U2 Claims It's Working With Apple On A New Music Format That 'Can't Be Pirated'

from the because-that-will-work dept

Apparently U2’s deal with Apple goes further than taking a bunch of cash and dumping unwanted music files on hundreds of millions of iTunes users. The band has said that it’s working on a brand new music format that “can’t be pirated.” Oh really? We’ve heard that before, many, many times. And every time someone claims that, whatever new DRM they created gets broken without hours. I imagine the same will be true of this. The format sounds like a rehash of other things that have been tried and failed before:

[The new format will be] an audiovisual interactive format for music that can?t be pirated and will bring back album artwork in the most powerful way, where you can play with the lyrics and get behind the songs when you?re sitting on the subway with your iPad or on these big flat screens. You can see photography like you?ve never seen it before.

Of course, we’ve been hearing this for years. Five years ago, the major labels were all going to team up to create “CMX”, a new music format that had all those audiovisual components. Where’s that now? Every few years we see startups claiming to have created a similar new music format that builds in all those audiovisual components… and no one cares. Is it possible that Apple with the help of U2 will suddenly figure it out? Sure. It’s possible. But I wouldn’t bet on it. Especially if it includes annoying DRM that no one wants.

Apple itself figured out long ago that DRMing its music was actually a bad deal since it made the music less valuable to consumers. Would the company really switch back in the other direction? While U2 claims that this magical new music format “will prove so irresistibly exciting to music fans that it will tempt them again into buying music ? whole albums as well as individual tracks,” it once again shows how little U2 understands about the way fans interact with music these days. The ability to share what you’re listening to with others and to build on that experience is what excites people — and that’s true whether its unauthorized sharing or through streaming services like Spotify that allow users to share what they’re listening to. Locking stuff up with fancy graphics isn’t “irresistibly exciting.” It’s just something most people will ignore.

Besides, we already have an “audiovisual interactive format for music that can’t be pirated,” and it’s called a concert.

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Comments on “U2 Claims It's Working With Apple On A New Music Format That 'Can't Be Pirated'”

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100 Comments
E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

The Only Real Piracy Immune Music Format

The only real piracy immune music format will never happen because no one would use it. It requires people to travel to an approved listening room. Before they are allowed to enter, they must be strip searched for audio recording equipment. Then they are allowed to listen alone and a barren room.

Completely 100% piracy free. But it would never succeed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The Only Real Piracy Immune Music Format

There’s a way to make it 100% piracy free.

Make sure that no one can listen to the music.

After all, pirates could just record the music when it’s playing to make a pirate-able copy!

It’s the same thing with art work, simply prevent anyone from viewing the original, then no one can make copies of it!

bob (profile) says:

Re: The Only Real Piracy Immune Music Format

except people with musical talent will reproduce what they heard once they get home.
there’s a bunch of youtube videos of musicians of all skill levels performing various songs.
if songs become more scarce, the void will be filled by these folks.
if you can hear it, it’s reproduce-able.
it might be better than the original..
it might be worse than the original..
either way, the original artist is best served being the person associated with what people are listening to.

Violynne (profile) says:

The band has said that it’s working on a brand new music format that “can’t be pirated.”
That format is called “Give away our album for free and let someone else foot the bill”.

The only other way I can think of “can’t be pirated” is watching millions of people demanding Apple take the ridiculous album off their device.

No one pirates crap they don’t want, as far as I know.

Bono should be taking good notes about the backlash of giving away an album no one wanted or asked for.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yeah; the best way I can see to prevent “music piracy” is this:

Sell the music up-front to a distributor…

For bonus points, sell them the recording tracks as well as the mixdown. In Apple’s case, that means they could sell the track bundle as a GarageBand song and let people remix and get creative with it. Using a Creative Commons Share and Share Alike license would prevent piracy.

If U2 was unhappy about such a solution, they could always just release the non-vocal tracks. under such a license, and sell the lyrics separately. Then people would have to get Bono on the phone to sing over the backing track if they wanted to hear it in its “original glory”.

Michael (profile) says:

U2 Claims It’s Working With Apple On A New Music Format That ‘Can’t Be Pirated’

When I am thinking about who to work with for developing complex software designed to prevent people from accessing it in an unauthorized manner, I always have out-of-touch aging rock stars at the top of my list.

