Most Mac users are unwilling to pay more than 99p for tracks downloaded from UK iTunes Music Store, with many saying they'd be unhappy paying even half that amount

With Apple expected to launch its iTunes Music Store here next week the Macworld Online poll shows 36 per cent of readers will not fork out more than 99p per track.

But far more say they'll pay even less. Of 1,276 respondees 20 per cent say 49p is their top limit. Other results were 59p (9%), 69p (11%), 79p (13%), and 89p (8%).

Just 3 per cent would be happy paying £1.49, and only 1 per cent would pay more than that.

Rip off Britain
Apple has not yet revealed UK iTunes pricing. In the US tracks cost 99 cents each – 54p at today's exchange rate, but readers feel it is unlikely tracks will be available here at such a price.

One says he was "horrified" to see how many people were prepared to pay 99p or over. He said: "In the US they pay the equivalent of 63p. With attitudes like that we deserve the title of "Rip off Britain". If [Apple CEO] Steve Jobs looks at this forum we will have iTunes Music Store in Britain tomorrow, and Apple will double its revenues overnight."

Another reader predicts that the music labels "aren't going to sell songs for the equivalent of 99 cents when they can sell them for 87p". He notes that music is already successfully sold to UK residents at a higher priced than in the US.

"The prices on the iTunes Music Store in Europe will not be the equivalent of US prices. People will make a fuss, say that it's a rip-off, but will still buy the tracks, just as they continue to buy CDs at artificially high prices," adds another.

As well as higher prices, another reader predicts Apple will offer less flexibility to its European customers. "Apple has already further limited the right to burn multiple CDs at the US iTunes Music Store. My hunch is that iTMS Europe will incorporate an even more restrictive right to burn CDs or copy onto other devices."

Price wars
Readers aren't agreed over whether the iTunes Music Store should have a set pricing structure in Europe. While one says "all tracks should be priced the same – if they are available on iTunes Music Store, they're not rare or difficult to get hold of, so there should be no premium", another suggests that competitive pricing could be encouraged by allowing labels to name their price.

He recommends: "It would be good if the artist was able to specify how much their track is sold for, thus introducing price wars. Under this method, artists wanting to get their foot in the door could sell their tracks cheaper to try to gain market share."

Another reader suggests that the pricing structure should be based on track quality, with customers paying a premium for high-quality tracks, and lower-quality tracks being available for less.

"They could have a different charging scale for different quality encodings. If you wanted an Apple lossless version of a song (if they sold them, which they don't), then you should pay more than for a normal version," he explains.

Another says that the most he would pay depends on the quality of the music. "For an exceptional piece of lengthy music I would be prepared to pay £1.49, but that would also have to be something like a 192 AAC file. For three-minute piece of generic chart rubbish I wouldn't pay more than 29p and 128 AAC would be fine," he says.

Buying habits
Whatever price Apple decides to charge its European customers, it would appear that Apple can expect an influx of UK residents rushing to download their most wanted tracks in the hours after the launch here. As one reader explains: "I've got a list of about 30 songs that I will probably buy the same hour that iTMS Europe is released."

However, the number of tracks sold is likely to be influenced by the pricing structure. One reader points out: "I would download twice as many tracks at 59p as I would at 99p, that would be more money in the bank for Apple at the end of the day. It's a pretty straight forward business philosophy, make it cheap and sell more."

Other readers say they will stick with CDs if they don't feel that they are getting value for money from Apple's store. One explains: "If the price even comes close to that of the CD then why would I bother buying the download from iTunes? 128k AAC files are not anything like as good as CD, have more restrictions on my own personal usage, and don't come with physical artwork."

One threatens that "if Apple doesn't offer albums in the UK at a price equivalent to the US, I'll just keep buying CDs."

Another says: "If albums cost more than a tenner then I'll carry on buying them from Tesco and Amazon. And I wont spend money on limited-use AACs when I can buy an original CD and rip to my own quality requirements, and get the album artwork/booklets/lyric sheets included for a similar price."

But one reader notes that the story may well be different when it comes to buying individual tracks rather than whole albums. "There will be occasions when you only want one song from an album and paying for that single song is a lot better than paying for the whole album," he explains.

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