Steve Jobs - Thoughts on Music (updated for EMI news)


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Steve Jobs has just posted what's being called a manifesto speaking out against music companies and their forced inclusion of DRM. The manifesto could be subtitled as Die DRM Die. Not in German. Jobs talks frankly about the role of DRM and how the entire concept is born out of irrational fear from the big 4 music companies. He openly embraces a DRM-less world and says that it'll be better for everybody in the near and long run. he calls upon people not to lobby against technology companies, but instead direct their efforts towards the music publishers.

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DeepJiveInterests has an excellent post on the topic. Basically, the sentiment is that it's convenient for Steve Jobs to make this announcement now, after iTunes is a huge success. But why didn't he say this then? I'd give him a lot more credit for this statement if it was his stance all along, versus making billions of dollars off of the very thing he's proseltyzing.
This post was edited by Amanie on 2/07/2007 1:04 PM
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The music industry is seriously pissing me off. What gets me, is that at the end of the day what matters is the quality of the music. I think there are a lot of great bands out there, but they're not what you hear on the radio. Compare this to the sixties when you could turn on a radio and hear the Beatles, Stones, Bob Dylan, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, David Bowie, Pink Floyd. What do we have now? Mainstream is mostly garbage. Why is that? IMO, the music industry.

Free the music, kill the "industry", and you'll start hearing more and more great music. Listen to Radio Paradise, SomaFM, and whatever other great free Internet radio stations are out there, and you'll see the difference.

Even if the music was completely free, artists would continue to make money from concerts/shows, and other opportunities I'm sure (fine, Metallica won't be gazillionaires, but they suck anyway). The only people that will get hurt are people with MBAs and Harvard Business degrees. If you're "into the music", do you care if that happens?

This post was edited by Erik on 2/07/2007 12:21 PM
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you have to consider though that this speech was made after almost all of the troubles with The Beatles has passed...granted, it's not totally over yet....but I think that in light of what iTunes has accomplished and the continued lack of a viable competitor, that this is a somewhat bold move on Jobs' behalf.  That said, it is very convenient for the iTunes suit going on in Europe...but it's a double edged sword....Apple Inc gets sued in Europe for tying, but without some similar technology the ability to freely copy the files could result in liability here...it's tough position to be in.
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Reading the blog post Amanie pointed out, and the corresponding blogs that were pointed to from there a lot of interesting points were made. I think the biggest sentiments from the cynical crowd is that this is a brilliant PR move, but one that ultimately required no real gusto, since Apple is already in such a formidable position. Furthermore, these are just words, iTunes is still selling DRM-riddled music and Apple is making a ton of money off of those sales.

One of the interesting points that was brought up in one of the blogs is that iTunes isn't even about making that much money, it's all about legitimizing the iPod which is the real cash cow for Apple. If you're at all familiar with how Napster went down, and the resulting aftermath, you'll see it's all about intended use.

Quick legal aside: the argument support Napster was that it was just a service to exchange information and shouldn't be shut down based on how people used it, similar to having a photocopier in a library and having people photocopy books. The library shouldn't be punished for that. However, the judge ruled against Napster based on intent of use. Instead of just having the just photocopier there, it's having a huge sign on top of the photocopier saying "FREE BOOKS! USE THIS!"  This is why you see disclaimers against uploading copyrighted content on every User generated site, though most user generated sites contain large amounts of copyrighted content!

If the iPod existed without iTunes, then music companies would say "hey, this is only used for illegal purposes. Sorry bud, DENIED!" But Jobs struck a deal for iTunes that was actually very good for the record companies, so now Apple can just say "no no, it's iPod PLUS iTunes, it's totally legit"

Thus far, DRM hasn't been a big deal. Most people who download their music download it from bittorrent or other such services anyway. The real problem occurs when you want to go legit, and you quickly realize that DRM music sucks huge huge monkey balls. When I want to support an artist I'll buy the music from AllofMp3, or if they don't have it I'll go to iTunes, and then I'll just download a pirated copy of the music that I can do what I want with. Usually at a better bitrate and quality too.

Everybody already agrees with anti-DRM for a million different reasons. And if DRM is doing anything, it's just encouraging people to forget about digital media, or go through iillegit means and not deal with all the stupid hassle. However, with VIDEO, the situation is becoming a lot more annoying for consumers. DRM technology is complicated and expensive, to design and implement. All these expenses are adding up, and the costs are being passed down to us. In effect, all DRM is doing, is making the media we want to consume, more annoying, and more expensive.

That's a good way to lose your customers. Media company's fears are just going to be their ultimate undoing ironically enough.

Now should all music be free? Of course not. If you want to SELL music, then you should pay the person that originally made the music. I don't think anybody has problems with that. But if I want to share some music with a few of my friends, or stream music to various devices in my house, I should have absolutely no problems doing that.

Media companies have constructed an institution whereby a small number of people get ridiculously rich. It's obvious that there's a middle ground that'll make everybody people happy if a certain group of people just give up some of their greediness. Not even all of their greediness. I'm all for people making money. But if you can make 5 million off of an album instead of 15 million, is that really that sad? And if that 10 million can then spread around to other artists that can then earn a living, whereas in the current situation they can't, then that's even better!

This direction is the way the world is going anyway, no matter what the media companies try to do. As has been said many times. The media companies can evolve and adapt to the changing marketplace, or like any organism that can't adapt, they'll die. It's not like these guys have been around for a long time either, the industry is only a hundred years old or so, so it's not like the world can't function without them.

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I just wanted to add, why is there a cartel with the music industry, but none exists within the digital distribution companies? The big 4 have come together in something called the RIAA where they speak with one voice and have their shared clout. Power in numbers and all of that. Well, technology companies are just being stupid by not banding together. If they REALLY wanted DRM-free then Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple, and everybody else would get together and say "Yo biotches, you depend on us now, so we get to make some decisions. Give us our free!"

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Well, it looks like the DRM saga took a pivotal turn today as Steve Jobs and EMI announce that all of EMI's music will be sold DRM-free on iTunes. This is significant for one main reason: this is the first time that a major label has sold its music digitally without crippling restrictions attached.

The details of the deal can be found in the above link, but just a summary

  • DRM-free music will be sold on iTunes
  • cost is $1.29 per song (30 cents above current price)
  • songs come at a higher quality, 256kbps instead of 128kbps
  • album price stays the same DRM or not
  • can upgrade to non-DRM version of song for 30 cents

Now that one of the big four RIAA companies is going without DRM, the other three will surely follow, and once the big four go without DRM, then DRM will be pretty much dead in the music world. Of course, DRM is pretty much already dead in the music world in the grand scheme of things when you consider how little music transferred across the Internet has DRM attached. Now it's just starting to get semi-official.

Going into the future the prices should start to come down around reasonable levels as well. I'm sure that music demand is extremely elastic, and as soon as you can access a huge variety of music in a convenient way for a reasonable price, then the amount of illegal downloading should go down.

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So willl Zune follow Apple's move to drop the DRM thing? Any thoughts? An article on this would be more interesting

This post was edited by Erik on 4/17/2007 12:06 PM
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This post was edited by Omar on 6/02/2007 10:54 PM

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