If this is being worked on, somewhere there is a group of Apple developers rolling there eyes at the notion that U2 could be adding any kind of value to their work.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

The real problem with this

Almost all of the commentary I’ve been reading elsewhere about this is (quite correctly) pointing out how insanely stupid the “can’t be pirated” claim is. However, that’s not the part that jumps out at me as the misguided thing.

The misguided thing is the “interactive, multimedia” part. Your writeup actually does focus on this, so kudos to you!

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You don’t need all that. A live gig, by itself, cannot be pirated — there are zero people in the world who would say that watching a recording of a concert is a replacement for attending a concert.

Watching recordings of concerts might still be enjoyable, and record labels will surely continue freaking out about unauthorized videos cutting into their DVD and live album sales, or just generally defying their sense of entitlement. But the actual experience of going to see live music — something people have enjoyed and sought out for centuries — is a naturally scarce, rivalrous product that can’t be freely replicated, and thus the perfect place to be making money.

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Re: Re: No. Not really.

Watching a recording of a concert is a replacement for attending a bad concert.

No. I wouldn’t even go that far. There is still a visceral perceptual quality to a live performance that cannot be replicated in any known recording format.

I would tend to go the other way.

A bad live performance trumps even a good studio recording simply because it’s not something than can be replicated (really).

U2’s own rise to stardom likely depended on this fact.

They are after all the band that was too bad to play covers of other people’s music. So they had to write their own.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Watching a recording of a concert is a replacement for attending a bad concert.

Um, No.

There is still a visceral perceptual quality to a live performance that cannot be replicated in any known recording format.

A recording of a bad concert is no substitute for attending. The recording simply cannot convey how bad the experience actually was. You should have to suffer the full horror of the live performance like everyone else.

Also pirates should have to suffer through the bad concert, and pay for it, like everyone else who got ripped off.

rapnel (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This ^ about sums up the nature of these things.

Admittedly, I’m pretty tired of watching these guys maintain and try to strengthen control over all things entertaining. They feel that they have some inherent right to these things which is most certainly not in line with the intentions of copyrights much less reality.

I lost interest in anything new from U2 around 1985 and never heard Bono speak or sing anything remotely interesting since. Sure, they’re better musicians all around but your approach to who ultimately gets control of everything that you make (like anyone ‘representing the MAFIAA gang) is devoid of sense, imagination and foresight (as in benefiting society “foresight”). Pity. Bono is just another boy that turned into another man working for the man, but good luck anyway.

I’d be happier if they all got over themselves and stop the never-ending full frontal assault on creation and communication.

Honestly, you’re all a bunch of puss greedy bastards with a warped sense of ownership and the all encompassing sense of entitlement that has morphed into something grotesque. I might add you are the very thing you claim your customers or potential customers already are. You’re your own gifts to humanity – as if you and your expressionless whoring of art were created in the vacuum of space and time.

How about you leave the new music formats to the professionals, customers and engineers, and you just keep making your music.

Oh yeah, U2, for fuck’s sake.. get a new god damn manager. You’re guy’s an idiot prick milking the milk man.

A Non-Mouse says:

Makes perfect sense

The band has said that it’s working on a brand new music format that “can’t be pirated.”

Ahh, makes perfect sense. Who better than an aging, technophobe rocker to help you develop a brand new, state-of-the-art technology.

In other news, I hear Bill Gates & Steve Ballmer will be reuniting to help U2 write their next album.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Does anyone buy albums?

You won’t buy ANYTHING from a RIAA label? If that isn’t an over exaggeration, you’d be missing out on a ton of music. I’m not sure you realize just how many labels pay to the RIAA. Heck even those hip “indie” bands are almost always on a label that pays to the RIAA. Don’t let me try to stop you, but that seems a little extreme and I may have to call shenanigans. SHENANIGANS I SAY!!

Quick, no cheating – what were the last 5 albums you bought?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Does anyone buy albums?

“You won’t buy ANYTHING from a RIAA label?”

Nope. Nothing. I have made mistakes a couple of times (it can sometimes be a little tricky determining whether a given label is part of RIAA or not), but never intentionally. I haven’t in about 20 years.

