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 

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" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
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
> -- 
> Marcos Sueiro Bal
> Audio Engineer
> 718.902.7441