Saturday 10 December 2011

iTunes US Store music single and album costs versus local online prices.

Written for South African iTunes US Store users and online music buyers.

I recently enjoyed reading Thyon Design's blogpost on Apple's failure to offer games, music, books, movies and television shows to South African consumers. Interestingly enough, Apple calls its local offering an "App Store" to clearly differentiate its local offer from an iTunes Store. Further, a search for 'itunes store' on shows no results. Apple is certainly consistent in its online message that there is no iTunes Store for South Africans (if only local resellers would modify the international marketing material they use to reflect this truth, too!).

Given Apple's opaqueness (at best) around its future plans for launching an iTunes ZA Store, I agree with Thyon Design that the best course of action is to organize an iTunes (US) Store account. Once done, It's simple to buy online from iTunes voucher sellers including;,, Cards, Evo Points and

As I use my iTunes US account to buy music only, it is interesting to compare pricing there for popular music albums and singles versus local online retailers prices for similar pop products:

Cost per voucher.
Let's say one pays a premium of $3 on a $25 a voucher, which one purchases on a South African credit card via PayPal. This translates into paying 10% extra on every online purchase versus a US consumer.

Cost per song.
So, a $0.99 cents song actually costs $1.09. Multiply that by today's exchange rate ($ 1 = R 8.232) and one pays R 8.97 per song. By comparison, Look and Listen charge between R 9.99 and R 10.99 per song on their most downloaded mp3s list, while OMusic charges either R 9.99 or R 11.99.

Cost per album.
For pop music albums (predominately by international artists) you pay either R 69.99 or R 99 on Look and Listen for any of its top ten and R 99.99 to R 129.99 for pop albums featured on OMusic's banner ads. In the iTunes store the cost ranges from $ 9.99 to $ 14.00. At today's exchange rate, that is between R 82,24 and R 115,25 per album (this excludes the voucher surcharge).

What does this mean for the South African consumer?
While it is at least 10% cheaper to buy singles using the iTunes US Store, South Africans will find it cheaper to buy select albums locally. This is interesting as I mistakenly assumed before writing this post that both songs and albums would inevitably be cheaper given the relatively huge US market. Despite the smaller South African market, our exchange rate and much lower level of competition, it seems that local online retailers believe our market is not willing to pay album prices at US prices. I'll definitely keep this in mind for future online album shops :) !

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