Tuesday, September 12, 2006

eMusic gets it

eMusic has launched in Europe. Is this the first example of an e-tailer that 'gets it'? Here's the rub: I can order CDs from Amazon, say I take advantage of the current 3 CDs for £15 offer - for the sake of argument Keane's Hopes & Fears, the seminal remastered Live at Leeds, with The Who and maybe Weezer's Weezer, and rip to non-DRMed MP3 and listen to the choons on a variety of devices: home stereo, car, iPod, laptop whatever. Alternatively, I can download the same tunes from the iTunes Music Store and (a) pay more, (b) get lousy quality rips and (c) get data that's laden with DRM restrictions meaning I can only use it on a limited number of devices.

Tricky choice. Not.

Let's be realistic. All music is already available, for free, on line from the various P2P nets. However, some people actually want to pay for their digital data. What they don't want to pay for are artificially imposed restrictions that limit how they can use their purchases, especially since these restrictions just wouldn't be present had they purchased the same music on a CD.

It's so obvious it hurts.

So, if I could buy music losslessly encoded, or high-bitrate lossy without DRM (lossless sort of implies non-DRM), it would be the same rights for me as the customer as if I had purchased the CD. Given that there's no manufacturing, or distribution costs involved I'd expect that the price would be a quarter or less without anyone making any less money. Would we pay for it? Sure, I would - fair rights, fair price. Would I purchase music or films from the iTunes music store, or Napster (rife with even more ridiculous DRM concepts) or any other DRM-ridden fayre?

No way.

Now though, eMusic has launched. They sell MP3s without restrictions. Download to your heart's content for a monthly fee. After you've downloaded a track you own it, and can do with it whatever you like. Hey presto, they get it! Of course, the big boys aren't happy and thus eMusic's catalogue is somewhat wanting. But still - if I was Apple or Microsoft, I'd worry. Customers vote with their wallets. DRM is a solution in search for a problem. Why should we accept it if it makes things harder for us to use digital data than it was before? The explosion in the P2P traffic is a direct consequence of the old-skool thinking in the boardrooms of the big media companies.

The whole market is there for the taking for the first Big Media Company that understands this.

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