Get Ready… $1.29 iTunes Store Downloads Ahead

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As promised, Apple will soon diversify its music download price points, part of a broader agreement with the majors.

Instead of the reliable 99-cent tag, iTunes Store songs will soon weigh in at either 69-cents, 99-cents, or $1.29, depending on demand and label positioning.  Earlier, Apple indicated that the shift would happen sometime “beginning in April,” leaving a 2-3 week expected transition window.  The Los Angeles Times pegged the exact date at April 7th, based on label tips.

The pricing changes were first disclosed in January, when Apple announced its transition towards DRM-free content.  At that point, the company noted that the pricing diversification was “based on what the music labels charge,” and Steve Jobs emphasized that “many more songs [will be] priced at 69-cents than $1.29,” perhaps softening the blow.

The exact mix remains to be seen, though more recent and popular tracks will carry the $1.29 tag.  Deeper catalog will sink to 69-cents, with the rest in the middle, a multi-price victory for the majors.  Now, the market will determine whether $1.29 makes any sense, or whether the more expensive content will simply alienate music fans.

Jobs resisted variable pricing pressures for years, though a DRM-free carrot proved irresistible.  Since 2003, Jobs has argued for single-price simplicity, though in the current economic backdrop, buyers may simply regard $1.29 as a luxury rather than a complication.  Meanwhile, outside of the macroeconomic malaise, the iTunes Store appears to be lulling into a plateau, a difficult starting point for the aggressive pricing strategy.