Payin' For the Oldies?

The variable pricing scheme currently being rolled out by Apple, Amazon, and other digital music retailers is kind of screwy. My friend Brooke Oberwetter spells out why:

Is it just me, or is Apple’s (and Amazon, et al) new variable pricing scheme ass backward? They’re charging $1.29 now for new, “hot” music like the Black Eyed Peas and Beyonce (okay, maybe I’d pay $1.29 for “Single Ladies,” if I didn’t already have it), $.99 for most stuff, and $.69 for “oldies but goodies.”

Seems to me though that the music that I’m constantly barraged with every time I turn on the TV, music that will only be at its peak popularity for a finite number of months, shouldn’t be the most expensive. They’re gonna lose the benefits of the higher price with lower volume. Meanwhile, I’d gladly pay a higher price for harder-to-find, less popular tracks.

It just seems to me that popular digital music should be treated like a volume business, unlike, say, physical CD sales where you’d want to extract top dollar for each unit. Unpopular digital tracks that aren’t being traded in high volumes, on the other hand, should require higher payments, and people will pay because of the relative ease of the transaction.

I’m not saying Milli Vanilli tracks should be selling for $1.75 a pop. (But don’t get me wrong here: if I really really needed “Blame It on the Rain” to complete my perfect playlist about love and loss, I’d totally buy it at that rate.) But the new song = high price, old song = low price just doesn’t seem to make much sense, especially given how quickly new becomes old in the music business.