Music Marketing Author and Course Instructor

Blog Post
iTunes Drops DRM: So What Does it Mean?

Posted on 1/8/2009

It just got a whole lot harder for online music retailers to compete with iTunes. Although I stop purchasing music from iTunes years ago to buy only DRM-free music (I settled on a monthly subscription with eMusic  which will still be my jam for more obscure left-of-the-dial music for the time being), the announcement by Apple on Tuesday that they are immediately dropping DRM (Digital Rights Management) from 8 million tracks changes things slightly.

Here's what this announcement means to me:

A) Labels are continuing to relinquish more control over their product (which is a good thing).
B) It's likely that iTunes market share will increase over and above their already commanding 70%+ of the legal online download market (which is not a good thing for competition).
C) Other players (like the leap year bug plagued Zune) will be able to play music from the Apple store (but only after it is converted from AAC to MP3, which iTunes can do, but is not ideal).

The truth is, aside from folks that are deep in the music business, how many consumers are really going to notice a difference? Do many casual music fans with an iPod know that iTunes had DRM files to start with?

Overall, the fact that Apple is removing DRM is definitely a step forward for the music industry. But I do tend to think that the real game changer for online music will be some sort of collective licensing model along the lines of what the EFF proposes. According to the IFPI, the ratio of unlicensed tracks downloaded to legal tracks sold is about 20 to 1. There are extreme opinions on both sides of the very complex collective licensing model discussion, but finding a way to monetize this traffic in a way that positively affects artists will have a much greater impact to the music industry than Apple's DRM announcement. Baby steps!

Blog Index

Interview with Don Passman
    posted 11/18/2009

Clay Shirky on Social Media
    posted 8/6/2009

Covering an Entire Album in a Day
    posted 6/18/2009

Goodbye Jay Bennett
    posted 5/26/2009

This Old Argument Again
    posted 5/22/2009

How to Get Your Music in TV and Film
    posted 3/24/2009

Mother of All Funk Chords
    posted 3/12/2009

Changes at Touch and Go
    posted 2/19/2009

Estelle Bennett – Ronettes
    posted 2/16/2009

Radiohead at the Grammy Awards
    posted 2/9/2009

Apple and the Replacement Cycle
    posted 1/25/2009

Lessig on Colbert
    posted 1/10/2009

Using uStream to Host a Webcast
    posted 11/19/2008

Top 20 Online Promotions for October
    posted 11/8/2008

Talk About Leveraging New Technology!
    posted 10/14/2008

How To Sell Music On Your Website
    posted 9/8/2008

The Word of Mouth Manual Volume II
    posted 7/21/2008

SXSW Interviews
    posted 4/19/2008

Record Store Day
    posted 4/17/2008

    posted 3/16/2008

Why I am a fan of TuneCore
    posted 3/4/2008

How to get your music on iTunes
    posted 2/4/2008

The Trouble with the Future of Radio
    posted 12/3/2007

More losses at Big Box retail
    posted 11/25/2007

The (growing) Cost of Doing Business
    posted 10/30/2007

iTunes drops price of DRM-free music
    posted 10/17/2007

Instant Music
    posted 10/10/2007

Very Legit iTunes Rival
    posted 10/1/2007

Quote of the Year
    posted 9/21/2007

Prince and the Devolution?
    posted 9/14/2007

Does Street Date Still Matter?
    posted 9/13/2007