BlackBerry music store: Too good to be true?

The 7Digital store, also available from the Web, offers tracks that are cheaper than those found on iTunes and Amazon.

Blackberry users are getting a new digital music store that's often cheaper than iTunes, Amazon, and basically every other competitor in the U.S. How do they do it?

United Kingdom-based 7Digital, which was founded five years ago, tells Macworld UK that the majority of its tracks cost 77 cents, and most albums are priced at $US7.77 -- an obvious play on the company's name. If you don't have a Blackberry, you can still access the store on the Web, at us.7digital.com. Browsing the Web store, I see plenty of tracks priced at 77 cents. But, I also many tracks cost 99 cents, and albums that cost $US9.99, but often times these are songs that cost $US1.29 a piece on iTunes.

The store itself isn't too shabby. 7Digital says it has 7 million DRM-free MP3s available, compared to iTunes' 10 million as of January. At 320 Kbps, the MP3s are of higher quality than other stores, and there's a neat feature for Blackberry users: Download a song over a 3G or slower connection, and the file quality will be lower, but it will be automatically replaced with a 320 Kbps download when you reach a Wi-Fi hotspot.

There's got to be a catch, right? I mean, after The Great iTunes Price Hike of 2009, in which the cost of many popular iTunes tracks was raised from 99 cents to $US1.29, the competition followed suit. Lala, which raised its prices alongside Rhapsody, Amazon and Wal-Mart, chalked the price hikes up to "an industry shift."

In other words, the music industry was demanding more money from each sale (and is now looking for more), leading the stores to pass the price hikes onto customers. But meanwhile, 7Digital's chief executive officer Ben Drury tells The Register that the company can still make money at its current prices.

When other online stores were raising prices earlier this year, Computerworld's Seth Weintraub wondered whether the music industry was treating Amazon and iTunes differently in regards to pricing If so, I suspect the same thing is happening with 7Digital, serving the music industry by loosening the competition's firm grasp on the market.

If not, one thing's certain: Blackberry users have one more thing to brag about to their iPhone-owning buddies.

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Jared Newman

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