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Re: [ARSCLIST] 3 articles: iTunes; the Music industry and digital; Barenboim

One man's opinion here, etc.

I have, over the years, bought a few albums from iTunes, mainly Verve/Mercury/MGM jazz that's out of print on CD but still available as downloads. Generally, the quality of the iTunes was acceptable at best, nothing thrilling and quite disappointing when played back in the studio. These were 128kbps AAC format DRM-wrapped files. They did sound better than most 128kbps MP3, ie no hint of digi-swishies, but not good stuff. So I ponied up for the upgrade to non-DRM 256kbps AAC files and have been quite impressed. It could be that these were more recently crunched to AAC, so the encoding has improved, but in a few cases, you'd sure be hard-pressed to differentiate between CD audio and the new higher-quality iTunes files. This is particularly true with monophonic content -- you can even hear tape hiss! In the cases of a couple of Emarcy (Mercury) titles, I have the original LPs and they don't hold a candle to the iTunes as far as being able to hear the individual instruments and the tonal quality of the instruments, particularly piano. The original LPs were noisy and often were groove-damaged from the get-go as they were from the pre-inner-sleeve era. This was not true in all cases. I am pretty sure that many of the iTunes files were made from the early-era CD reissues out of Japan and later out of the U.S. since the iTunes albums carry the same sequence and artwork as the Japan and early-US CD's, now long out of print. Again, the only reason I paid for lossy-format audio in the first place was that the CD's were out of print and used copies were ridicu-priced and if I had the original LP, it was shot or never pressed well in the first place.

So, I'd say, from a user's perspective, the new iTunes deal is a good idea. The pricing is what's called "incidence pricing," which is where a lot of industries are moving. Basically, things in great demand today are priced high today. That same thing may be in less demand next week, and the price drops. In a world where there is no physical inventory, there's no need for "list" or fixed pricing. We may move to a world where pricing is completely determined by what the market will bear, so you'll know the instant a song becomes a non-hit because its price will drop precipitously to meet the same sales volume goals. It's an interesting idea -- since extra volume costs very little to produce, why not adjust pricing constantly for maximum volume? In theory, this will lead to maximum profits, but as we know economic theory generally runs aground on the rocks of human behavior and other complex environments.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- From: "Marcos Sueiro Bal" <tierecords@xxxxxxxxx>
To: <ARSCLIST@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 11:09 AM
Subject: [ARSCLIST] 3 articles: iTunes; the Music industry and digital; Barenboim

Three articles from today's NY Times:

On iTunes's dropping of DRM and new pricing structure:


On a new book about how the music industry has adapted poorly to the
digital world:


And a sad note on Barenboim's cancellation of his planned middle-East tour:


Happy New Year


Marcos Sueiro Bal
Audio Engineer

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