Sony Music Raised Prices On Whitney Houston's Music… Less Than 30 Minutes After She Died

from the shameful dept

It’s no secret that the major record labels are a business where the bottom line is everything. However, they like to present themselves as something much more than that. They talk about lofty ideals of delivering culture, of sustaining art and of helping artists. But, when tragedy strikes… dollar signs seem to win over all. According to various reports, within 30 minutes of Whitney Houston being reported dead, Sony Music jacked up the prices on her Ultimate Collection album on iTunes and Amazon.

But instead of reverence in the wake of Houston’s passing, Sony chose to raise the price of one of her most popular hits collections. The Ultimate Collection album in the U.K. jumped in price by more than 60 percent from £4.99 to £7.99 within 30 minutes of Houston’s death, according to Digital Spy. The album price fell back down to £4.99 some time during the weekend, but it’s unclear when it happened.

Fans originally blamed Apple for the price hike on iTunes, but The Guardian is reporting that Apple automatically raised the price after Sony Music “lifted the wholesale price” of the album.

You have to think the price dropping back down was due to someone, somewhere realizing just how crass that looked.

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Companies: amazon, apple, sony music

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Comments on “Sony Music Raised Prices On Whitney Houston's Music… Less Than 30 Minutes After She Died”

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100 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Trajectory pricing?

But that’s different – there’s actually a scarcity going on with computer parts. I’ve seen several parts vendors who jack up the price as inventory falls below a certain threshold.

Now, for digital goods, this is a great strategy to destroy a swell of interest from the public…

Someone tells their friends that they just got Houston’s album for 4.99 a couple days prior, so they go to buy their own copy only to see that it’s nearly double the price now… “fuck ’em, I’ll just torrent a copy”.

It likely neutered the possible sales count potential by raising the price.

Anonymous Coward says:

Surprised? I'm not.

You have to be joking.

Whitney Houston was, by some reports, living on advances sent over and over again by the labels. Basically, she was not a song writer, only a performer. Many of her most popular songs were written by others, performed by others, and she was only a voice on her own songs.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2101014/Whitney-Houston-Dolly-Parton-set-rake-millions-song-I-Will-Always-Love-You.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

Basically, Dolly Parton gets a little more rich because Whitney Houston died.

This is why it’s hard sometimes for people (especially Mike) to understand that the music business isn’t exactly a straight line affair. It’s not a single person writing a song, recording a song, and selling a song, but often a complex combination of song writers, studio musicians, producers, and singers to bring out a new finished product song to market. Because Whitney Houston was only a singer, her income from recorded music is much lower than many. Her only real income would come from performing live, something she had rarely done in the last decade.

Anonymous Coward says:

10 years ago(maybe a little further into the past) this was going to be a non-story, today with the industry trying to increase its monopolies to beyond the absurd that it is today and gain super powers that harm everybody else and even themselves now they have to deal with the public scrutinizing every single detail of their operations, those people don’t like light.

Benjo (profile) says:

Surprised? I'm not.

“This is why it’s hard sometimes for people (especially Mike) to understand that the music business isn’t exactly a straight line affair. It’s not a single person writing a song, recording a song, and selling a song, but often a complex combination of song writers, studio musicians, producers, and singers to bring out a new finished product song to market.”

I’m guessing Mike knows what a production studio is, and probably also a decent amount about the few remaining major labels.

Pop stars have been getting created/used by the major labels for the last few decades. If it wasn’t for the internet and new business models, it would be even easier today for record labels to take advantage of artists.

Mark Harrill (profile) says:

Surprised? I'm not.

And the labels have never ever unpaid the staff (song writers, studio musicians, etc) with the promise of royalties if a song becomes a hit. And then they have never ever used questionable accounting practices to make sure they pay little to no royalties to those same staff. The record labels are only interested in making sure everyone gets paid fairly, as long as everyone isn’t the people who actually worked on the music….

Anonymous Coward says:

Surprised? I'm not.

Whitney Houston was, by some reports, living on advances sent over and over again by the labels. Basically, she was not a song writer, only a performer. Many of her most popular songs were written by others, performed by others, and she was only a voice on her own songs.

Who cares? That doesn’t justify anything and the market forces don’t care.

That said, I’m not actually broken up that Sony jacked the prices for a bit. Seems like a good response that the new distribution model allows for in this day and age.

Clearly artificial demand was going to be up and they responded to maximize profits.

Anonymous Coward says:

If anyone buys a single thing from Sony they are the cause of this continuing. This company continues to screw over its customers on a daily basis. Make the boycott stronger!

No BlueRay
No Games that contain Securom
No Sony devices whatsoever
No Music or Movies that they have their name on

Bankrupt Sony!!!
Bankrupt Sony!!!
Bankrupt Sony!!!
Bankrupt Sony!!!
Bankrupt Sony!!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Surprised? I'm not.

