Almost no one would deny that Steve Jobs pretty much single-handedly saved the record industry from piracy (and from themselves). But the time is approaching when Apple will need to renew the license from which the whole iTunes price structure has been based. So wouldn't you know we get this news on the wire:
Record executives, however, are seeking some flexibility in prices, including the ability to charge more for some songs and less for others, the way they do in the traditional retail world.
"There's no content in the world that has doesn't have some price flexibility," said Warner Music Group Corp. chief executive Edgar Bronfman at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia investor conference here. "Not all songs are created equal. Not all albums are created equal.
"That's not to say we want to raise prices across the board or that we don't believe in a 99-cent price point for most music," he said. "But there are some songs for which consumers would be willing to pay more. And some we'd be willing to sell for less."
Apple's Jobs blasted the record industry for mulling higher prices. "If they want to raise the prices, it means that they are getting greedy," he said at a press conference, adding that if the price goes up, the industry faces a higher risk of piracy.
Do you think it is greed or power that motivates these guys? Maybe Edgar Bronfman is just a thwarted rock star who is living vicariously as a record executive? Maybe the Edgar Bronfman Group wasn't a big hit? Nah. They're just greedy.
So what will happen? I have an idea. I think that the next logical step is for Steve Jobs and Apple to start cutting out these middlemen. Why not license new music directly from the artists themselves? These record labels do what exactly? About all they can lay claim to anymore is marketing and promotion. Production is cheap and distribution is electronic. And let's face it. All a group has to do to promote themselves these days is hire a good web designer, get their website listed with Yahoo and Google and make sure their best single shows up on the iTunes banners. Hell, they can even make their own music videos with a Macintosh and iMovie. Voilá! No need for Edgar, Warner, or Goldman Sachs.
Now an astute reader might point out that these companies already own large catalogs of music that Steve Jobs won't be able to lay his hands on without dealing with them. But when Edgar talks about charging more for some songs than others, what songs do you think he is talking about? I doubt they are golden oldies. Sure there must be some classic material that is worth something but let's face it. It's the dollars that today's youth are spending that turn these guys green. And most of those dollars are spent on new music.
So are you listening musicians and artists? Next time your contract comes up for renewal just be greedy too. You can get a lot more of each 99¢ if you deal directly with Steve.