DRM-free music: EMI calls the tune and Apple takes the credit

Dangerous times for the record labels


So these new, higher quality tracks are going to appear on a P2P network at some stage. OK, whoever offers them can be prosecuted, but it will still happen. Are the tracks watermarked? Can EMI people tell if they have arrived out there in piracy land? There are some fairly sophisticated ways of tracking music, with or without a watermark, so EMI will have a handle on how many copies of its high quality music are up for grabs at any point in time, and to some extent it can harass those offering it illegally to the point where enough people continue buying the music, rather than get it illegally. Probably.

But if that’s all true and a buying habit is retained by enough people out there without DRM, then the other record labels just have to follow suit, partly so they can rid themselves of the costs associated with DRM and partly because of the hike that EMI might generate in short term, catch up and replacement revenues.

Naturally EMI chose to start this new idea with Apple, because of Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs making such a song and dance about it being stupid for record labels to issue music without DRM protection and then for Apple to be forced to use it. But EMI will be signing up with all of its existing outlets for online music pretty much as soon as they ask.

Apple's iTunes will use AAC formatted tracks, and complete albums from EMI artists purchased on the iTunes will automatically be sold at the higher sound quality DRM-free, with no price hike. So that is also an attempt to shift more albums, something that every record label has been trying to do for some time on iTunes.

Part of the huge losses that the record labels bemoan isn’t just piracy related. In physical formats consumers have almost had to buy albums, when often they only want a single track. iTunes and all online music sales which allow individual tracks, have killed all of that, and now people are back to buying singles.

EMI will also offer an upgrade to the DRM free version from an existing track for 30 cents in the US, 30 Euro cents in Europe and 20 pence in the UK. EMI music videos will also be available on iTunes without DRM with no change in price.

EMI will also offer WMA and MP3 formatted tracks and potentially other unprotected formats as each online music store approaches it. EMI says that it still believes in DRM when it is used to enable subscription services (where consumers can have access to unlimited music for a monthly payment) and for P2P delivered music that deliberately uses super-distribution as a form of promotion. Also it will continue to use DRM on time-limited downloads such as those offered by ad-supported services.

Apple said it would continue to offer its entire catalog of five million songs in the same versions as today in 128 kbps AAC encoding with DRM at the existing price of 99 cents per song.

EMI also cut a far less far reaching deal with Nokia to co-market and mobile music. Nokia will feature EMI at its flagship stores and websites, but it sounds a far cry from the full catalog.

Meanwhile music service provider Playlouder also said last week it had licensed the EMI catalog, but these will be the heavily DRMed versions of the EMI tracks, because this is a music subscription service that encourages music sharing. Playlouder has already signed Sony BMG and a string of independents to its service.

Copyright © 2007, Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • NASA installs a new and improved algorithm to better track near-Earth asteroids

    Nearly 20 year-old software used to protect humanity gets an upgrade

    NASA has upgraded its near-Earth asteroid monitoring algorithm to model hazardous space rocks more accurately after nearly two decades, it announced on Tuesday.

    The new system, dubbed Sentry-II, is more powerful than its predecessor, Sentry. Astronomers working at the space agency's Center for Near Earth Object Studies can now automatically calculate thermal influences that nudge an asteroid’s orbit, potentially sending it hurtling towards our home planet.

    The so-called Yarkovsky effect describes the subtle and gradual change of motion when asteroids are heated by the Sun’s light. When asteroids spin, one side of its surface exposed to the star gets heated. As it continues to rotate, the hot region enters shade and cools down. Infrared energy is radiated outwards; the photons carry momentum and impart a tiny thrust on the asteroid. Over long periods of time, these small kicks can change their paths and knock them out of their original orbit.

    Continue reading
  • Facebook slapped with an eyepopping $150B lawsuit for spreading hate speech against Rohingya refugees

    Lawsuit claims social media giant's algos helped Myanmar military crackdown on the Rohingya

    Meta was sued on Tuesday for a whopping $150 billion in a class-action lawsuit for allegedly amplifying hate speech and aiding the Myanmar military in the genocide of the Rohingya people.

    The case, led by an anonymous Rohingya refugee living in the US, accuses the entity formerly known as Facebook of inciting hatred and inflicting real harm on the predominantly Muslim group for years. Not only did the social media platform ignore hate speech posts, it's alleged that the service's algorithms actively promoted anti-Rohingya propaganda as hundreds of thousands of people fled from Myanmar to escape persecution.

    Facebook has already acknowledged its role in the campaign, which saw an estimated 25,000 people perish and 700,000 forced from the country. The lawsuit also comes after ex-employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked internal documents demonstrating how its algorithms prioritized engagement over safety.

    Continue reading
  • Power management IC shortage holding cars, laptops, hostage

    Couple of cents-worth of kit causing big problems for the year to come

    The shortage of power management chips is worsening and holding back companies from building cars, PCs and items with batteries or an on-off switch, Trendforce said in a study this week.

    Power management ICs cost just a few cents, and are among cheap chips that include display driver and USB-C components that are in short supply. These chips are as important to PCs and other electronics as CPUs or memory.

    The demand for PMICs has gone through the roof with the emergence of electric cars and growing demand for PCs and consumer electronics during the past 20 plus months. Trendforce expects the prices will go up by 10 per cent to a six-year high of $0.23.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021