Two days after the Apple iTunes Music Store raised prices on some individual tracks, there was evidence the increases have hurt the sales rankings of songs given the higher $1.29 price.

While it is difficult to say with certainty whether a price increase had resulted in less revenue, rough estimates reveal slight, negative changes in chart position would result in a positive change in revenue. The changes in chart position between Tuesday and Thursday, however, clearly show that higher prices had forced many songs to cede chart position to lower-priced songs.

On Wednesday, one day after the price increase, the iTunes Top 100 chart had 40 songs priced at $1.29 and 60 with the original $0.99 price point. The $1.29 songs lost an average of 5.3 places on the chart while the $0.99 songs gained an average of 2.5 chart positions.

Seven of Wednesday’s $1.29 songs had been priced at $0.99 on Tuesday (there were 33 songs priced at $1.29 on Tuesday morning). Those seven songs lost an average of 1.9 chart positions from Tuesday to Wednesday; one of them gained ground, eight lost position and one remained the same. The remaining 33 songs priced at $1.29, whose prices went unchanged from Tuesday to Wednesday, lost an average of 7.7 chart positions.

A similar trend was seen the following day. The 53 songs priced at $0.99 rose an average of 1.66 places on the chart; 24 rose on the chart, 18 dropped and 11 remained even. The 47 songs priced at $1.29 lost an average of two chart positions; 11 rose on the chart, 27 dropped and nine remained even. Ten of the $1.29 tracks were priced at $0.99 the day prior and they lost an average of 12.4 chart positions. A number of the tracks with a Tuesday-to-Wednesday price increase that gave up chart position were from Rascal Flatt’s Unstoppable (and one track from Unstoppable dropped off the Top 100 altogether).

The two-day trend mirrored the two previous one-day trends. On Thursday, 47 songs on the iTunes Top 100 chart were priced at $1.29. The more expensive songs had lost an average of 2.7 chart positions from Tuesday to Thursday. Only six of the $1.29 songs rose up the chart while 29 dropped and 12 remained at the same chart position. The 53 songs that had remained priced at $0.99 during that two-day span had gained an average of 1.96 chart positions. Of the $0.99 songs, 32 rose up the chart, 12 dropped and nine stayed even. The 32 songs that had remained at $1.29 for all three days had lost an average of 3.3 chart positions.



By Thursday, there were a total of 15 songs that had risen to $1.29 from a $0.99 price on Tuesday. Over the two-day period, those 15 songs had lost an average of 1.5 chart positions.

Nine songs fell off the chart during from Tuesday to Thursday. Five were priced at $0.99 and four were priced at $1.29. Price appeared to have little impact on these songs’ movement. Most songs were at or near the bottom of the chart, so their decline is not extraordinary. Ten songs entered the chart during this period. Five were priced at $0.99 and five were priced at $1.29.

These changes are solely chart position, but a general idea of incremental changes in revenue can be reached. By looking at the unit sales of the most recent Soundscan top track downloads chart, the different between chart positions can offer a view into how moving up and down the chart impacts revenue. An assumption here is that the iTunes Top 100 chart is representative of the Soundscan top track downloads chart. Given its market dominance, this is a reasonable assumption.

The average final rank of the songs that dropped on the chart is about #45 and the average chart drop was about three positions. On the most recent Soundscan top track downloads chart, the difference between the #42 and the #45 chart position equals weekly sales of about 2,080 units, or about 300 units per day. A #42 track sells almost 9,800 downloads in two days. A #45 track sells just under 9,200 downloads in two days. The retail value of the #42 position over two days at $0.99 per track is about $9,700. The retail value of the lower #45 position over two days at the higher $1.29 price is about $11, 861. The increase of $0.30 per track offsets the drop in units sold by nearly $2,200 over two days.

The difference in rankings is magnified at higher positions on the chart. A song that drops from #7 to #10, for example, could lose about 4,500 units over two days but gain an incremental $3,600.



For a price increase (to $1.29 from $0.99) to result in an equal or greater amount of revenue, unit sales would to drop by no less than 23.3%. On the most recent track download chart, the different between #42 and #45 was only 3.5%. One has to move up to #6 on the chart to get to a difference greater than 23.3%. The difference between the #6 and the #3 chart positions equals a 30% drop in unit sales while the difference between #7 and #4 is a 19% drop in unit sales.

This analysis does not take into account sales trends that would have existed with the absence of price changes. For a variety of reasons such as radio play, media attention, placement on the iTunes storefront or time since release date, tracks naturally rise and fall on the chart. Given the high number of songs at both price points, it is reasonable to assume songs’ upward and downward momentums could have canceled each other out. What is left is an incomplete but valuable look at the impact of price increases on relative sales performance.