Will Paul McCartney's Low-Priced Album Apps Add to Digital Music's Downward Pricing Pressure?

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Paul McCartney
To some degree album apps are being treated as novelty items with marketing appeal even when there's a lot of new art involved from remastered music to photos and video. That means pricing is treated differently than it would for a new album in an established format. With Paul McCartney's release of back catalog album apps for the iPad at $7.99 with remastered tracks and lots of extra content, I'm wondering if we're getting close to the point where an artifically low price range will become the fair price in consumers' minds.

The psychological elements of pricing are really interesting though sometimes deadly if you're caught on the wrong side of an assumption about what the right price should be. But it makes sense for someone in Paul McCartney's position to put out early albums as low-priced album apps.

The albums are Band on the Run, Ram, Wings Over America, McCartney and McCartney II. They're all currently available as iPad apps for $7.99 each undercutting both digital and physical releases that were already available while providing additional content.

For example, Band on the Run includes: the original 9 track album audio remastered; 6 video clips including Behind-the-scenes at the iconic album cover shoot in London’s Osterley Park; an extensive interview with Paul; rare photos by Linda McCartney and Clive Arrowsmith; full album and single artwork and history of the making of the album.

That sounds like a lot for $7.99 but at this point back catalog sales have to be wearing a bit thin, though they can be surprising, and all of the albums are available on Spotify. They've also all been previously remastered and much of the content likely already existed though getting it into well-designed app form is certainly much more than a cut and paste.

Is $7.99 Promotional Or A New Fair Price In The Making?

Financially it's hard to say how they'll come out on this, not knowing all sorts of things, but it doesn't seem to be solely a marketing play and I assume they've put a lot of thought into that price point.

On the other hand there is a distinct marketing value for someone like Paul McCartney making such a move so that may have affected the pricing to some extent.

But, seeing it there on iTunes, $7.99 strikes me as a price point that could easily become established in the minds of users' as a fair price for back catalog releases. To some degree, if it's just a bunch of files that contain music and related content rather than a new interactive experience, it's not that different from a back catalog CD that's been remastered but is available for under $10.

It's a question to start considering as album apps become a more normal format. I don't think McCartney's pricing will establish things one way or the other but I do think we're entering a period when the fair pricing of album apps will be decided.

For a detailed examination of other interesting issues related to McCartney's apps, do check out this article at Talking New Media by D.B. Hebbard.

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