‘I wanna dance with your money’

By Luke Wilusz

Legendary singer Whitney Houston was found dead Feb. 11 in a hotel bathtub. The very next day, Sony increased the wholesale price of her records in the UK, which in turn caused the iTunes price to go up automatically. The recording giant later claimed this was a “mistake”

and apologized.

If this was an accident, it was an awfully damn convenient one, with such uncanny timing that one would be well within reason to suggest that Sony’s “mistake” excuse was a blatant lie to cover up their crass attempt to turn an untimely death into a tidy profit.

In Sony’s defense, trying to spin a tragedy into a financial opportunity is in no way a recent innovation, so it’s not as if they were breaking new ground here. Tons of Michael Jackson merchandise sprang up in June 2009, and sales of pretty much anything with an American flag on it or a red, white and blue color scheme skyrocketed after 9/11. People have made entire fortunes off of wars in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed. What I’m getting at here is that there is a long-standing American tradition of parasites trying to make a quick buck off of somebody else’s pain, suffering or death. Some of them are even bold enough to call something a “tribute” or “memorial” item while they rake in the dough.

But one might expect Sony to be above such tactics, or at the very least aware of how despicable these actions make the company look. Images of a cartoonish robber baron come to mind, a Snidely Whiplash type twirling his greasy moustache as he maniacally laughs and hums “I Will Always Love You” under his breath. It’s one thing for random people to plaster Houston’s face on a T-shirt and try to sell as many as they can. It might not be right, but it’s pretty much inevitable. However, the people who are publicly linked to her career and own the rights to her work should at least make an effort to act as though they have a modicum of respect for her.

These kinds of cash-ins are never going to go away, but Sony could have handled the situation a lot more tact fully. If they were that desperate to profit from Houston’s death, they should have done the decent thing and cranked out a hastily produced memorial album or DVD in a few months, rather than just jacking up the prices on her existing work before the body was even cold. I understand that capitalism encourages corporations to do awful and exploitative things for an easy buck; I just wish they’d put a bit more effort into it.