No sooner have digital tunes really started to catch on, we hear that the $0.99-per-song -- or less, if you go toWal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) -- price tag is under threat. According to TheWall Street Journal, the recording industry is trying to cook up ways to charge folks more for music. Even Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iTunes and Roxio's (NASDAQ:ROXI) Napster services have been charging premiums for some of the big names and hot new releases, the article said.

It's no secret that the recording industry's not adjusting well to change. Illegal downloading -- made notorious by services like Kazaa and the now-legit Napster -- continues, and is still blamed for bleak revenue shortfalls in the industry. But will the legally downloading public pay more than it's already paying per song? What about paying nearly as much for a downloaded album as for a CD? I think not.

While recording industry stalwarts like Sony (NYSE:SNE), Time Warner (NYSE:TWX), BMG, EMI, and Vivendi (NYSE:V) may be suffering, now seems a dangerous time to start to squeeze. The $0.99 per song, or $9.99 per album, download appeals to consumers in terms of convenience and economy. The article threw out prices sometimes as high as $16.99 for a downloaded album and $2.49 for a downloaded song.

Hiking prices to more than just chump change or, in the case of albums, close to levels charged by traditional record stores, (NASDAQ:AMZN) or Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) could be playing a dangerous game. After all, buying a more expensive CD does have some benefits -- cover art and lyrics topping the list, not to mention that collectible element. It seems doubtful that a download's value is perceived as comparable to that of a CD, at least not yet.

Wooing people to the side of the law by offering downloads for less than a buck has been very successful thus far. However, it's a touchy business. The Internet and music are both perceived as "free" mediums. The terms "ripping" and "burning" -- i.e., recording friends' CDs onto blank discs -- may be new, but it's hardly a new concept, given that people have been copying albums for years.

Though the economics of the situation seem dire, the names behind the RIAA haven't won too much sympathy from music fans recently. And speaking of rock 'n' roll rebellion, if squeezed too tight, renegades -- who all the piracy coverage revealed to be just regular people like you and me -- will probably soon cook up other ways to rock on.

Do you love iTunes? Are you willing to pay up to $2.49 for a single song, or would this limit your downloading? Talk about issues like this on the Apple discussion board.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.