Digital Music

Does Steve Jobs Really Want DRM Free Music?

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There is growing chatter in the press about Steve Jobs working hard to force the major labels to follow EMI’s lead and go DRM free. Many also point to his recent manifesto calling on the industry to end the use of copy protection.

But here’s an inescapable fact that everyone seems to be missing:Stevejobssmile

If Steve Jobs really wanted to sell music on iTunes DRM free, he could start offering more than a million unprotected tracks tomorrow.

There are thousands of independent labels representing as much as 30% of the retail market who are already selling unprotected downloads via eMusic, InSound, 7Digital and others.  Those that I’ve talked to would love to have a competitive advantage over the majors on iTunes by selling DRM free.

Come on Steve. You’ve talked the talk. Now walk the walk.

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18 Comments

  1. This is exactly what is already happening. My company is one of the largest providers of indepenent music to iTunes. Apple has written a new clause into our contract to ask us to deliver everything as unprotected master files, to be sold with no DRM. Not only that but we will RE-deliver everything we have ever sent them, as higher bitrate, no DRM.

  2. They will eventually. But considering the percentage of sales these indies generate there really is no rush for them to do so. Financially until the EMI deal it didn’t make sense for them to re-engineer the iTunes music store for content that accounts for less than 5% of total sales.

  3. I imagine that in May, they will announce EMI and a good portion (if not essentially all) of the indie labels releasing non-DRM music. It sounds more impressive when you have a huge group (EMI plus the indie labels) releasing all together at once. I am sure Apple will use it as a good excuse to try and get the other major labels to come aboard.

  4. I think he just wants to get out of legal trouble with the EU. Also, Apple makes most of its money off the iPod, not the iTunes store. They don’t care where you get your music (steal it, whatever) — as long as you buy an iPod.
    I think he’ll get the music industry to go along, but DRM-free won’t really help them make a lot more money. They something new, such as what Shelly Palmer suggests in “DRM-Free iTunes – Did We Miss the Memo?”
    Still, I want DRM to go away.
    Jennifer

  5. But considering the percentage of sales these indies generate there really is no rush for them to do so.
    given the long tail and the tendency of indie consumers to be more tech-savvy, wouldn’t this number go up quite a bit if they made it easier?

  6. Anybody ever consider that Apple notices the shifting music trend? (ie. they know indies is growing)

  7. Yeah right, 1million indy tracks on itunes that noone wants.
    Face it, the commercial ones are all that people want. Indy may sell a few here and there, but to be honest, they’d struggle giving their music away.
    There may be a few good eggs in a battery hen factory. But it would make it impossible to find those for all the bad ones.

  8. “Apple has written a new clause into our contract to ask us to deliver everything as unprotected master files, to be sold with no DRM.”
    This makes no sense. Apple / iTunes has always used its own DRM-System. The DRM-information is added – by Apple – to the music during the transmission to the buyer.

  9. >> iTunes has always used its own DRM-System
    Yes. My point was the word “master”, meaning: the uncompressed master WAV/FLAC files. Not AAC-128. That’s what we are sending them now, so that those files can be used for both bitrates, internally, and with no DRM.

  10. And what about Disney music? The Cheetah Girls / High School Musical stuff sells as well as, if not better than most other music these days, and Jobs could snap his fingers and have that DRM free… whats up?

  11. Thanks Anony y Maus for your clarification.
    “My point was the word “master”, meaning: the uncompressed master WAV/FLAC files. Not AAC-128. That’s what we are sending them now”
    This would have been my second point about your original post. I was assuming that iTunes uses the WAV/Flac already, and doing encoding into AAC themselves. So there would have been no need for “re-delivering” the songs.

  12. Steve wants the biggies to go DRM-free, as that’s where most of the growth would come from. Having indies and even labels as large as Nettwerk go DRM-free helps iTunes’ competitors more than it does Apple.
    But you’re right in that many don’t realize that Apple is adding DRM to ALL music, not just to the biggies.

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