Amazon's DRM-Free Service Probably Too Late To Make A Difference

from the later-comer dept

Late last year, rumors emerged that Amazon was in talks to launch a DRM-free music site to compete with iTunes. There had been talk that the company would launch some sort of music site for a long time, but the idea that it would be a DRM-free service was interesting because it offered a possible way for the company to differentiate itself from iTunes. However, iTunes ended up taking the play away from Amazon by starting down DRM-free path itself. So today's announcement from Amazon that it's launching a new music service with unprotected tracks from EMI and other smaller labels comes a little late. If the company had offered it sooner, it'd have been a genuine alternative to iTunes, but as it is, the offering doesn't look to be particularly interesting. The question, now, is whether the company will apply the lesson to its unsuccessful movie download service, which has been hampered by onerous copy protection and the attendant lack of usability. If the company wants to avoid being an also-ran, it needs to get out in front of Apple and be the first to explain to Hollywood why it would be better off if it dropped its useless insistence on DRM.


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    GoblinJuice, May 16th, 2007 @ 11:09am

    Doesn't matter if Amazon's DRM free service turns out to be an also-ran or not, the fact that they are even contemplating it proves how far the resistance to - and how strong it currently is - DRM infected media is.

    Congrats to Amazon. Keep up the good work! I'll keep spending craploads of money @ Amazon. :-P

     

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    Vincent Clement, May 16th, 2007 @ 11:12am

    Warner Music Group Corp. has said it sees no logic to dropping DRM but is still testing music without it, while Vivendi's Universal Music has said it, too, is still testing tracks without DRM.

    This paragraph from the Reuters article pretty well sums up mind set of the RIAA. Testing? Thousands of people are buying DRM-free music each and every day. Thousands more are sharing DRM-free music each and every day. Exactly what testing do Warner Music and Universal Music have to do?

     

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    Brad Eleven, May 16th, 2007 @ 11:47am

    @GoblinJuice

    Hear, hear! The more DRM-free outlets the better. Let's vote with our wallets; that's the true power of these United States anyway.

    I've heard all about iTunes going DRM-free for EMI--which has a huge catalog, BTW--but still don't see the $1.29 songs on iTunes. Surely it'll happen before the end of the month... won't it?

     

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    Paul, May 16th, 2007 @ 11:54am

    Yea, I haven't seen any DRM-Free music from EMI on iTunes either. Even the artist they specifically said would be the first. Was it only DRM-Free in another country other than the US? What's going on with that? If Amazon has music available now, they did beat iTunes to the punch because iTunes just keeps saying they have drm-free music, but apparently its impossible to find.

     

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    Matt Bennett, May 16th, 2007 @ 12:46pm

    Joe, your criticisms seem a little unfounded, not because you haven't correctly indentified the problems, but because frankly, it's not really Amazon's fault. They're not calling the shots on this, the labels and studios are.

    These DRM-free songs are only from EMI, right? So basically EMI, in a fairly bold (for a label) move decides it's going to sell unencumbered tracks. iTunes, cuz it's the leader in this market generally, gets to bring that to market first. Amazon follows suit more-or-less immediately. So, you can fault Amazon for not beating iTunes to the punch, but realistically this probably wasn't possible, iTunes probably had a better relationship with EMI, EMI came to them first, they could leverage more attractive terms, etc.

    So, yeah, this sucks for Amazon, it's a problem. But they're really more the victim than the cause. And blaming them about the movies just is just mean, cuz I'm sure they're begging and pleading with the studios about that already, as is iTunes.

     

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    Jason, May 16th, 2007 @ 12:47pm

    It's not too late for at least 2 reasons. 1) it will add competition and maybe bring prices down. 2) this could be the first place for Linux users to legally purchase downloadable music.

     

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    Matt Bennett, May 16th, 2007 @ 12:55pm

    A= Percentage of Linux users = maybe 5% (if we're kind)
    B= Percentage of linus users willing to pay, at all, for music = 5%

    A*B= fucntionally zero.

     

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    Buzz, May 16th, 2007 @ 1:20pm

    Matt is right.

    For me, as a Linux user, it had nothing to do with compatibility issues. I just don't value music enough to ever pay for it. I don't have to be listening to music every second of every day. My attention to music is a VERY scarce resource.

    A = percent of time dedicated to music = 0.05%
    B = percent of music I pay for = 0% (they're always gifts)

    A * B = ACTUAL zero :)

     

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      PaulT, May 17th, 2007 @ 12:46am

      Re: Matt is right.

      @Buzz

      So, you're not somebody the labels or retailers care about one way or the other in that case. What's the point of your post? "I don't listen to music so I don't buy it?". Great, go and comment on a story that you do care about.

      As a Linux user, I care a lot about this kind of stuff. I'm an eMusic subscriber and buy music occasionally on CD, but I've been avoiding major label content due to the DRM and lawsuit issues.

      As a music fan, all I've wanted to do for years is buy music in a way that allows me to play it back in AmaroK. I have never bought any music from iTunes for this reason, but I'll be happy to support Amazon and EMI as long as the price is right.

       

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    Sanguine Dream, May 16th, 2007 @ 1:29pm

    So what...

    MS wasn't first into the console gaming market. But now they one of the "Big Three" instead of sitting on the wayside like the Atari Jaguar (made by a at the time videogame powerhouse). And mind you the videogame industry is much more open than music. Nearly any company can try to design and sell a console and try to get developers to make games for said console.

    Its no big deal that Amazon wasn't the first in such a relatively new market. There aren't that many well known sites selling DRM-free tracks from major recording labels yet. Now if they were a late comer in a very saturated market (like selling CDs online at the standard price) then yes I would agree but selling DRM-free tracks from the major labels is still pretty new ground. In fact it may work to their advantage in that they are in position to see the weaknesses of the leader of the pack (iTunes) and figure a way to capitalize. Aren't iTunes' DRM-free tracks still limited to iPods only?

     

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    James, May 16th, 2007 @ 2:47pm

    More the better

    Any additions to a DRM-free marketplace are welcome. Let whomever wants to (legally) sell the tracks sell them, and let the market sort it out.

    Its the only way we'll finally see how the iPod truly competes when it doesn't have ppl locked into its little netherworld.

     

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    Marc Cohen, May 16th, 2007 @ 5:50pm

    Its really about free music, not DRM free

    I think all this fuss over DRM is woefully misplaced. Taking off DRM is supposed to keep people from using P2P to get their music. People use P2P because the music is free not because it is DRM free. Forget about DRM and make the music free and ad-supported. That is the answer. Check out the Ad Supported Music Central Blog http://ad-supported-music.blogspot.com/

     

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      mike allen, May 17th, 2007 @ 1:59am

      Re: Its really about free music, not DRM free

      of course with ad supported you can always download then put it through say audacity or smiler, remove advertising then you have the song for free.

       

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