Mostly, I buy my music directly from indie bands. About half of the time, no label is involved at all.

“you’d be missing out on a ton of music”

Of course. But I’m missing out on a ton of music no matter what, so that’s irrelevant. There is more excellent music available from non-label bands alone than I have years left in my life to hear.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Does anyone buy albums?

I do — although I only buy them direct from bands, in order to avoid giving any cash to the numerous middlemen.

Then again, I’m older and my idea of a short attention span is “an hour”, so it’s completely natural for me to stop everything else I’m doing and listen to one all the way through. I recognize, though, that very few people under 40 will do this and almost none under 30: it’s just not how music is enjoyed any more, and artists who want to be successful need to accommodate that.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Does anyone buy albums?

I buy albums frequently, though given they’re all from Bandcamp(easy to listen to the entire thing before purchase, no DRM, and that warm fuzzy feeling of almost all of the money going to the one who deserves it, the artist, with not a cent going to an *AA signed label) it’s rare for the cost to ever be over $10, so it’s easy to justify the purchase, even if one or two of the songs in it are a little sub-par.

Spaceman Spiff (profile) says:

Piracy of a concert

“Besides, we already have an “audiovisual interactive format for music that can’t be pirated,” and it’s called a concert.”

Actually, with a good seating position and a decent digital stereo recorder, you can pirate a concert. It won’t sound as good, but it will probably be decent. One caveat – just don’t get caught!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Piracy of a concert

As Marcus pointed out above, getting a good seat and recording the concert is not actually pirating the concert. It’s pirating the audio and an aspect of the visual. A concert, however, is more than that, and the best recording equipment in the world can’t reproduce the concert experience.

I suppose some iMax recordings can sortof approach it, but even then it’s not nearly the same.

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Re: Piracy of a concert

I wonder if a concert video recorded with surround audio with special attention given to “recreating the experience” might come close. Although I am not sure that anyone tries to do this.

Even then. Properly configuring surround speakers is a dark art that can easily be botched. It’s a chore that many may not ever want to bother with.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Piracy of a concert

“Although I am not sure that anyone tries to do this.”

That’s precisely what those iMax concert recordings are trying to do. And it kinda-sorta works. However, you’re still watching something on a screen — even if it is a huge spherical screen surrounding you — rather than taking part in a concert.

Nimas says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Piracy of a concert

Actually, if what I saw with regards to the Oculus Rift may being used possibly in film (very short films) you might actually be able to get much closer (though you would probably lack the ‘energy’ of a live concert, but I’m not sure)

That actually strikes me as a really cool thing to do with Oculus Rift. Sell a closer concert experience for people who hate to leave the house (like me!).

Anonymous Coward says:

Unfortunately, nobody will adapt the new format. Sony tried creating a new music format, MediaMonkey tried creating a new format and now Apple? Even Apple’s current new format AAC, is not even adaptable to many media players out there and unless consumers embrace it, it will simply fail. Anyone remember Sony’s ATRAC format? LOLS

Many fans would rather that FLAC be adapted as the only audio source because it’s true lossless audio. Even Apple’s lossless audio format doesn’t even come close to touching 320kbps. It remains at 256kbps, if you’re going by bitrate.

Dave Cortright says:

Recreating the concert experience

If you really intend to recreate the concert experience, it’s going to require a heck of a lot more sensory input than just video and audio:
• The wafting smell of pot that fading in and out
• That group of narcissist frat boys behind you having an overloud and unrelated conversation about their camping plans for the weekend
• Getting crappy overpriced beer spilled on you as some guy trip over a dozen people trying to carry 7 cups iwith his hands, forearms, chest teeth and chin.
• The pillowy pressure of an overweight girl and her friends progressively infringing upon you personal space, who don’t have seats in your section and are trying to inconspicuously hang out in the aisle without the usher noticing.
• Waiting for 20 minutes in line just to pee, while listening to one of your favorite songs muffled from a quarter mile away.
• A drunk girl screaming the lyrics to your favorite ballad, thus mitigating your enjoyment
• Shivering uncontrollably for the last half of the concert because you forgot how cold it gets in California in the summer after the sun goes down. Then paying $50 for a concert sweatshirt you really don’t want.
• Hanging out in your car at midnight for 45 minutes after the show—moving about 14 inches feet ever minute—trying to exit the parking lot with that nauseous “my body needs sleep” feeling.

