Vagaries, Bits and Bytes versus Shiny Plastic

With: Some music.
Without: A CD.

The vagaries of the music retailing business eh?

Inspired by this post at the lately infrequent but always excellent Loft and Lost, I thought I’d check out the Fairport Convention album, Unhalfbricking.

Quick detour away from the main point to say: Who Knows Where the Time Goes has assumed the position of current Best Song I’d Never Heard [TM] (ah, note to self, learn how to do superscripts in WordPress!) – it’s just beautiful. And the singer’s name is Denny (well, Sandy Denny, but someone out there will know what I mean), so what else is there to be said? Well, only that I have no worries about being considered a hippy, I’ve always considered myself a hippy actually. But you know, apart from how their personnel overlapped with Steeleye Span – a favourite from my youth – and Pentangle, in that weird triangular folk-will-eat-itself construct that was British folk music of the sixties and seventies, I’ve never really known a lot about Fairport, much less listened to much of their music. A blind spot.

Anyway… I buy all music electronically these days – who wants to have stuff lying about the place? Yes, I know there are sonic considerations, but really: all music I listen to is played through some kind of digital device, be that a phone, laptop, or “mp3” player (scare quotes, because we’re mostly an Apple household, so “AAC player” would technically be more accurate).

So, I bought the album from iTunes, where it sits somewhere in the cloud, Apple very kindly hosting it for me and ensuring that I don’t actually own the thing, but that suits me fine, since it’s one less thing to move next time we change homes.

But…following on conversation with someone at work about the relative pricing of Amazon and Apple for music downloads, I thought I’d check it out there too. Needless to say, as I’d suspected, the Amazon and Apple prices for a download version only were the same – not too surprised by that.

But what did surprise me is this: at Amazon, a CD of the album, with free mp3 download of the same material, costs £6.38; the mp3 only download of the album, from the same retailer, costs £7.49…

Amazon, in effect, wants me to charge me £1.11 (oddly neat looking amount) to not press a CD, print a label, put them both in a plastic case, put that case on a shelf, pick that case from a shelf, put that case in an envelope, put the envelope in the post and deliver it to my house, forcing me to deal with an item of clutter around the house. Humph! This is corporate cluttering! That sounds a bit conspiracy-theorist, but really, there are similar anomalies in the Kindle world too, with actual paper books – albeit generally with no ebook version – costing less than the Kindle version. I get that the main cost of intellectual property like books and music is, well, the intellectual property and not the paper or plastic that the carrier of that property is made of; but really, charging more?

For your convenience, you have been charged a premium to not receive anything…

External links:
Loft and Lost
Wikipedia | Fairport Convention