Wednesday, May 16, 2007

DRM's Days Are Numbered

Many people have hoped for the end of DRM'd music ever since the first download services.  When EMI announced that they going to sell unencrypted AAC files via Apple's iTunes Music Store, the first crack appeared in the dike.  Today Amazon is announcing a similar effort.  This time, however, the files are going to be in the MP3 format.  Amazon has EMI on board and "12,000 record labels."  I suspect most of those 12,000 are people you've never heard of.  EMI appears to be the only big fish that has taken the plunge so far.  Can the others be far behind?  Not if this model proves to be of value. 

I've spoken before about the ephemeral nature of computing these days.  Music is one of those things that was easily lost.  If your music store went out of business, you could be at risk of losing all of your purchased music.  The music probably still worked, but only on that machine.  Certainly if something happened, you could never download it again.  If this new direction gains the momentum I hope that it will, this risk could go away.

Does this mean that DRM'd music will disappear completely?  I don't think so.  Having used MTV's Urge service for a few months, I have to say the experience of all-you-can-eat music is quite compelling.  DRM will live on to support this scenario.  Music rental will continue to be distributed with DRM but I suspect that music purchase will continue to move away from it.  I wonder how the video market will react.

The iTunes music is going to be in 192 kbps.  I haven't seen any figures on what the quality of the Amazon stuff will be.


  1. I'd be happy if DVDs would drop region codes.
    That's horrible if you live in Region 4 as I do (New Zealand, Australia, and several large rocks).

  2. > If your music store went out of business, you could be at risk of losing all of your purchased music
    Very true.  On the other hand, sometimes you want to listen to music experimentally without making a commitment... if DRM'd music is cheap enough, it serves a valid purpose.

  3. I know what you mean.  Region 4 has always been a backwater as far as DVD manufacturers were concerned.  We tried to order some years ago to test and there were only like 20 available at the time.  This when the U.S. had somewhere between 500 and 1000 titles.
    I suspect we won't see them go away because 1) the ratings requirements are different everywhere, 2) the sales rights are different everywhere, and 3) they still want to roll out movies in a wave across the world.

  4. @Maurits - I totally agree.  I think that is fulfilled by the rental model.

  5. I won't buy DRMd music for exactly the reasons you outline.  That, and who knows if it will work with my next player (PlaysForSure/Zune is embarassing).