If you can figure out how to pirate that, I can’t wait to see it. 😉

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Recreating the concert experience

• The wafting smell of beer (at least as bad the pot-smell)
• Having your hearing damaged by the ridiculously excessive volume, and…

From personal experience, I’ll add:
• Having an asshole repeatedly mosh into you because you happen to be stuck at the edge of the pit and having to repeatedly turn around to push him away so that when you turn back to the stage…
• Having someone stage-dive on your face, leaving your bleeding all over the place, and leaving you with a sneaker print on your face.

Concerts suck.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ah yes. Brilliant idea!

So you invent a new music format that absolutely no current car stereo or most audio players can’t play… and what? You expect it to be a success?
And the whole multimedia experience will maybe attract a small niche of people who aren’t doing anything else while listening to music. It is progress on some small level so I welcome it, but it is by no means groundbreaking.
Sure there is Mac’s and PC’s that will be able to play this, but how the heck are you going to prevent people from recording the output channel? There are plenty of programs to do just that or just plain physical devices. Nobody needs to break the DRM.

Anon says:

The Basic Problem - WHY??

Any tech that seeks to replace other tech has one simple hurdle to overcome – why would anyone want it? Generally X replaces Y because it’s either cheaper, more convenient, or better quality.

DVD? *Way* better than VHS in sharpness, convenience, size and handling, etc. CD? Far better than vinyl or cassette. MP3 – play anywhere on anything, no hassles. Digital photos? Far cheaper, faster, more convenient, fit more in a camera than film. Keurig or Tassimo – so much more convenient than paper filters and grounds, even if the coffee is more expensive… and so on.

So what’s going to replace our current music format? Can a new format be significantly cheaper than MP3? No, not unless music sellers are going to cut album prices to $5 or less. More convenient? It’s a file played on an electronic device -computer, iPod, phone – how do you change that? better quality? Heck, I can’t tell my 128bit MP3 from the 320bit. Think anything is going to improve on that? Most music is listened to in the car, or walking down the street – noise cancelling might be great, but the music file itself – won’t be noticeably different when competing with ambient noise.

the same can be said of video – unless someone has a better idea than the competing MP4, DIVX and similar standards, they aren’t going anywhere. DIVX beat MPG/MP2/VOB because it could crunch the file down by a half to a quarter; I doubt there’s much more you can squeeze it. Quality? You can already get 1080p. Price? Kind of irrelevant in video, it’s formatted to whatever the market wants, and if too badly overpriced, is competing against free.

the only advantage I can see of a new format is for the publishers, but they aren’t the ones making the buying decisions. The ones that fail to sell what the pubic wants will be the last to get profits.

I suspect this U2 pet project is just something Jobs then Cook nodded along with to get their trained monkeys onstage to go perform for the big events. It won’t go anywhere.

Anonymous Coward says:

Man, do you know what “tempts” me into buying music – yes, even that mythical unicorn of holy grails “full albums”?

Good music.

I’ve bought full albums from exactly two new bands in the past year, singles from probably a dozen more, as well as a Ultra Special Super Duper Fancy Edition CD from my favorite band that came with a bunch of extras including DVDs and a beautiful goddamn coffee table book, of all things. But 99.99% of music these days is overproduced pop trash or ridiculously twee faux-folk crap, neither of which appeal to my tastes in the slightest. A new filetype is not going to entice me into buying drivel that barely manages to hide its corporate influences, sorry Bono.

Anonymous Coward says:

My best guess is that they plan to roll out special proprietary speakers that handle the DRM decryption instead of the usual software decryption. Moving the decryption from software to hardware is the only way I can think of to prevent trivial reproduction.
Of course, that still wouldn’t stop an ordinary microphone from recording the output. And some hacker somewhere would naturally want to take those special speakers apart to figure out how the DRM works, at which point you might as well have just flushed all those millions of development dollars down the toilet.
Finally, who would want to pay extra for “piracy-proof music” speakers, when you could just download the music off the internet and use the speakers you already have?

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