Well, it’s always been on the cards, but the biggest news of the week is that Apple have finally been able to make iTunes tracks available without the Digital Rights Management that was essentially ‘watermarked’ into all previous tracks.
So you can now buy a tune from iTunes and play it on Microsoft’s Zune player or similar by SanDisk. It really took us until 2009 to get to that stage? The major labels and countless independents have been selling DRM-free tracks via Amazon for about a year, so why did they hold out on Apple?
Steve Jobs announced that EMI were willing to drop DRM back in 2007, but the rest of the majors (Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and Sony Music Entertainment) have held out for some unknown reason. Actually, the reason is know; it’s because majors have no idea how to move forward in this music evolution. They were unwilling to hand over DRM-free copies to iTunes because of the scale of it’s sales, fearing a loss of control and rampant, escalating piracy. They struggle to keep hold of things like DRM so that people don’t ‘steal their money’.
Here’s a thought. Will Apple’s news make much difference? The people who already buy millions of tracks from iTunes are doing so (mostly) happily and playing them on their millions of iPods and iPhones. As far as they know (or care), DRM has never been an issue. People who have wanted to download DRM-free music for their non-Apple devices have been able to find it fairly easily. Will these settled buyers bother to jump ship? Especially with the new price rises too (more on that later). The infamous Bob Lefsetz thinks the news is very much a non-issue, saying that “the only people who care about DRM don’t pay for music, they just steal it. Otherwise, Amazon would have eclipsed Apple and the Seattle company would own the online music market”.
Is it all too-little too-late?
Cross-posted at our UK Music Jobs website and also our USA Music Jobs website. The premier online communities for music industry professionals.