Posts about music

The decade delta

iTunes is 5 years old this week. The seb internet turned 15 yesterday. The decade delta between those dates is the generous amount of time the music industry had to save itself from the fate that overcame it … and didn’t. In these five years, iTunes has sold more than 4 billion songs. Think of how many songs the music industry could have sold us if only they’d gone with the flow of new opportunities and given us the chance instead of persecuting us and resisting reality while trying to preserve outdated business models based on outmoded technology. Every industry knows how the music guys blew it; it is now an article of faith in any conversation about the internet and innovation. The presumption is that they didn’t act fast enough, that the internet came barreling down on them. No, in retrospect, they had plenty of time to learn and experiment and find new opportunities to get music to us in new ways. A decade. They’re worse idiots than I thought.

Steve Jobs: Kill DRM

In what I like to think of as his first blog post — and one that will rise quickly on Digg, Technorati, etc. — Steve Jobs calls for ending DRM. It’s eloquently argumed:

. . . Let’s look at the data for iPods and the iTunes store – they are the industry’s most popular products and we have accurate data for them. Through the end of 2006, customers purchased a total of 90 million iPods and 2 billion songs from the iTunes store. On average, that’s 22 songs purchased from the iTunes store for each iPod ever sold.

Today’s most popular iPod holds 1000 songs, and research tells us that the average iPod is nearly full. This means that only 22 out of 1000 songs, or under 3% of the music on the average iPod, is purchased from the iTunes store and protected with a DRM. The remaining 97% of the music is unprotected and playable on any player that can play the open formats. . . .

Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. . . .

Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy. Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music. That’s right! No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player.

In 2006, under 2 billion DRM-protected songs were sold worldwide by online stores, while over 20 billion songs were sold completely DRM-free and unprotected on CDs by the music companies themselves. The music companies sell the vast majority of their music DRM-free, and show no signs of changing this behavior, since the overwhelming majority of their revenues depend on selling CDs which must play in CD players that support no DRM system.

So if the music companies are selling over 90 percent of their music DRM-free, what benefits do they get from selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system? There appear to be none.

The consumer part of this equation is that if we are given the chance to buy things legally, we often will. It’s about convenience and access.

Companies will no longer be able to make a living by stopping us from doing what we want to do — which, amazingly, is how many do, in the command-and-control universe. You have to find the ways to make money enabling us to do what we want to do. It’s obvious. It’s reality.