The video for Depeche Mode‘s new single, “Wrong,” only takes three minutes to be more nerve-wracking than most of the horror movies or Hollywood thrillers I see every year. The Justin Daughters-directed clip begins with a car careening backwards, running into things, its driver slumped over in the front seat. The driver comes to, and you see that he’s bound by duct tape, his face covered in a mask. It’s like the Bizarro World version of that first scene in North By Northwest where Roger Thornhill drunkenly careens down a twisty mountain road—only the difference here is that the lack of the “driver’s” control is palpable, and not played for laughs. You knew Cary Grant’s gonna make it out in the end. But this poor schlub?
Proving that the revenue report always looks rosier from another tendril of the media-industrial complex, New York Times media critic David Carr writes today about how the newspaper industry could take a cue from iTunes. In a way, of course, he has a point: if anything’s doing worse than the music biz, it’s publishing, which has seen an intimidating amount of bankruptcies, closings, and layoffs in the past year. But this might just mean that record companies have found their new level (fingers crossed!) while papers are still going through contractions. (Or, you know, that papers always operate much closer to the margin anyway, and have to have much larger operating funds on-hand on a daily basis.)
Over the holidays, Billboard‘s song charts were, at least on the surface, pretty sleepy. On the Hot 100, most of the songs that were hot late last fall—Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” and “If I Were a Boy,” T.I. and Rihanna’s “Live Your Life,” Kanye’s “Love Lockdown” and “Heartless,” Taylor Swift’s “Love Story,” the unkillable Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold”—continued bumping around the Top 10 like lazy molecules.
But below the surface, a ton of music was being consumed. In particular, one song benefited massively from the annual iPod-filling digital megasale that hits iTunes every Christmas—and that song, Lady GaGa’s “Just Dance,” reaches No. 1 the very week Apple’s music store removes digital-rights management restrictions on all of its songs, making them freely copyable.
Does this mean we’re in for even more Lady GaGa than we’re enduring now, as kids trade their iTunes purchases like baseball cards? Unlikely: those who “share” music probably figured out their DRM workarounds years ago.
But the official start of the post-DRM era—and, more important, the changes to song pricing—could have some interesting effects on digital song sales, and the charts that track them.
One piece of MacWorld-related big news that doesn’t involve Steve Jobs’ health: The iTunes Store is apparently going to embrace the idea of dynamic pricing (no more 99-cents-per-song standard) and ditch digital-rights management in the near future. According to Peter Kafka, the pricing for songs will be tiered between 79 cents, 99 cents, and $1.29. No word on whether Amazon’s practice of engaging in loss-leading deep discounts will be copied by iTunes, although the price-slashing they’ve engaged in up to this point, and the fact that unlike Amazon they’re not trying to take marketshare away from an already-established competitor, would make me think that not many $1.99 albums are in the offing. But hey, I’m ready to be surprised!
So, you’ve purchased some songs from the iTunes… More »
Yesterday the iTunes Store released its year-end lists, and while its “best of” lists are somewhat intriguing (the albums rundown is topped by Raphael Saadiq, while the “Best Songs” list has both Motley Crue’s “Saints Of Los Angeles” and Hercules & Love Affair’s “Blind” in its top 10), it’s the sales charts, of course, that allow us to place our collective finger somewhere near the pulse of those people who buy albums from the comfort of their cubicles/drunken late-night outings. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Coldplay’s Viva La Vida—which was promoted heavily by an ad for the iTunes Store—is the top-selling album of the year. Top 50 is after the jump, but first, a few impressions.
THE GOOD: I don’t know why, but there’s something hilarious about Disturbed’s Indestructible (No. 28) being nestled between Paramore and the soundtrack for Sex And The City.
THE BAD: The overall MOR-ness of the chart—Leona, Amy, Duffy, Colbie, even Counting Crows all the way down at No. 43—shouldn’t be all that surprising, although I did raise my eyebrows at the notion that enough people bought the OneRepublic album that it landed in the top 10. I know digital sales are a fraction of overall album sales even now, but really? Is the power of Timbaland’s “ay”-ing that profound?
THE WHAAA? For all its power as a singles-sales force, there sure were a lot of soundtracks that flew off iTunes’ virtual shelves—10 in the top 50 alone, including the Juno soundtrack, which placed third overall. Also in the upper reaches of the year-end chart: The Across The Universe soundtrack, probably because it brought together Bono and Evan Rachel Wood; and the unkillable Alvin & The Chipmunks soundtrack (No. 24—right ahead of Duffy!). Although if you click through you’ll see that its most popular track by a far, far margin is whatever version of “The Christmas Song” has been included on the disc. For some reason, this comforts me a lot.
Over the weekend, I ponied up $2.99 for an iPhone… More »
Paul McCartney said today that negotiations to… More »
It’s always so cute when tech types get in a lather about one of their pet causes–here, it’s Greg Sandoval at CNet penning an open letter to Steve Jobs begging him to drop DRM on the files in the iTunes Store, which to his mind looks “a little shabby” these days because of Apple’s copy-protection scheme Fairplay–without thinking rationally about why they may be getting a zero instead of a coveted one. (I tried to put the analogy in binary terms so they’d get it.) To wit:
Everyone, apparently, is nervous about today’s election, and some people may experience just a feeling of impotence, a worry that the election is out of your control. But is it really? Haven’t we all thought that, if the right song came on at the right time, it could change the world? Here, then, is another guide to figuring out how today’s results will go. This doesn’t require any complex analysis of the timing of states being called–just an iTunes library set to random and three simple steps. Click play, and let’s begin!