Monday, April 09, 2007

EMI and Apple drop DRM - Big Deal

Recently EMI and Apple announced that they are going to drop DRM (Digital Rights Management) restrictions on music files sold through the iTunes store. Digital Rights Management limits how you can use a music track e.g.: how many “MP3″ players that you can upload it to. Jobs hinted at this move in his essay Thoughts on Music a while back. Removing DRM from music files will in theory encourage people to buy more music, as the options for playing it are more flexible.

There’s no doubting the success of the iTunes music store but the sales of tracks are still tiny compared to other ways of aquring music files, that is, people buying CDs and ripping them, people sharing/borrowing CDs and ripping them and people using file-sharing networks.

I think its good news that EMI have made the first move and if all goes well other labels will follow suit and remove DRM as well.

Several questions remain.

  • Will Steve Jobs also start lobbying for the removal of DRM from movies as well? Jobs is a major player in Disney, so would he remove DRM from Disney movies sold through the iTunes store.? Surely movies are no different to music, won’t more people buy more movies if they can use them flexibly?

  • Why do DRM’d files cost more? They have increased the quality (bit rate) of the music but they cost 99p instead of 79p. Does it cost Apple more money to rip a file at a higher bit rate? Why does cost money to remove DRM?
  • Generally, why the high prices for digital music? If you want me to buy any online music, the prices have got to be lower. Prices are 79p or 99p per track. A ripped real-world CD can have very high quality tracks (much higher than a downloaded MP3/AAC file), no DRM , and it leaves you with a REAL CD. If you buy the CD’s second hand off an Amazon reseller you can get an even better bargain.

I’m interested to see how the market develops and whether other labels follow the lead taken by EMI. For me until the price of downloaded music drops to say 30 or 40p a track (192K quality, no DRM) I won’t even consider it. I’ll stick to CD’s thanks.