected to drive some customers who might be willing to pay 99 cents each for a track or two to forms of file sharing that bring the artists no marginal revenue. (The icing on the industry's late-90s cake [pdf] was some substitution of much higher-valued CD album sales for then-collapsing single sales; broadband access to the Intertubes and Napster put an end to that.)

(*) I'm not being totally sarcastic here; Back in Black sells impressively for a catalog album, though if AC/DC was going to give a big revenue boost to Verizon's non-ringtone music sales, then Verizon's music business would have to be trivial.

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Back in Black is justly legend, even without Lewis's help.

Iirc, it's also the first post-Bon Scott album. Which (along with, for instance, Hysteria) may indicate a "post-tragedy effect" on heavy-metal bands.

Agree the marketing is an unfortunate choice for the band; otoh, I'm not certain I want my youngest daughter using "Whole Lotta Rosie" as her ring tone.
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