Piecemeal DRM-Free Efforts Aren't Going To Unseat Apple's Online Music Dominance

from the keep-trying dept

Universal Music announced a couple weeks back that it would begin selling DRM-free music -- but not through the iTunes Music Store, in a bid to undermine Apple's dominance in online music sales. As we pointed out, this wasn't likely to happen, since few people shop for music according to what label it's on, particularly when it's a huge one like Universal. The label now says that its unprotected tracks will be available from a few different sources: a new service called Gbox, and through Wal-Mart's online music store. Both will undercut Apple's price for DRM-free tracks by selling them for 99 and 94 cents respectively, but that's hardly likely to make a difference, particularly in attracting iPod users, nor will it help their businesses since the margins on digital music are already pretty thin. The problem remains that most people don't pay attention to what label their favorite performers are on. Saying "we sell DRM-free songs from Universal/EMI artists" isn't going to have much of an impact in getting people to switch from iTunes, but it does seem to illustrate that labels and other retailers are looking to compete with iTunes on this front, which should be good news for consumers. Still, the iTunes Music Store's dominance will remain until another retailer can somehow convince all the major labels and a wide array of indies to let it sell DRM-free music. As long as Apple's rivals can only use a piecemeal approach to get music they sell onto iPods, it's going to be a long, fruitless, uphill battle. Competing with iTunes on price is only part of the equation. Rivals have to also match its selection; then they have to worry about matching its ease of use as well.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    GoblinJuice, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 3:49am

    Pffft.

    I already get my music DRM-free. ;D

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    The infamous Joe, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 4:40am

    Double pfft.

    ..and for a good deal less than even 94 cents a song, I might add. ;)

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Sanguine Dream, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 5:51am

    Triple pffft.

    ...and with a very large selection to choose from...

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Santino C., Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 6:14am

    Quadruple pffft.

    yea, alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.complete-cd

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased), Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 6:16am

    iPod

    And this is because the iPod is the only digital music player in the world. I am sorry, but your piecemeal idea is goofy. Sure, one major label has made the jump to DRM-free, that may or may not start a big jump to other vendors. But if Wal-Mart/Universal see a large spike in purchases, other major labels will notice and most likely change their ways. I see it as a step in the right direction.

     

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  6.  
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    GoblinJuice, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 6:18am

    Re: Quadruple pffft.

    *cough*

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    James, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 6:35am

    At least...

    ...its a start for those of us who refuse to drink Apple's kool-aid. The iPod is alright, but its not the end all be all, and it also means joining the iTunes crowd; something I refuse to do.

    Even if Universal is not offering non-crippled music on ITMS at least they are trying something. I give them credit for at least dipping their toe in the water. Lets hope the other labels fall in line and give it a shot.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 6:49am

    Good grief, why does this site always have to be so negative? It's great that DRM is slowly starting to slip away, for whatever reason. I think lots of people will jump at the chance to get DRM-free tracks without the premium price, and in a widely universal format that will play on any mp3 player in the world (DRM-free AAC still cannot play on most players). Sure, selection is a problem at the moment, but money does talk, and if you buy a lot of music, 30 cents difference per song adds up REALLY fast.

    First you blast everyone in sight over how DRM is so evil. And now that Walmart and Universal are doing exactly what we've been asking them to do, you blast them too? Boy, that's mature. iTunes mutiny will not happen overnight, but if this keeps up, I think it will indeed happen. We just need to give it time, support, and encouragement. If the Walmart store starts getting popular, others will be sure to follow. Again, money talks. If businesses see that there's money to be had with a DRM-free mp3 business model, they will jump all over it.

     

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  9.  
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    Overcast, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 6:57am

    Yeah, and as soon as they 'kill' competition, they'll laden it with so much DRM, you'll have to call them and get an unlock code each time you want to listen, with a fee - no doubt.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 7:02am

    Re: Pffft.

    here here, is there any other type?

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 7:31am

    Re:

    That would be impossible if they keep it in mp3 format, since the mp3 format is incapable of containing DRM encryption codes.

