The online retailers were quick to post what looked like obituaries on their digital pages, but they only allowed visitors to buy music
As quickly as Sasha Frere-Jones could nominate an heir to Amy Winehouse's artistic legacy (Adele), iTunes posted a large image of the late pop singer on the homepage of its digital music store with the caption, "Remembering Amy Winehouse." Similarly, but less conspicuously, Amazon Music has added a box on the right-hand side of its page that reads, in part, "Platinum selling and five time Grammy winning singer Amy Winehouse has died at the age of 27. Well known for her soulful voice, Winehouse's numerous hits include 'Stronger Than Me,' 'Love is a Losing Game,' and 'Rehab.'" Below Amazon's brief obituary is a link encouraging visitors to "Read more about Amy Winehouse."
But clicking the Amazon link or the iTunes image does not direct shoppers to the Guardian's tribute or to Rolling Stone's aggregation of musicians' responses to Winehouse's premature and unexpected death. Instead, one click takes shoppers to a page where they can purchase her music. Are iTunes and Amazon cashing in on an artist's death? Absolutely. Some commentators have estimated that Apple profits to the tune of twelve cents per ninety-nine-cent song. But iTunes, the world's largest music retailer, is also instantly connecting Winehouse fans to her music at a time when it is perhaps most emotionally poignant to listen. Indeed, beyond efficiency, there is little difference between buying an Amy Winehouse album on iTunes today and buying a Nirvana album at Tower Records in April 1994. (Did Tower Records plaster its windows with "Remembering Kurt Cobain" signs? Maybe not.)