Sony catalog comes to Amie Street--with fine print

The music start-up has gathered press for its market-driven pricing model, but in its first major-label deal, song prices will be at one of three static levels.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy

Sony Music Entertainment's catalog is coming to indie music retail site Amie Street, in the New York-based start-up's first major label deal.

But here's the catch: Sony's catalog will not be participating in the "dynamic pricing" model that's been Amie Street's trademark--unpopular songs are the cheapest, and the price rises as a song is downloaded more. Instead, Sony songs will be available for a flat 69 cents, 99 cents, or $1.29 based on popularity.

"It wasn't a hard decision for us," Amie Street co-founder Josh Boltuch told CNET News. "This isn't affecting all the other dynamically priced music on the site." He noted that RED, the indie music distribution company owned by Sony, already offers its songs on Amie Street through the dynamic-pricing model. "Sony Music obviously has the option to experiment with dynamic pricing at their discretion," Boltuch added. "Clearly we would love to do that with them."

This isn't the first time that an indie music retailer has had to compromise to ink a major-label deal. Sony was also the first major label to bring its catalog--well, its "classic" back catalog--to subscription site eMusic. But the deal resulted in eMusic raising some of its prices in tandem.

Amie Street, which pitches itself as a way to discover as well as purchase new music, made major headlines last year when it was the only place on the Web to buy songs recorded by Ashley Alexandra Dupre, the call-girl-slash-aspiring-pop-star at the center of the Eliot Spitzer scandal.