Digital musics Red Letter Day - iTunes Music Store & EMI go DRM free

By tonyhughes Hughes, in , posted: 3-Apr-2007 13:45

Apple is making EMI Music’s entire digital catalog of music available for purchase DRM-free (without digital rights management) from the iTunes Store worldwide in May 2007.

This is big new folks. This is a big, insidious, nasty, large corporate record company saying "We understand that users dislike DRM, and we accept it is a barrier to people enjoying music they have legitimately obtained, on any player they wish to use, so therefore, we will give you an option for DRM free tracks."

They are charging a 30c premium for a non-DRM track, which many will scorn as being money-hungry, and a slap in the face to consumers, but I see it as a positive - they are hedging their bets.

Put it this way - the increase in price is 30%. Lets say piracy goes up by 50% (its easier to share songs with your friends/neighbours for free, who werent going to buy it to start with.) but sales go up by 100% (Because you can suddenly use this music on your iPod, your Zune, your Nokia/Sanyo/XYZ cellphone, your iRiver, your car stereo, your Linux PC, your Media Center, and, strangely enough, you can burn to CD to play on your regular home stereo whenever you want - wow what a concept!)

All of a sudden we have all sides winning - the label and the retailer make more money from higher sales with higher profit margin and consumers get DRM free music, which many (especially in the early days) will be happy to pay a premium for.

They have doubled the bit-rate of the DRM free music, making it much more tantalising and valuable to music lovers - at 256kbps, no one but the superheroes, the dicks, and the anal retentive music expert wannabes will be able to complain about the quality (128kbps is basically borderline for quality).

The entire iTunes catalogue will remain as-is, with additional EMI tracks at the higher bitrate and higher price complementing, rather than replacing them. Another good move - we have a choice!

iTunes will also offer customers a simple, one-click option to easily upgrade their entire library of all previously purchased EMI content to the higher quality DRM-free format for 30 cents a song. All EMI music videos will also be available in DRM-free format with no change in price.

This is just fantastic. This is the beginning of the end of DRM infested media. The groundswell of support for DRM free music MUST be converted into action by those who have lobbyed, campaigned, spoken, shouted, legislated, voted, bitched and moaned and called for change. Now is the time to start supporting EMI and iTunes in this very bold move, and increase their profits so they can see how good this is, and so other labels feel that they must follow and do the same.

Before too long, there will be enough DRM free competition around to drive the price back down to normal levels, and DRM free music becomes the norm, and we forget about this whole sorry saga of the 00's. Piracy will always exist, its naive to think otherwise, but people are ALREADY DOING IT WITH DRM. And every time DRM is updated or reinvented or solidified, its instantly broken again. So accept the fact the people WILL pirate, but also know that they will no longer pirate out of rebellion against DRM, and they will no longer pirate to ensure cross-platform compatibility.

Very soon it will be EASIER to buy (and use) DRM-free music, than it will be to run the gauntlet of P2P.

My hat is off to EMI, and well done to ITMS also, for being part of getting the big guys to back down.

And yes, I know there are plenty of DRM free music sites around, often cheaper than mainstream DRM retailers, occasionally even free - but face it, popular music is just that - popular. I want ALL my music to be DRM free, and I want to explore mainstream popular artists, as well as indie stuff too.

Everyone wins here, this could be the precursor to 'world peace' of the DRM saga, this is what you wanted, this is an opportunity to lay waste to the concept of DRM, and now its up to you to follow it through.

(Yes, I announced my temporary departure from blogging just days ago, but c'mon!!! DRM free music!!!!)

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Comment by Grant17, on 3-Apr-2007 14:35

YES!!!  It's wonderful news and thanks Tony for an informative and entertaining post.

I wonder how long it will take the local competition such as CokeTunes and Digirama to follow suit?

I'm not that keen on moving my entire library over to iTunes having put a lot of effort into retrieving album covers from the net so everything is looking pretty flash in WMP 11.

But definitely...

Hats Off to Steve Jobs / Apple / EMI

Author's note by tonyhughes, on 3-Apr-2007 15:24

thanks! Itunes has retrieved all my album art automatically these days... its great. Though I have bought any music for months, and i dont normally listen to music on my PC, so its been ages since I have even run itunes.

BTW - this post score 700 hits in the first hour!

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