I bought myself an iPod Nano last November and the girls got new Nanos for Christmas (Brittney previously had the prior generation Nano, which has been handed “up” to Marci). I resisted such a purchase for myself for a long time because my Treo 755p works fine as a music player and, theoretically, as a video player as well. However, I’ve been going on runs without my Treo lately (which is a change) and thought that a Nano with an arm band would be a good running accessory.
Naturally, now that I have the Nano I use it for more than just running. Tivo Desktop Plus can be configured to automatically copy certain shows from my Tivo and convert them to iPod format. It’s pretty handy to have selected shows just show up on my iPod about a day after they air. I’ve also been listening to Podcasts in the car (I previously mentioned Coffee Break Spanish and I also listen to Clark Howard and 1Src).
Of course, I also listen to music. Prior to purchasing an iPod, I had purchased some digital songs from Wal-Mart. This was always a bit of a pain because I didn’t listen to them in WMA format. Instead, I would burn them to an audio CD and then re-rip them to MP3. I’m sure there are ways to avoid the physical CD in this process, but having the CD as a backup wasn’t a bad thing. Now, I’m using iTunes instead, and honestly, it’s almost too convenient. I end up buying more music this way. Even though Wal-Mart is cheaper (88 cents instead of 99 cents), the iTunes experience is just way better. I really have no problem paying the extra 11 cents per song, though I try not to think about the fact that it is 12.5% higher.
The album prices, on the other hand, almost always seem just a bit too high, resulting in very few albums that I feel justified buying rather than just buying 5 or 6 individual songs from the album. On the other hand, I have many albums from the ’80s and ’90s — back when I still bought CDs (I do have a few from this century as well) — that I like most if not all of the tracks even though I never would have bought them individually. So I have some regret when I choose to buy several songs from an album. There are, of course, many albums from which I only want one or two songs — I have no regret in those cases.
This brings me to the point of this post. I just noticed that Amazon is selling the CD of almost all of the albums I’ve been contemplating lately cheaper than iTunes is selling the digital album. And with free shipping to boot (and presumably no sales tax added). There’s no question that I’d rather have a physical CD for a lower price. Admittedly, pretty much all of the albums I’ve been looking at lately are not new, so the situation may (probably does) differ for new albums.
So, this confirms my opinion that iTunes overcharges for at least some albums. And it obviously changes the equation slightly for my decision on whether to buy individual songs or an entire album. Case in point: I am looking at The Best of INXS. It has 21 tracks and goes for $11.99 on iTunes and $8.97 on Amazon (notably, the MP3 version of the album (256 kbps) is also $8.97). But I only currently like 5 of the tracks, so I would be spending about $4 extra (a bit less since iTunes charges sales tax) for the opportunity to learn to like some of the other 16 tracks. Is it worth it? In this particular case, I believe it is as even some of the 30-second snipits are already growing on me. But in general it is a more difficult question.
My hope is that sometime in the not-too-distant future we will see a bit more open market pricing. iTunes already has a “Complete My Album” feature that lets you apply the cost of the singles you have already purchased toward the album cost for six months from the time you purchased the single. If tracks and albums were discounted for lack of popularity I am confident total sales (in dollars, not just song counts) would increase. Or am I under-estimating the number of people that buy full albums?
In the meantime, I’ll be doing more of my music shopping (well, album shopping) at Amazon.