Sony group backs demand-based music pricing

Music from a major label could come as cheaply as 15 cents per track through a partnership with the Web site Amie Street.

Sony RED, a division of the music giant that distributes and markets independent music, is the first major label group to sign on with Amie Street, Wired reports. The Web site uses a variable pricing model based entirely on demand, with songs that are free or cheap initially and scale up to 99 cents when they become popular. Artists using RED include My Morning Jacket and Third Eye Blind.


Amie Street is a strange permutation of the Long Tail, which states that a distributor can clean up by selling lots of niche products in low volume, as well as high-volume hits. The site would appear to level everything off, selling lots of obscure tracks but only for a small amount of money. People seeking popular songs in the $1 price range, I think, would go elsewhere.

Still, for consumers it’s a pretty neat idea. You can hunt for cool songs on the low price end, acting as “a talent scout on the prowl for promising up-and-comers,” as Wired puts it.

Wired says this makes iTunes’ variable pricing look restrictive, which charges $1.29 for popular tracks, 69 cents for some songs and 99 cents for most, but I don’t see Amie Street leading a shift in the way major label music is sold. The music industry probably sees this as a discovery tool, in which listeners do the work of finding and popularizing new bands. I really don’t expect labels to get flexible on pricing overall, especially when they remain fixated on selling entire albums instead of individual tracks.