99 What? Virtually Every iTunes Chart-Topper Is Now $1.29

If you want something for 99 cents, you might want to try the 99 Cents Only Store.

Because over on the iTunes Store, 99-cent songs are actually difficult to spot, at least among top-ranked tracks.  In fact, virtually every song in the top 200 is now $1.29.

Ahead of the weekend, we counted 93 out of the top 100 songs carrying the $1.29 price tag, and 185 out of the top 200.  The rest was a smattering of 99-cent and 69-cent tags.

Here’s what the top 200 looked like on Friday (March 9th) morning.

$0.69: 9 songs
$0.99: 5 songs
$1.29: 186 songs

Catalog often carries a more relaxed price-point, but the number of $1.29 songs on deeper, less-popular music is also surprising.  “There’s really a ton of deep catalog that’s $1.29,” once source close to the price map told us.

This is a far cry from the iTunes of a few years ago, but is this track inflation a good idea?  Singles sales were thought to be entering a dangerous plateau in 2010, but actually bumped 8.5 percent to 1.27 billion units last year according to Nielsen Soundscan.  And, according to one executive, higher-priced tracks could be encouraging digital album purchases, simply because of the relative discounts involved.  Last year, digital album sales gained an impressive 19.5 percent to 103.1 million units, also according to Nielsen.

Except that, this remains just a fraction of what physical CDs used to command.  Which begs the question of whether lower price-points would ultimately produce greater sales and profits.

ie, is this stuff just totally overpriced?


10 Responses

  1. Timothy

    Overpriced? An album lasts as long as a well maintained hard drive and external backups.

    You can buy a pizza for the same money and it is gone in just a few minutes.

    Have you ever walked into a pizza store and called their pies overpriced? Go ahead and try that, I would pay $1.29 to see the video.

    • Really

      Who doens’t walk into a pizza store and call the pizzas overpriced? Pizza is like $15 a large now.

  2. Vail, CO

    Interested to see what the effective price for a download is across all free, paid, then streamed etc. spectrum, I’m willing to bet about zero.

  3. Visitor

    Please do consider economic inflation in such analyses.

    When the iTunes store was introduced in 2003, tracks were uniformly 99 cents. Corrected for inflation, that is equal to $1.22 in today’s dollars. So the actual price increase on selected tracks is only 7 cents.

    Furthermore, since so many tracks are offered now at lower price points, the average price is lower.

    Finally, there are other legitimate and often less expensive ways to buy the music. Emusic and Amazon, for example, often have the same tracks at lower prices (89 cents instead of iTunes $1.29, for example).

    – Versus

  4. Ricky Bautista

    So is itunes now paying out $.99 to an artist & instead of the former $.70 after itunes cut?

  5. Yves Villeneuve

    From a consumer perspective, a 1.29 price point gives the appearance of a premium track vs the 0.99 track. Consumers are attracted to premium value songs and the appearance of a discount when purchasing the album.

    Personally, I am more concerned with the average price of an album. This is where I wish my album prices to be, on average. My albums (9.99 USD for 12 tracks) are generally not discounted(not wanting to devalue my music and to give consumers a better value perception) and do not command a premium (but rather to focus on expanded sales thus more paying fans and secondly, profits).

    • Yves Villeneuve

      The average price of a digital album is roughly $10 according to the RIAA.

  6. Steve Sussmann

    The labels hated iTunes setting the price for music, so they claimed that if THEY had the ability to set prices variably, they would have all different price points. When Apple agreed, this was the result. But many decades of dealing with record labels shouldn’t cause any of us to be surprised by this.

  7. REMatwork

    So we are at the same place we were 30 years ago, with “list prices”. Except back then it was 8.98 and 7.98 list for albums. and singles were $1.99 and $1.69.

    This made sense because that is what it cost to press up a record get it distributed, all the way through the distribution chain to the retailer, and to cover the retailers risk of his having to keep it on the shelf for six months without selling and then having to ship it back

    EXCEPT NOW WE HAVE AN UNLIMITED SHELF. And there is no manufacturing process, no trucks, no wholesaler, no store to heat and light. So tracks are all one uniform price, why???

  8. Taylor Trask

    I started noticing this over the last 6 months and have been buying more music at Amazon mp3s as a result (they still have a much higher percentage of 99 cent tracks).

    Would love to see any comparative data on how much Amazon has or hasn’t benefited from the $1.29 prominance on iTunes.