Tuesday, February 13, 2007

An uncomfortable truth

Music sales are declining, and growth in online music sales is not growing quickly enough to offset the contraction in sales of physical media. And predictably the heavies of the music industry still believe that beating up on the people who actually still buy music is somehow magically going to reverse this trend.

So I wasn't too surprised to read the dismissive and downright insulting responses to Steve's (pbuh) suggestion that getting rid of DRM on online music for sale would be good for business.

Making it easy for music buyers to download the songs they want, in the format they want and being able to load it onto the portable music player of their choice will lead to increased sales, not only online, but also from the local music store.
I don't think that it is a coincidence that Norah Jones and Lily Allen have had stellar performances in the online sales charts. I think that EMI releasing DRM-free singles from both artists did a lot to popularize their music. OK, maybe having catchy tunes and being drop-dead gorgeous may also have played a part, but not nearly as much as hassle free and cheap access to their music.

All those commentators ranting about how Steve (pbuh), and Apple, have some sort of ulterior motive for suggesting that DRM for online music be abandoned need only consider that a world with DRM-free online music exposes Apple to increased competition for both the iPod and the iTunes Store. Now why would Apple do that if it didn't see this as an opportunity for growth for the entire online music industry?

I think that John Gruber over at Daring Fireball sums it up nicely when he says that:

"People who are already buying from iTunes would continue to. People who refused to buy from iTunes because of DRM might start. And people who bootleg would continue to bootleg. This situation would be better for the music industry, not worse. The problem from the music industry’s perspective is their technically ludicrous pipe dream of devising a scheme that forces everyone to pay for every single song they play. They obsess over pirates while taking their honest customers for granted."

Wouldn't it be great if the music industry concentrated on delivering great content in the formats consumers want instead of dragging their customers off to court all the time?

UPDATE: Citing unnamed sources USA Today is reporting that EMI is engaged in talks with online music stores about selling its music without DRM. I hope that this is an accurate report because it could signal a new era for online music sales.
via The Apple Blog

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