“So, you finally admit that artists need to work for a living instead of sitting around trying to get rich of stuff they did 30 years ago?”

Fuck Paul, you are such a twit at times.

Read carefully. Because Whitney Houston was only a singer, performer, singing other people’s songs, she had to perform to truly make income.

Dolly Parton has made money (and will make much more money) as a song writer for those songs than Whitney made for only singing them on the recording.

Had Whitney Houston written more of her own music, if she had more song writing credits, and if she was in a position to obtain much more money for her work, she would have not been as obligated to perform as often – and could have dedicated more of her time to the craft of writing songs.

Sometimes you are worse than Mike when it comes to be obtuse!

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

Surprised? I'm not.

A very telling use of language:

[…] to bring out a new finished product song to market […]

“Product”. Not music, not art, not creativity, just “product”. Bland, interchangeable, disposable product — whether it’s a trite pop song or a work of genius.

“Market”. Thus implying that the goal must be to sell it, that it not only has no value if it isn’t sold for profit, that it doesn’t even exist.

It’s sad that soulless profiteers like this exist. They don’t care about the music or the musicians: they only care about money. But they do exist, and it’s at moments like these that we get a glimpse into the vast, arid wastelands of their minds.

Anonymous Coward says:

Surprised? I'm not.

From the looks of it, looks a lot like a bunch of parasites that don’t want to work for a living and expect to live off of others works.

Why John Lock principals are not fallowed here?
If you did the work you own all the benefits that came from it is not that what copyright was supposed to do?

Instead people sliced and diced the market to create a lot of minor roles that they could use to rip off other and you call that a good thing?

Anonymous Coward says:

Surprised? I'm not.

“if she had more song writing credits, and if she was in a position to obtain much more money for her work, she would have not been as obligated to perform as often – and could have dedicated more of her time to the craft of writing songs.”

“living on advances sent over and over again by the labels…. Her only real income would come from performing live, something she had rarely done in the last decade.”

Which is it? Was she laying around making money of Sony’s advances not really doing anything or was she too busy performing to write songs? Or do you just make shit up as you go?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Sure, after all every work by Picasso was unique, and there would never be way for someone to hold any new Picasso originals, so they became scarce – really scarce – and their prices skyrocketed.

Meanwhile, the files on iTunes are there for as long the service exists or sony decides to remove the files, and they’ll never run out of them unless that happens, so overpricing it right after the singer’s death looks immoral.

nyctreeman (profile) says:

why does anyone care?

It was a business decision, Sony is in the business of making as much money for their artists and investors as possible.

When Andy Warhol died, every gallery in the world raised the prices of his works dramatically.

Anyone who would run out and buy a Whitney album just because she died, is stupid enough to deserve being ripped off IMO.

big yawn on this story

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Paul, are you really this stupid?

No, Dolly Parton just happened to write her most famous song, her best selling song, and other writers actually wrote her other material. Whitney Houston wasn’t really a singer song writer, just a singer.

Here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%27m_Your_Baby_Tonight

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whitney_Houston_(album)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whitney_(album)

Three examples, scroll down to the track listings and credits. Try to find “whitney houston” credited on any of them. You won’t find her.

Performance royalties are very low compared to songwriter royalties. The royalty money created for airplay / internet use is distributed to the song writer and the publishing company. Whitney would get a small amount (if any) out of the publishing side. She would get money per album sale, with the usual “against expenses, against advance”. stuff.

The song writers always do better on the recorded music side, because they have less upside (they can’t “take it on the road”).

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Tacky but I'm not at all suprised

As has been noted I’m sure Sony expected a burst of sales from Whitney Huston’s death and raised prices. It appears one didn’t come.

The irony is that I remember hearing years ago that artists are more valuable dead than alive. Their paintings, songs, books and all the rest come into more demand as people discover them from all the headlines about the death and the anguish in certain parts of the arts community about it.

Whitney may not have released a hit in years and may never have written a song but like Frank Sinatra she was a fantastic interpreter of songs. In the end, though, she wasn’t Sinatra. She became supermarket tabloid fodder and will continue to be when they get going on her.

She was a talented singer and interpreter of songs but like many her life collapsed around her due to bad decisions.

Sony’s move was tacky, distasteful but hardly unexpected. That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be called out for it. It’s another example of a RIAA member company not giving a damn about the artist or their family when there’s a back to be made. After all, there are shareholders to consider, you know!

Nor does it have anything to do with scarcity. It has everything to do with greed. And I don’t expect less from Sony in any of their business ventures.

nasch (profile) says:

File Mines

I’ve seen it–the great iTunes strip mines–a desolate file strip-mining operations where third-world laborers with little to no human rights work for pennies per day… all just so iTunes’ll have enough files to turn into mp3’s for sale.

