Digital Music

DRM-Free March Has Stalled. Who’s To Blame?


Courtesy of USAToday comes these revealing statistics:

  • Drm_anti_wall
    Apple now sells 2M songs from EMI and indie labels without DRM out of a 6M song catalog
  • Amazon offers 4.5 million DRM-free songs

So Steve Jobs, who in a widely publicized speech last year demanded the major labels drop DRM, has been far slower to adopt DRM free than competitor Amazon.  It seems impossible that Apple has been unable to use its leverage to make deals with more labels. Perhaps Jobs and CO. secretly prefers DRM which ties iTunes purchases to iPods and serves to maintain their market dominance. Apple has declined to comment.

Real/Rhapsody founder Rob Glaser was calling for the end of DRM as early as 2005. But Rhapsody too has been slow to drop DRM.  Real spokesperson Ronda Scott told Hypebot recently, "We have been strong supporters of going DRM-free for digital download sales for some time now. We’re currently offering over 13,000 albums for sale as MP3s from the UMG catalog and plan to offer content from all the majors and independent labels as well, though we haven’t announced timing for a full DRM-free story roll out."

‘"When we roll out a full DRM-free digital download store, we want it to be in the context of Rhapsody as an unlimited access service," continued Scott.  "The implementation should stay true to our focus on that core service, avoid confusion within the product…With that in mind, while we are committed to fully going DRM-free for purchased downloads, we plan to take our time to make sure it’s done right for Rhapsody."

Napster has made similar claims, and both they and real Real lack Apple’s hidden incentives to hold on to DRM; so their efforts to "make sure it’s done right" may be sincere.  (Although the fact that Real is selling almost 150,000 tracks DRM-free seems contradictory). And just how much time do all three companies really need to convert from one file format to another?

Or if the roadblock is the major labels, then consumers deserve to know it. 

So Apple, Rhapsody and Napster, who is holding up the marsh to DRM-free?


Or the major record labels?

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  1. Or could it be that the labels realize that Apple has too much power (as the #1 digital distributor and the #2 overall distributor) and want to hurt that status a bit so they can get some leverage over negotiations with Apple? I think Apple would gladly give up DRM, if anything, to simply what it does with iTunes.

  2. Yeah, sorry, but your take on the iTunes situation is quite backwards. Doug Morris of Universal Music has publicly stated that he’s willing to keep DRM-free music away from Apple for another six months to a year in an effort to prop up Amazon as much as possible.
    Don’t kid yourself. It’s the labels. They are desperate for a legitimate iTunes competitor.

  3. There’s no proof that Apple prefers “lock-in” for its iPod customers and goes against record company research which concluded that there is on average fewer than 20 ITMS purchases on the average iPod. In addition, considering how dominant Apple is in MP3 player sales it would be counter-intuitive to keep DRM when a huge competitor has proven successful at selling DRM free media. No, the record companies are playing slimy hard ball and Amazon happens to be benefiting from it.
    The labels main beef with Jobs and Co. is that Apple won’t let them charge more for singles. Of course NO ONE will pay more for singles, but that is a different story.

  4. No Podcasts available on the iTunes Store come with DRM to my knowledge. Also Apple doesn’t charge users for this service. So if Apple were evil, then they wouldn’t have provided such a service over the past few years.

  5. as usual, everyone wants to blame the labels, but i think bruce is right… the iTunes+iPod closed system was by design very from the very beginning

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