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Perhaps international readers are unaware but the facts are plain and simple, Aussie music fans pay more than their friends across the Atlantic. Perhaps this issue spreads further than the commonwealth but here are the facts using Tame Impala’s 2012 album ‘Lonerism’ as a test case (for no particular reason).

*Note that all prices are in US dollars (AUD have been converted)…

Physical Album (CD) Price

Australia – JB Hi-Fi – $15.60 (link)
USA – Best Buy – $7.99 (link)

Digital Album (iTunes) Price

Australia – iTunes – $17.67 (link)
USA  – iTunes – $9.99 (link)

*In this case the physical copy is actually cheaper than the digital copy which is bizarre in itself considering the cost of manufacture/distribution and superior audio quality (supply/demand in full effect)

Touring (Show) Price

Australia – Friday Dec 14 2012, Enmore Theatre, Sydney – $46.60 + Booking Fee (link)
USA – Tues Feb 19 2013, Terminal 5, New York – $25 + Booking Fee (link)

*Side note – booking fees made more sense in 1994 when I was sleeping out for Pearl Jam tickets. I bought them from John or Judy cashier who looked after my booking process, offered me a consoling look for spending the night on the sidewalk and then handed me a physical ticket. John and Judy got fired more than a decade ago but I’m still paying them a booking fee. And I print my own ticket. Even Ikea don’t charge for self serve counters. I miss John and Judy!

To state the obvious, Tame Impala are from Perth (Australia) and yet it costs less to see them in another country… wait, what!? Who are they flying with? That’s not a finger point towards the band just the state of affairs. If you do the math, Aussies pay on average 88% more (even for identical digital products). It’s a complex reality (at least I hope it is) because for the average Joe like me, it just seems like an economic do over.

In search for answers (plants tongue in cheek) I emailed iTunes…

Lang_Country : en_AU
Product : iTunes Store
Support Subject : Purchases, Billing & Redemption
GCRM Case ID : 407485162
Details:
Is there a reason why the Australian iTunes store charges more for music releases than the USA store? Even Australian releases cost less overseas. APRA/AMCOS have said that it is not due to licensing fees or copyright between territories. Local major labels receive a similar revenue share to their USA heads and given that the method of digital delivery is identical, as is the product, I can’t understand why there’s any difference in price given the Australian dollar is above parity? I don’t mean to rock the boat, just baffled is all! Thanks for any clarity you can share, James.

The response…

Dear James,

Greetings from iTunes Store! My name is Jam, and I will be your iTunes Store Advisor for today!

I see that you want an explanation about the pricing in iTunes Store. Let try to do my best to explain it to you.

James, the iTunes Store endeavors to offer you competitive prices on current selections. Your total price will include the price of the product plus any applicable sales tax (in effect on the day of download). Apple reserves the right to change prices for products offered at the iTunes Store at any time, and does not provide price protection or refunds in the event of a price drop or promotional offering.

You’ll find more answers to your questions about pricing and many other topics in the iTunes Store Terms of Sale:

http://www.apple.com/legal/itunes/us/terms.html

If you have a specific question about your account, billing, downloading music, or iTunes Store content, please let me know. I will be happy to assist you further.

Sincerely,

Jam
iTunes Store Customer Support

My response…

Thanks Jam,

I appreciate the response and the terms of use document you’ve linked to… http://www.apple.com/legal/itunes/us/terms.html.

After reading through these terms and conditions I’ve noted that under ‘REQUIREMENTS FOR USE OF THE ITUNES SERVICE’ it states “The iTunes Service is available to you only in the United States, its territories, and possessions”. Given that the American terms of service apply to me in Australia, can the American prices apply to me in Australia too? That would be great.

Thanks,

James.

Needless to say, there was no answer to be found but muddied water. It seems that these prices are charged because certain markets will simply pay more for it. That simple.

On a positive note, there are ways to get around this. Avoid the middle man and buy direct from the record label or artist. Bandcamp is just one example where fans are charged equally for digital music regardless of whether they are from New York, Brazil, Japan, Rome or Perth. Equality shouldn’t be a nail in the commercial music industry’s coffin. In the fight against music piracy, the ‘value of music’ is always argued and I agree with this completely. But the irony is that this value isn’t consistently set (in monetary terms) by the music sellers themselves. 

If you’ve got knowledge, opinions or solutions please share them below! Thanks for putting up with the rant.

**UPDATE**

Apple have been ordered to a Parliamentary inquiry (together with Adobe and Microsoft) to answer for price gouging against Australian consumers. Labor MP Ed Husic led the summons, the hearing is to take place in Canberra on March 22. More info @ Financial Review.