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So, Universal, where are those big price cuts?

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A few weeks after the purported “price cut” by Universal is supposed to have gone into effect, I ask you, dear Reader, “Have you seen any changes?”

I’m having mixed feelings a few weeks after the new pricing has gone into effect – but not because of the price alone, because of the effect it’s having on the bonuses that were becoming the norm, it seemed. I’ve noticed that many discs are being priced at $9.99 at places like Best Buy, but only for the single disc version and only for the first week (after which it bounces back to a “normal” price of about $14.99 from what I’ve seen,) while the previously free “bonus” discs are now being included in a more expensive package. Two notable new releases that illustrate this: Barenaked Ladies’ Everything To Everyone, which has a DVD with 5.1 audio versions of the album tracks plus live acoustic versions of 11 album tracks; and REM’s new best-of, which has a disc of b-sides and will sell, at Best Buy, for $15.99 to the single-disc’s $9.99 price tag. I have mixed feelings because a few weeks ago these bonus discs would likely have been included free – the cost of the material can’t be significantly more, even in the case of the 5.1 mixes on the Barenaked Ladies disc. Now, granted, neither of these artists are on Universal-backed labels, but it shows that something is going on. It looks to me like the other labels are taking advantage of the shelter thrown up by the attention Universal is getting for itself. Maybe the other labels aren’t going to drop their prices for the long run, but they have at least realized that the big game is played in the first week a title is out. Unfortunately, they haven’t realized that sustained sales will result if they keep those prices low.

Compare prices on your favorite Universal artists by searching their site, the get a price on those titles at Best Buy, Circuit City, Amazon, etc.

Overall I have yet to find a significantly lower price anywhere. I have noticed that some titles have slipped in price at my local “indie” chain, and in fact the Barenaked Ladies album is a full dollar cheaper, on sale, than Best Buy’s normal price. A comparison of Sigur Ros’ (), a Univeral title, at Best Buy, Circuit City, and the aforementioned local indie chain showed that while both of the big chains offered the disc at $13.99, the local indie, in one of the few examples of this I can find, had a $1 cheaper non-sale price. Is it significant? No. Is it a start? Definitely. Prices are going to have to get a lot lower if it’s going to make a big difference in sales, however.

(Unproductivity makes a difference. So does Arby’s. Different is good.)

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About Tom Johnson

  • http://www.temptationwaits.com visualsimplicity

    That bonus disc thing-a-ma-jigga has been going on for a while. A definite example of the 9.99 to 15.99 at Best Buys thing was Meteora by Linkin Park (but I think the bonus was 14.99), which was about a year ago.

    Also, I don’t believe Best Buys has a deal with record labels to keep prices high. On the contrary, I believe record labels hate stores like Best Buys, Target, etc… because I think only certain chains (Tower, Sam Goody, etc…) have a contract with record labels to create a sort of oligopolistic monopoly (that’s why those stores prices are so high). Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

  • http://www.txfx.net Mark

    You’re right, visualsimplicity. Here’s how it works: Record companies only allow a music store to advertise their albums (like a cardboard standup, or a poster, or a newspaper ad) if they agree to keep the prices high. Chains like Best Buy, and Wal-Mart (the number one seller of music CDs) can afford to tell the record companies to go screw themselves, because they have name power to ensure high sales. People just KNOW that CDs are 12 bucks at Best Buy, and 18 at Camelot. In case you were wondering, these business tactics on the part of the record companies effectively make the (and the RIAA) a cartel.

  • http://mark.start.at Mark

    You’re right, visualsimplicity. Here’s how it works: Record companies only allow a music store to advertise their albums (like a cardboard standup, or a poster, or a newspaper ad) if they agree to keep the prices high. Chains like Best Buy, and Wal-Mart (the number one seller of music CDs) can afford to tell the record companies to go screw themselves, because they have name power to ensure high sales. People just KNOW that CDs are 12 bucks at Best Buy, and 18 at Camelot. In case you were wondering, these business tactics on the part of the record companies effectively make the (and the RIAA) a cartel.

  • Eric Olsen

    excellent points, thanks for staying on top of this