Just how much is a song worth?

I think that’s a pretty good question these days. The going rate on the iTunes Music Store is currently set at $0.99 per track. At the same time, the Yahoo! Music Unlimited service gives you access to over 1 million songs for a monthly price of $4.99, bringing the perceived value of any given tune down to almost zero. Neither of these are sitting well with record labels.

Forbes is reporting that Apple is considering moving to a tiered pricing system for songs sometime next year. The music industry is really pushing Apple to make this move, because they hate the idea of $0.99 singles. They’re trying to sell the move as one that benefits consumers: newer tracks will cost more, but older, less popular ones could sell for less than what they do now. Doesn’t sound too bad, right?

Joel Spolsky (of Joel on Software fame) posted an entry today about what he thinks is the real reason why the music labels want this so bad. As he rightly points out, pricing sends a signal:

People have come to believe that “you get what you pay for.