Editorial: Thank you, Steve

Too often, editorials are reserved for criticism or journalistic rambling, so this one will be the opposite: short and sweet.

Around this time last year, the music industry faced a major threat: itself. The heads of major labels were publicly pushing Apple Computer to change the pricing structure of the iTunes Music Store – predictably, with the primary goal of increasing prices on popular new music. There was a very real possibility that some labels’ music might disappear from the Store.

Last September, rather than bowing to the labels’ demands, Apple CEO Steve Jobs took a bold position. He faced down the suppliers of one of his most important products – music – and publicly called them out as “greedy.” Then he said what virtually every consumer of legal digital music believes: this is the wrong time to raise prices, and the consequence would most certainly be a return to mass piracy at a critical juncture in digital distribution’s history.

He was right: the mainstreaming of legal downloading is still a work in progress, and mainstream consumers require aggressive prices. The power of his observation was only underscored by his company’s past willingness to charge premiums wherever possible – if Apple says a price is too high, that might just be enough to prove it.

Ultimately, the labels were forced to concede to his terms – 99 cent songs will continue to dominate iTunes, at least for now.

So on behalf of our readers, and hopefully consumers as a whole, we’d like to say “thank you” to Steve Jobs for fighting a public battle to keep prices reasonable on something we all enjoy. It took guts to stand up to criticism from multiple corners, and strength to prevail. We’ll be downloading a few tracks tonight as a token of gratitude, and encouraging our readers to do the same.

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