Saturday, August 25, 2007

Music on line without DRM ?

Flashback : Remember the old Napster time where everyone could download illegal music without any protection. Some years after, iTunes Music Store signaled their intention to capture the online music market by selling DRM songs. And they did just that, having secured more than 70 per cent of the market share.

Let's remember that DRM did not originate from Apple but was a request by music record companies, who are reluctant to release their music catalogue for free distribution online.

Progressively, the Pandora's Box was opened.

EMI shot first and offered a 'more expensive’ free song with a better quality on iTMS. Now, Universal has joined the fray by allowing Walmart, the biggest retailer in US, to sell music without any protection, albeit at a lower quality of 256kbps.

From a consumer’s point of view, it means that music purchased online is no different from what they’ll get from a music compact disc. There is no restriction on copying, sharing or distributing the content.

The question is: what is the repercussion on businesses?

We can expect a major shift in the industry in the months ahead. There is no reason why other studios will not follow suit. This will probably impact the sales performance of the iTunes Music Store as well.

There are several options:

- All online retailer will drop their DRM
This will include Apple, which could translate into an increased in the potential sales for iPods capable of reading music without protection. It also points to a complete rethinking of the iTunes Music Store that is currently tied up exclusively with iPod. In such a case, all MP3 players will be able to download music from iTunes.

- Market will be segmented
Some stores and record companies will continue to sell DRM songs. Among these, some DRM songs will be released, while others will be marketed as part of dedicated packages. These packages could promise higher quality encoding for more value, or offer different price alternatives. I sincerely hope it will not happen. This will create confusion for the consumer and affect sales. The only winner will be the illegal music pirates who continue to peddle free downloads.

- DRM will be dropped, BUT
Under the pressure of music studios, some players like Apple might drop the DRM system. But it is likely to strength tie-ups between iPod and the iTunes Music Store. Microsoft is expected to do same with Zune and Sony with its own player. This is not the best of outcomes. Unfortunately, history speaks for itself and the consumer will find themselves back to square one.

So, what do we want?

We want to be able to download good quality songs to our music system or portable player. We agree to pay, much like the way we pay for a CD or a DVD, but YOU, the industry, have to ensure we can play it on all our devices.

Please, make it happen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

HK CSL has just provide free-DRM service (with EMI & Gold Label) for their customer to download those DRM-free songs by their 3G handset. They will be the first group of people here to enjoy transferring their favorate songs to their ideal devices as many times as they want. Should be a good start, will see.