Alastair’s Place

Software development, Cocoa, Objective-C, life. Stuff like that.

“Jobs Recommits to pan-Euro iTunes Pricing”

MacNN are reporting that Apple wants to charge the same price for iTunes downloads in all European countries.

That, of course, is the last thing any sane individual wants. I don’t want iTunes purchases to cost me some price set in Euros, because that translates to a random price depending on exchange rate fluctuations and the fee(s) my bank want to charge me for spending Euros rather than Sterling. I want to know how much it’s going to cost me before I click the button, not the next time I get a credit card statement!

Of course, the EU are right that it’s illegal for Apple to prevent consumers from buying from other member states’ iTunes stores. But Apple (and, actually, the music companies) have a problem because of the music companies’ prior practice of licensing distribution on a per-country basis. They could easily change the situation for new releases, but existing releases may be licensed to different distributors in different countries on different terms—e.g. maybe some music is licensed to Sony BMG in one country, but Universal in another. In order to achieve pan-European distribution without violating artists copyrights, the music companies themselves would have to re-negotiate with hundreds if not thousands of artists over hundreds of thousands of tracks.

Practical? Well it doesn’t sound it to me. And I don’t think it’s fair blaming anyone for this situation. It isn’t artists faults, because it’s how the industry used to operate. It isn’t the record labels’ faults, because there was no way to know that all of these countries would try to operate a single market when many of these contracts were signed. And it certainly isn’t Apple’s fault; they’re stuck with what the music labels can give them.

Even if it is possible to resolve this, I don’t want to pay for songs in Euros! I want my music priced in Sterling, and I don’t want it to constantly change prices to track the GBP:EUR exchange rate, because I want to know how much I’m going to spend.

And I’m quite happy to pay 11 pence more than (say) the Swedes for the same music if it means that I get stable, easy to understand pricing.