Small Data: Have any prices fallen faster than singles?

Bob Geldof and Midge Ure in 1984 Image copyright Getty Images

Bob Geldof says that the price of a single has fallen 72% in the past 30 years. But has anything else fallen by more over that period, asks Anthony Reuben.

Speaking on the Today programme about the launch of Band Aid 30, he said that in 1984 the single had cost £3.50 but that today you could download the new one for 99p. "We literally have to sell three times as many," Geldof said.

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Media captionBob Geldof speaks to Today's Sarah Montague: 'We literally have to sell three times as many as in 1984'

(Actually, photographic evidence from the time rather suggests the 7" version of the single might have been available for something like £1.35 and the 12" version for £2.49.)

Adjusting for inflation, £3.50 in 1984 money would be worth about £9 in today's money, while £1.35 would be about £3.50 in today's money.

But it's not all bad news, because Band Aid is not having to pay to produce the physical single, iTunes is not charging for hosting and the government is not taxing the sales, so the charity will receive the whole 99p.

The product people are buying is different to the one they were buying in 1984, even though it is still essentially the purchase of one song.

That is the way that measuring inflation works. It is based on a basket of goods that is supposed to represent the sorts of things that people are buying. If people stop buying one thing and instead buy another, then the basket of goods will change.

Vinyl singles dropped out of the basket in 1991. Music downloads entered the basket in 2005. Presumably in-between they had CD singles.

It got me wondering if any other items had fallen in price by more over the period.

The only thing in the basket that seems to have gone down by anything like that much is audio-visual equipment - that's things like televisions, DVD players, computers, cameras and, indeed, the hi-fi equipment to play the now cheaper songs.

Overall, that sort of equipment that would have cost you £1,000 in 1987 can now be bought for about £78.

Again, it's not about comparing the same products - a posh hi-fi from the 1980s may now be replaced in the basket by a docking station for an MP3 player.

And the sort of computing power that would have cost thousands of pounds in the 1980s can now be found on the cheapest of smartphones.

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