More market inequities: the UK iTunes Music Store

A while ago I wrote about arbitraging the iTunes Music Store against Amazon, with a Miles Davis live album that could be bought for about 12% the cost of the Amazon version just because it only had two tracks. With the release of the European iTMSes, there’s another market inequity that becomes visible, but unfortunately it’s not as consumer friendly.

Case in point #1: PJ Harvey. The UK site has an exclusive EP for “You Come Through,” with two songs unavailable on the US store (“Stone” and “Who the F**k (4 Track Version)”).

Case #2: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Three US albums of which one is partial, vs. 9 UK albums (plus two that are remastered versions).

Other examples: the Cure (15 US, 25 UK); Genesis (14 US, 21 UK); even U2 (21 US, 41 UK — including some Achtung Baby era singles whose b-sides aren’t available anywhere else and which I’ve been trying to find for years). (It also cuts both ways; there are no Peter Gabriel solo albums currently available in the UK store.)

So what’s the problem? Credit cards work across national boundaries, don’t they? I mean, I can order from, so I should be able to order from the UK iTMS, right?

Wrong. For some inexplicable reason, my account will only work in the US store; attempting to purchase a song in the UK store redirects me to the US store, where I get told the track isn’t available. I suspect it has to do with billing address on the credit card.

Why should this be? There are no physical inventory issues—I’m sure that the files all live in the same set of servers at Akamai or wherever. So I suspect it’s the music industry’s fault. Can anyone explain the precise legal and economic issues to me? Better, can someone suggest a legal billing-address or other workaround—i.e. how does one get a credit card with a UK billing address???