28 thoughts on “Apple & The DRM Free Market Madness”

  1. I can see something else too, besides hardware sales. As a supporter of everything open source, DRM free music is on my list, and I have been buying quite a lot more iTunes since this piece of news came out (for EMI, that is, in my case).

    These songs naturally sell for more than others. I do not mind this, rather the contrary, and believe Apple users are not only working their music via Limewire (Limewarezz… ) but really, through iTunes. Also, in addition to iPods, and I agree with the statement that they should be around and given some new spin and features for quite a while, we UNIX/Mac people tend to update our hardware often. (Waiting for the next Apple ‘puter to come out here and this one is the latest…) – In some domains Macs are still used 🙂

  2. Apple needs to one-up the competition by offering DRM-free lossless downloads. They have the codec (Apple Lossless) and they have the hardware support on the iPod. I’m assuming they have the bandwidth for distribution, since they’re already selling video content on the store.

  3. Gotta love the music companies. First they demand that Apple apply DRM, then they blame Apple for having DRM.

    They fly in the ointment of their plan: Apple won’t license their DRM, and no one can force them to.

    Everyone thinks that “beating the iTunes store” by selling DRM-free music will somehow hurt Apple, ignoring the fact that they only make 3 cents per song and reap record profits on the sales of iPods.

    Hint: Apple doesn’t care where you get your music, as long as you listen to it on their gear.

    The more iPod compatible sites that open, the better Apple’s position.

  4. AAPL’s big advantage is that they don’t care if they make money with iTunes. It’s a loss leader. Until someone comes along with an alternative to the iPod/iPhone, AAPL stays in control. That said if someone does create a widely distributed hardware competitor to iPod, the pressure on the software business (music) would be alleviated considerably.

  5. I can already buy a cd and rip it to get drm-free music; so what’s the attraction of downloading it (where I can’t choose format or bit rate)? I guess convenience, but I value format and bit rate more. Apple would really make noise by charging $15 per month for unlimited downloads that you rent a la Rhapsody.

  6. The opening sentence of this article starts the whole thing out wrong right away, and that’s a very bad thing to do when it cuts right to the heart of a topic like this one.

    Someone needs to learn a lot more about “DRM”.

    It is not something unencumbered by copyright restrictions. It doesn’t necessarily have anything whatsoever to do with “copyright” at all.

    It is technology used to protect “rights” of any kind on digital media data; except often not the rights of the owner of a given copy of the data.

    DRM-free music is most likely still going to be fully and completely protected by copyright.

  7. “I can already buy a cd and rip it to get drm-free music; so what’s the attraction of downloading it”

    Cost? Speed?

  8. pwb, I can get discs on lala for 1.75; so it costs me more to d/l from a store. I don’t mind waiting for that price and flexibility.

  9. Om, those last two paragraphs is a great example of why I read your stuff. You’re able to balance all the hype with a bit of long-term intuition. the fact of the matter is, DRM free music has been around since 2000, when Napster hit critical mass. Selling downloads is just a digital extension of the dying “moving units” business model. It will die too, because it’s just too easy to download music for free. I like your idea of subscription, but if I can take us farther down the theoretical future, I believe free, streaming, ad-rev supported model is what will save the industry. I write quite extensively about it here:


  10. Steve Jobs is laughing at all this blasting of iTunes–all the way to his shareholder meetings. 70+% of the buyers of Real, Walmart, eMusic AND Tower records are playing their digital tunes on iPods, where Apple is pulling in probably 60% marging (compared to the 3% margin on tunes).

    Then, most of these services don’t get the other part of it. Yes, I prefer DRM-free music (but I can get around that if I must) and cheaper is better. But I also prefer a pleasant, hassle-free buying experience, and a great selection (iTunes doesn’t have everything, but they’re doing pretty good, and there are a lot of boutique sites for hard to find stuff, with crappy UIs that is). So until they get that right, they’re going to price themselves into the sewer with no margin and unsatisfied buyers. It’s not worth my time to go most of these other sites (have you seen WalMart?? Give me a break.)

    On the other hand, I agree that Apple should up the ante on the quality (at least as an option). I certainly wouldn’t mind that. Even if they keep their prices the same, it will cost little except bandwidth.

    As far as Universal goes, I am almost pissed at them because they are almost tempting me, but not enough, just because I can’t believe their tactics.

    I mean how were Universal’s digital sales BEFORE iTunes? How much?

    That’s what I thought.

  11. I dont know how many more changes this industry will see.. start from Napster sharing to ITune online sale to iPod subscription to DRM free.. Blie me — time to give some respite to industry?

  12. I think Apple’s DRM free campaign and what it has sparked – is great. My main issue with iTunes has been the pathetic quality of the tracks offered… in terms of bit-rates. Even though mp4 is better overall, 128kbps is not CD quality.

    Having high bit rate (256kbps, iirc – from Apple) gets the quality close enough in my book and nothing have ownership right restricted, gives rights back to the purchasers of the music – the way it should be.

    Hopefully copyright holders (ie- mostly large corporations these days) will get a clue and realize that consumers have rights too… looks like that’s starting to happen.

  13. Higher quality bit rates would be great! That’s the only thing keeping me from using I-tunes right now. I’d pay an extra dollar for a .wav file. Much like how beatport.com works.

  14. Om,

    Great post. Gotta love the irony of John McFarlane’s comments, though. Whatever one thinks of Apple, they are the mainstream market for digital music sales. They have single-handedly legitimized digital music sales, and now the industry wants to demonize them for it. Hilarious.

  15. “And what happens when broadband service providers start offering access to music libraries for a monthly flat fee?”

    Time Warner Cable is also doing that.

    Our gigantic music library is now your music library. Get unlimited access to over 2 million songs, all legal and virus-free. Pick your playlist and listen on your desktop or download and take them with you on any compatible portable device.
    All for only 14.95 when you have their service not bad @ all if you ask me.

  16. I’m just waiting for them to make it easier to buy international music without the need to have an address in that country or a special gift card.

  17. OM, HOLD on a second! DRM free is not same as “music not encumbered by copyright restrictions.” Music still has the same copyright restrictions as before; it’s just that DRM free doesn’t have the digital locks to make sure that you follow those restrictions.

    Think of it this way: some stores have sign that says “restroom for customers only”. Some other stores have sign that says “restroom for customers only” AND if you want to use the restroom, you need to go to the cashier and get a key with a HUGE sign attached to it. DRM (Digital rights management) is like the second store. DRM free means you can use the restroom without getting the key, but you still have to be a customer to use it.

    I am all for denouncing the inconvenient DRM implementations but at the same time, let us all respect the copyright restrictions.

    please do not confuse and/or equate DRM free with copyright free; it hurts and undermines the movement of pushing for DRM free music.

  18. DRM free music is a great thing for up and coming companies that require this for playback. It is very frustrating when you buy a song on itunes or any other service and can not play it on a non-ipod device like my Palm Treo cellphone or website service such as http://www.getmaestro.com. Now with constantly more DRM free music to choose from you will be able to stream songs using a service like GetMaestro allowing you to get a better overall experience with your music than you can with only protected songs just on an iPod.

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