With apologies to Carl Sagan, it looks as if the Grand Unilateral Conspiracy to Commit Piracy(tm) (GUTCCP) has been dealt a harsh blow. As Scott posted yesterday, iTunes sales have topped 5 billion songs to date. This, despite the fact that all iPods are officially nothing more than repositories of pirated material. iTunes keeps chugging along, selling tracks at a phenomenal rate. Expect abandoned parrots and eyepatches to be offered at firesale prices if this trend continues.
The big story here isn't the exact number milestone. Rather, it's like the late Senator Everett Dirksen probably never said, "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money." The story is that the consuming public can and will buy music legitimately when the opportunity presents itself as a sane, easy-to-use alternative. Getting rid of DRM seems to have increased that demand rather than opening the doors to a floodgate of proliferate pirating piranas.
Apple comes under constant pressure to raise media prices and increase per-sale revenue. It looks to me that their current pricing model has been a huge success as-is. Could the current (reportedly $0.70/track) wholesale pricing really be putting the recording industry at a financial disadvantage after 5 billion sales with rock bottom overhead for digital distribution? Let us know in the comments.