AC/DC bypasses iTunes; Should Apple care?

Editor’s Note: The following article is excerpted from the Today@PCWorld blog at PCWorld.com.

Is iTunes headed down the “Highway to Hell” as Aussie rock band AC/DC puts it? Recently recording artists and music services are giving iTunes some push back and a run for its money.

The band AC/DC says it’s bypassing Apple’s iTunes and has brokered an exclusive deal with Verizon to sell its music through Verizon’s online music store.

Anyone can visit Verizon and buy AC/DC music, but there is a catch. Verizon is not allowing you to buy individual AC/DC songs, rather forcing people to buy entire albums. That means if you want to download the song and bang your head to the AC/DC song “Shoot To Thrill” you’ll have to buy the entire Back In Black album. Back In Black the album through Verizon will run you $11.99 compared to the CD on Amazon that is $9.97. The only track available as a single download is “You Shook Me All Night Long.” That is also the only song Verizon Wireless subscribers will be able to buy and download using their mobile phones.

It’s a sign of the times. Record labels and artists are starting to stand up to Steve Jobs and iTunes. If this is a growing trend things could get ugly for consumers.

On Tuesday, music publisher representing rapper Eminem filed suit against Apple for what it claims is the unauthorized sale of the artist’s music on the iTunes Store. The lawsuit claims that Universal, Eminem’s record label, and Apple have been selling Eminem’s songs without the publisher’s who represent Eminem permission.

This isn’t the first time Apple has heard “Hells Bells” in the distance when it comes to anti-iTunes sentiments.

Grumblings from music publishers and artists are getting louder as they become more public about their dissatisfaction with as what they see as Apple’s low 99-cent price point for tracks. Universal is said to be wavering at renewing its deal with Apple, primarily due to Steve Jobs’ refusal to raise song prices and his fervent push for more DRM-free tracks.

That dissatisfaction is only likely to grow as Apple touts accomplishments like it did Tuesday when it announced iTunes surpassed 3 billion cumulative downloads.

Where is this all headed?

If music labels and artist get greedy and force higher prices for music, make it hard for fans to find and download just the music they want, and make it hard to manage competing DRM restrictions music piracy will grow.

That’s too bad for the industry. The latest report from UK-based Entertainment Media Research say here in the US music piracy is down. You can thank the ease, price, and flexibility of finding and buying music on iTunes part for that.

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