clue detected: thoughts on music

I gotta say I’m pleased to see that Apple’s CEO (some number of regressions of boss up the ladder from me) has a fucking clue about the failure of DRM and the music marketplace. Read: Steve Jobs Thoughts on Music, or BoingBoing’s excellent excerpt here. It’s what I’ve been saying since we started selling music; […]

I gotta say I’m pleased to see that Apple’s CEO (some number of regressions of boss up the ladder from me) has a fucking clue about the failure of DRM and the music marketplace.

Read: Steve Jobs Thoughts on Music, or BoingBoing’s excellent excerpt here.

It’s what I’ve been saying since we started selling music; I’d buy more from the iTunes store if I could really own the music I’ve bought. A buck a song ain’t bad for all-rights music, but it’s steep for broken music files (and by broken, I mean, disabled in such a way that it’s use is limited).

Big four music companies? That sound? It’s the sound of a clue knocking. Open the door.

6 thoughts on “clue detected: thoughts on music”

  1. “and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat”..

    You know, not all of the music in the iTMS catalog is licensed from the Big Four. A fair bit is from smaller and indie labels, some of which have no problem with selling their music without DRM. In fact, there are those that have asked Apple to sell their music sans DRM but have been denied.

    Jobs doesn’t have to wait for the Big Four. If he really is serious about this he should give the smaller labels the option of selling their music through iTMS DRM-free. If he doesn’t, it is hard to see his open letter as more than damage control to get the euro consumer ombudsmen off his back.

  2. You know Lars, that sounds great. Until you start calculating the overhead in the system to support it. It’s not just programming; it’s process, and it’s maintenance, and it has to be tracked in precise detail to make sure you NEVER send anything out with the wrong bit set, or you get lawsuits.

    Apple’s profit margin on music is tiny, and the support load to maintain the tool is high; one of the places where we’ve faced down the music industry over and over is on flat pricing. They want to jack prices for new or hot releases and lower prices on old stuff. We’ve said no, keep it simple for users and for those who run the system, there’s no need to complicate it.

    Sure, we could *do it*. But it doesn’t make sense, techically, economically, or politically. The problem – the root of the problem – is that the big four want DRM. Rather that supporting that by making it optional, better to push back. No DRM, not DRM for some.

  3. Great point-to, hon. Good to see that your Kahuna knows where it’s at. This is why I ended up going to the Russians for my music when I need it. I’d rather download a really good quality mp3 for like, a dime, than have to pay a buck for DRM. And the thing is that there ARE decoders out there that work for the DRM get-around. Idiot had one he used all the time. But I’m with Jobs… It’s ‘make work’ for the companies tasked with having to add the DRM, deal with the DRM, all under the guise of ‘We’re preventing piracy’…
    Great point-to, thank you.

  4. The Man,

    I’ve been thinking a bit more about it and it seems to me there might be at least a couple reasons for Apple not going DRM-free for some of the catalog.

    First one, as you say, is building and maintaining it. Then again, Amazon and other online stores manage a rather comprehensive selection of goods and terms. Not to mention that several of the PlaysForSure Windows online music shops have different WM-DRM licenses for different songs/labels.

    The other is the possibility that Apple’s deal with the Big Four says that all music sold through iTMS must be sold on equal terms, i.e. everything with DRM or everything without DRM. Big Four can’t allow the indies to compete on better terms you know, especially when they are on the same store shelf.

    A third is that the all on same terms might be Jobs’ idea. Apple has always been big on ease of use and consistency, single button mouse and all that. Perhaps he thinks that selling everything on the same terms is better for the average customers than confusing them with DRM here and no DRM there.

    On the other hand, the longstanding trademark issue between Apple the computer maker and Apple the record label just got resolved. Perhaps there’s more to this deal, and perhaps Jobs with this open letter is setting the stage for Apple making its own label. Interesting thought.

  5. On the other hand, the longstanding trademark issue between Apple the computer maker and Apple the record label just got resolved. Perhaps there’s more to this deal, and perhaps Jobs with this open letter is setting the stage for Apple making its own label. Interesting thought.

    Well, Apple *did* buy that new 50-acre campus somewhere in Cupertino this past year…

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