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Apple iTunes unwraps (precious few) 69 cent tracks

Vanilla Ice. Still 99 cents

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Apple today followed up on its promise to remove all DRM from music for sale on its iTunes Store and to institute a new pricing structure of $0.69, $0.99, and $1.29 per song.

When Apple's SVP Phil Schiller announced these changes during his keynote presentation at Macworld Expo in back in January, we wondered how many tunes would actually be available at the low price of $0.69.

Today, we discovered that despite Schiller's claim that a hefty chunk of the back catalog would be marked down to $0.69, those bargain-basement tunes seem to be few and far between.

Before we went bargain hunting, however, we first checked today's top 10 tunes on the Billboard Hot 100 list to see if the $1.29 tariff was, indeed, being applied to the top of the pop crop.

Interestingly, we discovered that although most top songs did indeed cost $1.29, two were available at both $0.99 and $1.29, two remained at $0.99, and - perhaps most surprising - Justin Timberlake still has a following:

  • 1. "Poker Face" by Lady GaGa: $1.29
  • 2. "Right Round" by Flo Rida: $0.99 and $1.29
  • 3. "Kiss Me Thru The Phone" by Soulja Boy Tell 'em Featuring Sammie: $1.29
  • 4. "Dead And Gone" by T.I. Featuring Justin Timberlake: $0.99
  • 5. "Blame It" by Jamie Foxx Featuring T-Pain: $0.99 and $1.29
  • 6. "Gives You Hell" by The All-American Rejects: $1.29
  • 7. "My Life Would Suck Without You" by Kelly Clarkson: $1.29
  • 8. "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus: $0.99
  • 9. "Just Dance" by Lady GaGa Featuring Colby O'Donis: $1.29
  • 10. "Love Sex Magic" by Ciara Featuring Justin Timberlake: $1.29

Leaving the top 10, we went back in time to see if the $0.69 price was being applied to tunes that had long ago left any of Billboard's many charts. The results weren't encouraging for those who had hoped that back catalogs would benefit from the new pricing structure.

First, we checked 2,000 listings for the First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald, and discovered that a mere 70 of those tunes are available for $0.69 - a piddling 3.5 per cent.

Okay, Ella's quite beloved, and worthy of $0.99 a track. So how about Old Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra? After checking over 500 songs and finding them all still at $0.99, we gave up any hope of finding a bargain Sinatra tune.

Maybe more-obscure blasts from the past could be had for $0.69? Nope. Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra? Seventy tunes, all at $0.99. Artie Shaw? Hundreds of results, all at $0.99.

Possibly, the $0.69 rate was reserved for low-quality tunes. A quick check of that theory came up empty as well, with a song widely regard as one of the worst of all time, "MacArthur Park" by Richard Harris from A Tramp Shining, still going for $0.99. All of Kajagoogoo, Ace of Base, and Spandau Ballet - still $0.99.

Checking to see if moldy-oldy country music had received any sixty-nine centification, we again came up empty. Although, for example, we can understand paying $0.99 for Johnny Paycheck's classic "Take This Job and Shove It," his thoroughly forgettable "Me and the I.R.S." or "Mr. Lovemaker" ain't worth no buck, cowboy.

Even deeper into the bottom of the barrel, we discovered that even Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" retained its $0.99 "value" - but Mr. Ice gave us the idea to go back in time even further to check out Vanilla Fudge, and here, we finally struck pay-dirt: of that psychedelic quartet's 149 tunes, 35 are now available for $0.69.

Emboldened by our success, we then checked out a few more edible psychedelics: the Electric Prunes, Strawberry Alarm Clock, and Chocolate Watchband. No luck - all remained firmly in the $0.99 camp. Even the execrable Jefferson Starship had only one $0.69 tune in its 116-song oeuvre: "Assassin," from the Nuclear Furniture album. And, no, we don't remember that one, either.

Finally, we discovered that classical-music fans won't benefit from the new price structure either. From Hillary Hahn's red-hot fiddle to the banal pianoforte stylings of "Solfeggietto" by Carl Philip Emanuel Bach (from The Relaxing Classical Music Collection, Volume II, by the way) it's a $0.99 world in classical-land.

Perhaps Apple will update the iTunes Store in the future to offer more back-catalog bargains. But while you're waiting, you might want to check out Amazon's MP3-download service - it's looking more attractive every day. ®

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