Tuesday, December 12, 2006

iTunes sales and the status of DRMd music: next steps

Infinite Loop: iPods, iTunes, and iDiots—Forrester says iPods don't drive iTunes sales is a good rant on a recent NYT article claiming iTunes sales are declining. It's a great rant, though I would not be surprised if a lot of people are realizing that even the relatively enlightened iTunes DRM strategy is a non-starter. Ok, a bit surprised. I didn't think people would figure the scam out this fast.

If it is a some great awakening, if enough people have run into DRM problems that they're soured on the whole idea, then the entire digital music industry will need to reboot. It's not a biggie for Apple -- they make their money on iPod hardware sales, but it's huge for everyone else. Note Yahoo is now selling non-DRMd music ...

I posted a comment about the rant and some of the comments. Excerpts below:
  • We also have 3 iPods in active use and may add a Shuffle. All from one music Library. Of course the interesting point here is that copyright holders HAVE NEVER APPROVED OF A FAMILY LIBRARY. So by sharing the music library with my spouse and children on separate iPods I'm probably 'stealing music' as far as the RIAA is concerned. They would say that each person should have their own library, irregardless of relationships.
  • ... the beauty of the iPod was making our hundreds (thousand?) CDs new again. It takes a long time to explore that much music, so many consumers may have a very long latency period before they start buying new music again -- whether classic CD or DRMd.
  • In terms of IP theft I wonder if the biggest methods now are merging iTunes Libraries (attach external drive, drag and drop, it's easy as pie) and ripping tracks from Library CDs and from purchased used CDs that are quickly resold to the dealer. I'm sure the RIAA knows that, but it's not something they talk about much. They prefer to think about file sharing.
  • Controlling all those non-DRMd CDs in the world is a tough task. The way to do it, of course, is rather like gun control. Buy up all the CDs on the market and then destroy them. In time the price of used CDs will rise to the level of new DRMd CDs. In fact, smart people should start hoarding used CDs now in anticipation of when the the prices will rise. The next step is to make it impossible to play non-DRMd digital tracks or CDs/DVDs. It's a big project, but I'm sure the RIAA is working on it.
  • Lastly, it's not really that hard to get real data on what's happening. Medical researchers study far more sensitive topics than this all the time. The issue is that only the vendors will pay for the research, and they won't share what we find. So we'll make do with rumor and anecdote.

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