    If nothing else, there won't be any time bomb on any tracks you buy right now, so if you think that's what will happen, better get 'em while they're hot! But I don't honestly think they're dumb enough to make that kind of mistake again.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Woadan, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 7:36am

    DRM Free

    WMA lossless on Zune rules!
    ;-)

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Laura, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 8:10am

    I have yet to buy music online

    Apple may offer music that is DRM-free, but the fingerprinting is rather frightening and ominous, especially when you look at how the RIAA is running around threatening to sue anybody who has a computer. They assume you are guilty and so they fingerprint you, in essence. Imagine having to give fingerprints to buy a CD!

    What with the rootkit, sue-happy lawyers, threats sent to college students and fingerprinting, the music industry is doing a damned good job at killing themselves.

    When CDs disappear from stores, my experience of new music will be limited to happenstance. I will no longer be a music consumer.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 8:16am

    It sucks that the only reason a music label would demean to offer cheaper, DRM free music tracks is to attack the competition. A competitor, by the way, that has made them a lot of money by selling their music when all other sales have been in freefall. Dey be sue smat.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 8:45am

    Re: I have yet to buy music online

    What is frightening and ominous about "fingerprinting" music files? That should only be the case if you know nothing about it. Fingerprinting is simply inserting data into the data stream so that it can be identified as a purchased track. It causes no restrictions on where or what decide you can play it on. It is simply there so that if later it is found on file sharing networks, then it is an obvious sign on intentional illegal file sharing, and prosecution is warranted. In fact, some proposed forms of it won't even contain any personally-identifiable information.

    Sharing licensed music across file sharing networks is illegal, period. This method of tracking ensures no hassle for the customer yet allows record labels to maintain anti-piracy measures. It's a win-win situation. As long as they allow customers to use the music within normal usage rights, I don't really care what other measures they put in place.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    His Shadow, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 8:46am

    First you blast everyone in sight over how DRM is so evil. And now that Walmart and Universal are doing exactly what we've been asking them to do, you blast them too? Because their business plans are garbage, and their partners are incompetent. If you knew more about the subject, you wouldn't be prone to hyperbole. And please spare me the whining about Apple's dominance. The only reason that DRM exists on Apple's iTMS is because of the labels. Period. As soon as the recording industry stops trying to squeeze us for every last cent, DRM will go away and Apple will happily dispense with the whole DRM thing.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous of Course, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 8:57am

    Re: At least...

    I'm sure there's some long range
    objective to eliminate DRM free
    music in their plan... somewhere.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    nipseyrussell, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 9:07am

    Re:

    by His Shadow: "...The only reason that DRM exists on Apple's iTMS is because of the labels. Period. As soon as the recording industry stops trying to squeeze us for every last cent, DRM will go away and Apple will happily dispense with the whole DRM thing."

    thats disingenuous BS. The DRM locks people into apple's expensive hardware. for as long as he can get away with it, jobs will scapegoat the labels on this, but when it comes time for some idiot who blew $$$ on itunes to get their next "mp3" player and they realize their whole library is ipod-only, what are they going to do? I can not fathom why anyone would buy music from itunes. Would you have bought DVDs of Sony movies that only play on Sony DVD players? Maybe that would have seemed like "no big deal" when DVD players came out and sony had consumer electronics dominance (ok, not sure about the timing on this one), but who even know what brand of DVD player they have nowadays?

    do agree with one thing: the business model is crap!

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Esther, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 9:22am

    Give it up, Universal

    I've bought no more than $50 worth of music from Itunes, and I've had my IPOD for years. Most of my music comes from CDs that I've bought second-hand, borrowed from friends or checked out from the library. I have no interest in trying out another online music site, other than Itunes. Universal would be smart to leave this one to Apple, partner with them on the Itunes website, and stop trying to reinvent the wheel. The IPOD is the wheel when it comes to portable music players.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Laura, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 9:30am

