Feb 152012

Whitney HoustonI’ve never had much sympathy for the music industry but this may just  shatter what little positive feeling I might harbor in the inner recesses of my memory. From the Guardian:

Sony Music UK has apologised for raising the price of Whitney Houston albums following the singer’s death on Saturday night. A spokesperson for the company called the move an “internal mistake due to an employee error”, insisting the elevated prices remained in place for only a few hours.

Whitney Houston product was mistakenly mispriced on the UK iTunes store on Sunday,” Sony told Billboard, the US music industry newspaper. “When discovered, the mistake was immediately corrected. We apologise for any offence caused.” 

An “employee error”?

While Sony says this only affected iTunes downloads for a brief period, it appears that the UK retailer HMV may have also been pressured to raise prices. No hard evidence of this, but when you already have a “mistake” on the one hand, it would not be surprising to find the error was much broader than acknowledged.

Okay, I’ve read my Adam Smith and realize that this is just capitalism at work, the traditional dynamic of supply and demand. Just ask anyone who has tried to buy groceries (or something as necessary as clean water) in the midst of a hurricane). Except in a digital world, supply is no longer the issue – at least until the servers crash and the bandwidth chokes. This is simply capitalizing on demand and at its most cynical, one could say: capitalizing on the grief of Whitney Houston’s fans.

The music industry still doesn’t get it – even in adjusting to the new economics of digital downloads. Doing business online also means upholding your reputation. It’s just as important as the goods or services you offer. Shatter that and your customers will very quickly go elsewhere.

And elsewhere in this case can well mean illegal downloads. Sony, are you really that eager to dig your own grave?