Monday, April 2, 2007

DRM Free at Last

EMI's announcement today to make their music DRM free may change the entire consumer landscape of music. EMI will sell their new DRM free tracks through Apple's iTunes at an exclusive price of $1.29 (30 cents above the normal track), but they claim to have twice the sound quality of existing tracks. Without DRM (and their CD's do not have DRM), their MP3's will be able to be copied to other players, discs and other forms seamlessly. Will this expand the music business or will it further shrink it?

In my opinion, the removal of DRM from EMI's tracks will actually expand their listening base. Prior users of iTunes who were reluctant to purchase may now purchase more since the tracks can now be played not only on their iPods but on their home stereo systems. They'll be able to share tracks more easily with friends who may be enticed to purchase other tracks by the same artist.

As for the pirates? I think its fairly well known that to get around the DRM you can burn the tracks to a disc and then re-rip them to get rid of the DRM. Pirates that did this before now have to go through one less step. But pirates will always be pirates and even so, pirates will always find a way to crack any type of DRM while true consumers will be the ones that pay the price.

The record labels? The Long Tail is in effect here. Record labels are going to have to find more acts to sign to bring visibility to in order to satisfy their entire spectrum of listeners. They're monopoly is over, its going to be like finding the hidden Microsoft amongst all of the bulletin board stocks out there. Like finding the next lonely girl amongst every YouTube video out there. Like finding the next OK Go amongst every track on iTunes.....

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