    Fingerprinting

    What is frightening and ominous about "fingerprinting" music files? That should only be the case if you know nothing about it. Fingerprinting is simply inserting data into the data stream so that it can be identified as a purchased track. It causes no restrictions on where or what decide you can play it on. It is simply there so that if later it is found on file sharing networks, then it is an obvious sign on intentional illegal file sharing, and prosecution is warranted.
    Because here we have an industry that is even suing parents of dead children. What happens if my computer or mp3 player is stolen? What happens if I want to lend music to a friend -- something I can do with a CD? A track turns up in the wrong place and suddenly I'm getting RIAA letters threatening to drag me into expensive litigation unless I pay them protection money? I don't share music in file sharing networks, and yet you seem to assume that I do. That's what the industry does. Treats me like a criminal who needs to be tracked. The "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about" argument is an old one that operates from the assumption that I have to prove myself innocent. It goes against my business philosophy, and turns me off as a consumer.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    SailorAlphaCentauri, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 10:46am

    Their selection isn't that great

    I buy tracks on iTunes (despite not owning an iPod) because I got some free gift cards and I just burn the songs onto a CD-RW & put them back on the hard-drive so that I can use it on my player. I don't really like their selection because I can't find a lot of the music I like on it (i.e. some 60s music).

    It's got a choke hold simply because it's the system that the average iPod user immediately taps into.

    I agree that the problem with this DRM-free move is that most people don't know what company their favorite artist is with, but it is at least a step in the right direction.

    I'll use just about any music service (except Napster...and I don't really have a good reason for not liking that one) just as long as I can gain access to the many different types of music I like to hear.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    The infamous Joe, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 11:49am

    Re: Fingerprinting

    Now, I feel the need to start off with saying that I hate DRM, and think in this day and age music should be, as is often stated on Techdirt, a marketing tool instead of a product.

    Now that that's clear, I have to agree that copying music to share is, in fact, illegal-- and of all the ways I've seen for the labels to combat illegal file sharing, fingerprinting is the least intrusive to the honest consumer. It's, really, no worse than a VIN on cars. No one gets into a frenzy because there are identification numbers on a car-- I've never heard someone exclaim, "I can't believe that Ford thinks I'm such a criminal that they need to put an identification number on each of their cars! What if I lend it to a friend?!"

    Unfortunately, as far as I understand the law, you *can* lend a CD to a friend, or even give it him, as long as you don't also have a copy. However, you can't "lend" a friend copy of your mp3 library, so that argument doesn't really stand up on its own.

    Of course, no matter what they do, someone will find a way to nullify it, and we'll keep on doing what we're doing. It really will come to the point where there are more people sharing illegally than buying legally, and then they'll have no choice but to give in or fade away.

    I, myself, can't wait. :)

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 12:51pm

    quote
    "Sharing licensed music across file sharing networks is illegal, period."
    endquote

    Stupid statement. It's not illegal in many countries. Also, I think that in the U.S., distrobution is illegal. I can download any song I want legally, as long as I have the right to do so. Say, if I already own the song on CD, there's nothing illegal about me downloading a copy of it.

    Blanket statements like the above make you sound like a RIAA shill. Or worse, someone that's swallowed their lies hook line and sinker.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    CoJeff, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 12:54pm

    Re: Re: Fingerprinting

    The VIN thing doesn't work for your argument. Here is why, if your car is stolen and while its stolen you are not held responsbile. If your ipod is stolen and one of these tracks with your information fingerprinted on the inside shows up on on a P2P service adn the RIAA finds out you can bet they will sue you. With the car thing you can at least prove you weren't driving it at the time. The RIAA won't believe you that your pod was stolen and sue you anyway.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 12:59pm

    Re:

    What is "distrobution"? And why is it illegal.

    "Say, if I already own the song on CD, there's nothing illegal about me downloading a copy of it." Is that actually legal? I only ask because I have no idea.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 23rd, 2007 @ 7:20am

    As soon as the RIAA stops calling file sharing theft, I will stop accusing them of raketeering. Downloading music isn't theft, it is copywrite infringement. When you download music/movies, you are NOT commiting theft, you are commiting copyright infringement by making a copy of an existing work. The legality of this is in all it's forms is still in flux.

    Racketeering:
    A person who commits crimes such as extortion, loansharking, bribery, and obstruction of justice in furtherance of illegal business activities

    Theft:
    the act of stealing; the wrongful taking and carrying away of the personal goods or property of another.

    Copyright:
    the exclusive right to make copies, license, and otherwise exploit a literary, musical, or artistic work, whether printed, audio, video, etc

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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