Reps for Sony and Apple in the U.K. have declined to comment on the label's decision to ramp up the price of the singer's "Ultimate Collection" album by 60% in the hours after news of her death reached England on Sunday.
Sony Music U.K. raised the wholesale price of Houston's greatest hits compilation, "The Ultimate Collection," early Sunday morning, according to multiple reports, including The Guardian, immediately following Houston's death. This caused the album price to jump from £4.99 ($7.84) to £7.99 ($12.55) at the U.K. iTunes store, which sets it retail prices based on a fixed percentage mark-up from the wholesale price, as set by the label.
The album's price was lowered on Sunday evening (local time) to its previous price of £4.99. According to reports, the temporary price hike occurred only at the U.K. iTunes store, although some press outlets said the price was raised at Amazon's U.K. site as well.
Photos: Clive Davis, Alicia Keys, Diddy Pay Tribute to Whitney Houston at Pre-Grammy Gala
Reps for Sony and Apple in the U.K. and the U.S. have declined to comment on the controversy thus far. The Guardian, however, quoted an "insider close to the situation" as saying that the price hike was not a "cynical" cashing-in decision, but had been instigated when Sony Music reviewed Houston's iTunes catalog in the immediate aftermath of her death. The Guardian's source goes on to say that the original wholesale price of "The Ultimate Collection" was incorrect and was promptly changed, before being later restored to its previous pricing.
The news drew fierce criticism from commentators and Houston's fans.
"To say I am angry is an understatement and I feel it is just a case of iTunes cashing in on the singer's death, which in my opinion is totally parasitic," said one aggrieved customer, quoted by Digital Spy (http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/music/news/a365322/whitney-houston-death-apple-criticised-after-albums-price-boost.html).
Meanwhile, British politician Chris Bryant used his Twitter (@ChrisBryantMP) account to weigh in on the debate, writing: "Pretty despicable of Sony to increase the cost of Whitney Houston album by 60% just hours after her death." Franz Ferdinand singer Alex Kapranos also used his Twitter account (@alkapranos) to comment on the news, saying: "Ah. They never disappoint," in reference to the price hike.
In the wake of Houston's death, the artist looks set to make a rapid return to the U.K. charts. Counting sales from Sunday Feb. 12 through to midnight on Monday Feb. 13, the late star has seven singles in the U.K. Top 40 singles chart, with "I Will Always Love You," which topped the U.K. charts for 10 weeks in 1992, currently on track to re-enter the Top 10, according to the Official Charts Company (OCC). 1987's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" is next in line at Number 13, with "One Moment In Time" at No. 25. In the U.K. albums chart, Houston's "The Greatest Hits" is the artist's highest entry at No. 6.
"The tragic death of Whitney Houston came as a shock to her friends, colleagues and music fans across the world. Again, the British public is demonstrating its love of Whitney, just as it did for Amy Winehouse last year and Michael Jackson in 2009 - and the Official Charts will reflect that this weekend and, no doubt, in the coming weeks," said Official Charts Company managing director Martin Talbot in a statement.