“You can’t roll a joint on an iPod” or how the iPod killed the music industry. First the music biz overlooked the computer CD rom when they put copy control on cd burners. Then they eliminated the single. Shortly after that "mp3" replaced "sex" as the most popular search term. Apple has become the largest music seller largely against the wishes of the music biz, but 99 cents beats free. Yesterday Apple announced they were eliminating DRM. The questions remains, who needs Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, Warner Music Group, and EMI, does Apple? When is Apple just going to replace them? There were rumors a year ago that they would launch a record label with Jay-Z but that does not appear to have come to fruition.
Bob Lefsetz has been sharing his opinions on the music industry for years. In last night's newsletter, he announces, "Let the games begin!" - and indeed, let them. Universal Music has declined to re-sign to a long term deal with Apple, essentially leaving them open to exclusive deals with other services. The fact that Doug Morris (chairman of UMG) and Zach Horowitz (President of Universal's parent company, Vivendi) have been gearing up to loosen the stranglehold that iTunes has on online distribution is not exactly news. They've used similar tactics against Microsoft's Zune and YouTube. But with the release of the iPhone and following his well-timed decision to openly "share his thoughts" on DRM, not to mention his landmark deal with (perennial "armpit of the industry") EMI to sell their music DRM-free and at a higher cost - the real question is: is Steve Jobs ready to play hardball?
FairPlay is turned about. "DVD" Jon Lech Johansen, of DeCSS fame, has reverse engineered Apple's FairPlay DRM technology, which has thus far prevented 3rd-party digital music players from playing music purchased from the iTunes Store. RealNetworks did something similar in 2004, but Johansen is licensing it to whomever wants it.
It's still about the means of production, you see — but in the overdeveloped world, at least, it's not about the production of goods and services anymore. Today's virtual revolutionary is happy to leave all that to capitalists. The virtual revolutionary wants to control the production of meaning — representations of herself and her world as she wants them to seem. Or be. Or whatever. That's all she asks. Or, rather, takes. Thomas de Zengotita welcomes the big world of the small screen. Peter Bogdanovich, instead, still mourns that last picture show.