Thursday, April 16, 2009

Apple tells music retailers how to behave

Here is a great example of a market leader signaling to its competitors the rules of engagement. So Apple is the market leader in downloading music, right? So when it raises its prices, what should the competition do? Lower their prices in order to win over users and gain marketshare, right?


They just follow right along and raise their prices too! Apple goes from 99 cents to $1.29 and so does Amazon, Rhapsody and others.
The concept is simple and is illustrated so well by Bruce Greenwald and basic economic theory.

Apple rules the market for downloadable music and every competitor knows, Apple could credibly take them on if it really wanted to. So who wants to launch a margin-busting price war with Apple when you could just imitate their prices and maintain your own comfortable share of the market.

Because of its dominant position, Apple is able to set prices for the rest of the market and everyone follows in proper obedience.

This example is a great counterpoint to the magazine industry that is fragmented, without a clear leader, and totally unaware of its own value.

Rather than the industry raising prices to protect their own margins, magazines are on this destructive race for the bottom in a vain attempt to attract subscribers. In the end they just end up commoditizing their own business because they are now unable to spend in order to innovate, and they create the perception that their product is cheap and replaceable.

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