Now you know why Windows has a Recycle bin instead of a trash can. We need to conserve our natural resources.

DogBreath says:

Re:

You left off a part:

They had to raise prices! Her death shaved a good 30-40 years off the copyright term on her songs. They have to make that money up somehow if they intend to have enough cash on hand to bribe lawmakers into passing the next copyright extension law to make up the difference! (But only to “protect the artist”, of course)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

It really isn’t. The system that we pass off as capitalism isn’t actually very close to theoretical capitalism at all.

1) People do not act as rational agents
2) People do not have perfect information

This means that the forces that would theoretically stop a capitalist free market being captured by the first internal force to gain an advantage don’t exist (ie people don’t know when such a thing is going to happen so they can’t behave rationally by choosing to stop purchasing from that company and buying from a competitor instead).

In theory market regulation is supposed to solve this by having a government act as a rational agent with information that is closer to perfect, in practice what tends to happen is regulatory capture (eg Copyright industries basically writing copyright law).

And in so far as it goes both Copyright and Patents, as they exist today, are inherently incompatible with free market capitalism which relies on alternative suppliers existing in order for people to be able to avert market capture by means of rational actions.

This doesn’t mean that copyright and patents are inherently bad though, or even anti-capitalist, you could theoretically have patents with mandatory licensing laws in conjunction with trade secrets for example (ie you can either share your work and get paid for it or you can keep it secret but get nothing if someone else reproduces it but you can’t try to do both).

PaulT (profile) says:

Surprised? I'm not.

“Fuck Paul, you are such a twit at times.”

So, straight to personal attacks again. A class act, as ever.

“Because Whitney Houston was only a singer, performer, singing other people’s songs, she had to perform to truly make income. “

Exactly! Which is why people object when you go into other threads whining that singers can’t sit on their asses and make money from albums they recorded 20 years ago because “OMG piracy”. Let’s face it, you only launch your attacks as an AC so it’s not so easy for people to point out your blatant contradictions and misdirections.

“Dolly Parton has made money (and will make much more money) as a song writer for those songs than Whitney made for only singing them on the recording.”

How many songs? If it’s only the one, why do you focus on her? You seem to think you have a point, but yet again you’re deluding yourself.

neighborlee (profile) says:

Surprised? I'm not.

This is, sadly one of the problems with Capitalism, and you prob. have heard this echoed in various ways, by others. If we lived in a world that put less pressure on things we need because the ‘basic’ essentials were given to us from birth, and therefore forcing us to work to get there, she might have lived a tad longer and comforted far more people , with that god given voice of hers. Capitalism causes so many issues, and this is a clear indication of just that. She was every bit as talented as Dolly Parton, but to think she got near nothing for singing those amazing songs, to me is tantamount to sinful and injustice at its highest level. No offense to Dolly, I like her too, but being human means showing love for all, not just the chosen few who have enough talent to ‘write songs’ for the rest to ‘sing’ to us.

One talent, is not worth more than another, considering it all came from god, this we know with no reservation, yet we treat them as non equals. I don’t know if all this is fact, that she was almost penniless , instead of the reported 35’ish millions in the bank, but if true, maybe that was pressing on her, causing the need to ‘escape’ through drugs and alcohol, which may then have stopped her from breathing on her own ( as in automatically). I guess we will know soon enough. Regardless though,I feel so bad for her daughter etc., though with god,family and great friends, she will recover with time. I did, and she /they will too 😉

Capitalism hurts many, was never the intent god had in mind creating the universe for , and its time it was abolished, much like ,- slavery. Im sure it won’t happen overnight, but if you think about it, the great thing whitney could have done, considering stress would have been diminished by leaps and bounds, crys for change. We are all gods children,and we deserve better. Her daughter she did, her mother and all else whom intimately knew and loved her directly.

Change won’t happen though unless we as a society, make it so, so get invovled and talk about it happening. What I refer to, is very similar to the ‘resource based’ economy you may have heard about.

Life should be a shared experience where no one person has more power than another, where we all exist freely though not with shared responsibility, stress free ( within a near perfect system, of course) and for the betterment of everyone else. Only then will true compassion and love be available for all, without having to pay the ultimate ‘price’ for it.

I don’t care who you are, you are no better than your neighbor, deserve love no less and the basic ‘rights’ afforded us by being children of god, and until society reflects that, sad stories like Whitney will continue to mount up on us all, and sadly reflect the current status of us as a species, meant for far greater things than this. Who among us really believes, that gifts like that from our creator, deserve this kind of outcome ? 😉

RIP dear soul- may your family and friends be comforted, as you comforted others , when hearing your god given voice.

We are all gods children, and are worth far, far more than the lump sum we earn everyday , just to get by in a world dominated by power and greed.

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