After two days of silence, Sony has issued a statement in response to the furor over the company's U.K. office's decision to raise the price of two Whitney Houston titles, "The Ultimate Collection" and "Greatest Hits," in the hours immediately following her death.
The statement reads: "Whitney Houston product was mistakenly mispriced on the UK iTunes store on Sunday. When discovered, the mistake was immediately corrected. We apologize for any offense caused."
A source at Sony who spoke to Billboard.biz on background, seeking to clarify the oft-misreported situation, emphasized that the two titles were mistakenly changed in price -- "The Ultimate Collection" from £4.99 to £7.99 and "Whitney: The Greatest Hits" from £7.99 to £9.99 -- for a few hours on Sunday (from morning until evening U.K. time, according to reports) and then corrected. The source said that the price hike was an "internal mistake due to an employee error" and noted that only iTunes in the U.K. was affected.
Asked why the price was changed only at iTunes and not for all digital outlets, the source stressed that iTunes was the sole outlet but noted that "every territory handles business differently." Some media reports claimed the price had been changed at Amazon as well, and a source at HMV in the U.K. that Billboard.biz spoke with seemed to imply, but would not confirm, that it had received a price increase as well. The Sony source denied that the company reviews or adjusts prices upon an artist's death, saying that prices are evaluated periodically and based on supply and demand.
Sales of Whitney Houston titles have soared in the wake of her death, and at least one album is expected to debut in the Top 20 of the Billboard 200 when it is released tomorrow morning. Billboard.biz will have more on this story as it develops.