They say the value of an artist’s work increases after he or she passes away, but not quite like this. Sony Music and Apple are both currently being criticized by fans in the United Kingdom for raising the price of soul and R&B singer Whitney Houston’s greatest hits album just hours after the artist died Saturday afternoon.
The particular 1997 album, The Ultimate Collection, was priced at £4.99 (or approximately $8) in the Apple iTunes Store before Houston was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m Pacific time from unspecified causes. At roughly 4 a.m. the following day, the price bumped up to £7.99 (or approximately $12.60), leaving millions of fans who wanted to commemorate her death scrutinizing the music giants for attempting to profit off this global tragedy.
“The album itself is great so please don’t be put off purchasing it, just that you will merely be lining some fatcat’s pocket before Whitney’s lifeless body is cold,” a customer warned on the UK entertainment site DigitalSpy.
But was it all just an interestingly-timed accident? Apparently, when news of the singer’s death broke, Sony Music, which owns the rights many of Houston’s back catalog, was prompted to review its catalog of Houston’s albums. There, it realized its wholesale price of The Ultimate Collection had been incorrect in the first place. During this price change, the digital album became entirely unavailable for download for several hours, and when it came back online, the retail price had increased by more than 60 percent. However, since Apple technically has the responsibility of setting the selling price on the iTunes Store, fans are unsure of who to blame for this seemingly exploitative move.
“To say I am angry is an understatement,” another fan commented. “I feel it is just a case of iTunes cashing in on the singer’s death, which in my opinion is totally parasitic.”
Despite the price hike, analysts anticipate Houston’s albums to dominate charts over the next few weeks. By Monday morning, The Ultimate Collection was the second best-selling album on iTunes. The legendary singer’s other greatest hits album, Whitney Houston – The Greatest Hits, followed in third place and was not affected by the price increase. Neither Sony nor Apple have commented on the price change fiasco, though Apple has restored the price of The Ultimate Collection to £4.99 on iTunes as of Monday.
Houston, 48, was found dead submerged underwater in the bathroom of her Los Angeles hotel room on the eve of the Grammy Awards ceremony during which she was set to attend a pre-Grammy event. The cause of her death is still being investigated, with results of her autopsy slated to slowly unveil within the following weeks. The singer is survived by her ex-husband Bobby Brown and their teenage daughter, Bobbi Kristina.
Image credit: Egghead06