The major provider of downloadable tracks is iTunes, the cyber branch-off of Apple’s technological empire. Their iStore have become specialists at offering cheap tracks ranging from 69 cents to one dollar sixty nine. The owners claim that this is morally acceptable, since the profits are split between the artist and the company itself. Within the vast web of virtual connections, the digital music store has attached itself to nearly all internet services, most notably Youtube and Myspace. Like a song? Then along comes iTunes’ morally just hand to offer clean ways of acquiring the piece.
Yet during the credit crunch, consumers are less and less willing to pay the extortionate price provided by Apple. At the risk of infecting their laptops with the countless viruses and spyware applications, some purchasers are tending towards the vast virtual market for cheaper music. Giants such as Sony and Universal claim that the relatively high cost of their tunes is linked to web-based distribution, and that it pays to get it right. Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder and chief executive, stated that he thought these companies were “greedy” for hiking up the prices, yet it seems that they are sticking by their decisions.
On the internet’s periphery, websites are offering downloads at very competitive rates. By using a database of songs which they have legally acquired, they are able to provide tracks for as cheap as nine cents. The supposed ‘legality’ is, however, in dispute. Many claim that black businesses such as the Russian-based AllofMP3.com are cashing in illegally, whilst simultaneously claiming that they are on the right side of the law. Markets which are less regulated, such as the Chinese virtual infrastructure, also account for the buildup of illegitimate activity.
In spite of this, there has also been a swell of companies interested in making money without getting into trouble. A wonder through Soundike.com’s library reveals a site where everything is only 15 cents. Not only that, but they are legal too. A simple search on the net will announce countless web-destinations which sell downloads for as little as 10 cents per song. Such websites include mp3fiesta.com, mp3search.ru and mp3caprice.com. Undercutting all of these, however, with a margin of one cent, is legalsounds.com. Yes, nine cents a song.
With more citizens joining the World Wide Web, more sites are emerging which compete fiercely for business. Virtual middlemen such as Google and Bing.com are masters of supplying multiple destinations of purchase. A window shop in the digital mall will throw up millions of options, choosing is merely a matter of taste.