“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.
Who would have known that that the death of DRM would come in the form of a press release
? While MP3 stores
are nothing new, with iTunes moving to a 100% DRM free catalog by the 31st of March this now cements a de facto standard of DRM free music in the marketplace. As a side effect it's now a near certainty that AAC
will become the successor of MP3
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
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?
iTunes Plus has been released.
Following EMI's announcement
that it would begin offering its entire catalog DRM-free (and a barely-averted
torpedoing of that plan), Apple has released an update to iTunes that offers DRM-free, 256kps AAC songs for $1.29. Entire albums are the same price as their DRM-laden counterparts. Those who have purchased EMI music can upgrade their files for $.30/song, $.60/album, or 30% of the album price.
Currently only EMI is on-board, but Apple is perfectly happy
to bring other labels into the DRM-free universe.
Thoughts on Music
"...in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store." — Steve Jobs
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.
Similar to the US Federal Trade Commission
, the Consumer Council of Norway, or Forbrukerrådet
(PDF) strives "to achieve a balance of power between the consumer and the provider of products or services." This week, the council filed a formal complaint
, citing several violations of Norwegian law in the fluid terms of service
attached to iTunes
music file downloads.