Universal slashes CD prices

— 2:46 AM on September 4, 2003

In a move that may be as much of a response to music piracy as to legitimate music download services, Universal Music will be slashing the suggested retail price of its CDs and cassettes. The suggested retail price of most of Universal's top-line CDs will fall to just under $13, and wholesale prices will also be reduced. Previously, the suggested retail price of some of Universal's CDs was as high as $19, so the price cuts are potentially quite dramatic.

I'm sure casual music traders scared off peer-to-peer networks by the RIAA's latest wave of subpoenas will be happy to see lower CD prices, but I'm a little under whelmed. Maybe it's the fact that I live in Canada, but I've never paid more than the equivalent of $13 for a single-disc new release. Heck, I've bought most of the double CDs in my collection for less than $19US. I can't imagine that major labels have dramatically different wholesale CD pricing for Canada and the US, which means that American CD retailers probably have a lot to do with higher CD prices.

Whether Universal's price cuts can bolster retail music sales and encourage other labels to drop their prices remains to be seen, but I fear the timing of Universal's announcement. Students are just now heading back to school and plugging into campus networks with enough bandwidth to significantly increase the volume of peer-to-peer song swapping traffic. Universal's price cuts should encourage current CD buyers to purchase more music more often, but the cuts probably won't be enough to attract peer-to-peer song swappers used to getting music for free.

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