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EMI Experiments With DRM-free MP3's 271

trifster writes "Ars Technica has an article about EMI selling DRM-free MP3's through Yahoo Music's US online store. It should be noted that this trial is an attempt to increase sales and competition with online music that is not necessarilary available on iTunes." From the article: "Why the sudden interest in non-DRMed formats? It appears that the record labels are slowly beginning to realize that they can't have DRMed music and complete control over the online music market at the same time.... There are signs that consumers might be growing irritated by the Balkanization of the online music scene. Nielsen SoundScan reports that online music sales dropped during the second and third quarters of the year."
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EMI Experiments With DRM-free MP3's

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  • Sheep (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AlHunt ( 982887 ) on Thursday December 07, 2006 @01:00PM (#17147740) Homepage Journal
    Honestly, if the sheep would stop buying crippled music, the crippled-music industry would die in less than 10 days. baa baa

    Stop buying CDs altogether and the **AA suing everyone's grandmother would die in less than 30 days. baa baa
  • Re:Good job guys (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HappySqurriel ( 1010623 ) on Thursday December 07, 2006 @01:02PM (#17147786)
    I honestly don't think that everyone in the music industry is as greedy or stupid as we would assume. I am willing to bet that there are dozens of executives who (like the majority of slashdotters) believe that the recording industry would be far better off if it reduced the cost of downloaded music to make stealing music not worth the time involved; if you're spending $0.25 per song (to pick a number) most people aren't going to bother with looking for torrents of new albums. They also realize that there are people (like me) who would then pay for an album they normally wouldn't associate with if it was inexpensive enough; terrible dance music is pretty good to run to.

    I suspect the problem is that people who see things the same way most of us do are the 20/early-30 something iPod owning executives who do not have that much weight with the companies; I expect that in 15 years most record companies will catch up to today's reality ...
  • by arniebuteft ( 1032530 ) <buteft@@@gmail...com> on Thursday December 07, 2006 @01:03PM (#17147794)
    Wake up RIAA and realize that the price of music drives piracy. People will always have an incentive to crack DRM if they can't get the music for a fair price legally. I imagine the music industry is scared to death of sliding music prices, even though that's where it's going to head eventually. There is some point between "overpriced" and "free" at which both consumers and most artists will be happy. Those artists who expect to become millionaires from a popular record (and who don't tour), are going to be sorely disappointed. Those artists who are happy making a decent living, and who actually produce good music, will prosper.
  • Re:W00t - not. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Total_Wimp ( 564548 ) on Thursday December 07, 2006 @01:04PM (#17147810)
    Selling a couple xian tunes w/o drm isn't going to exactly cause a wave of common sense to break out. Does anyone actually listen to this crap?

    They're doing exactly the same thing they did with DRM on CDs; they're releasing them in very limited quantities so they can guage the public reaction.

    This is a big deal. It's not big because the numbers are big, but because they're actually looking at the format at all. At one point (yesterday?) we were forced to use quasi-legal tools and we were treated like criminals if we wanted to have cross-platform music. Now at least there's hope.

    My suggestion is run, don't walk, to your computer and buy these tracks, even if you hate the artists involved. The music industry is quite predictible in that they always seem to go in the direction that they think will make them more money. We want to encourage this behavior.

  • by moore.dustin ( 942289 ) on Thursday December 07, 2006 @01:05PM (#17147832) Homepage
    With the rise of iTunes and downloading music online, people are already getting upset about what they can and cant do with the music they OWN. These companies are looking to control how you can use the things you own and people do not like it. One iPod per iTunes, cant share music files, cant move music library - these are just some of the issues people are beginning to realize as they explore the world of digital music (Average User).

    People want to do what they want with the things they own, period. Companies should not be deceiving consumers by giving the illusion of ownership when they purchase a song. Instead they should be prompted warned that buying said song from said service will result in the following restrictions. Well maybe they are better off telling them they are not allowed to do anything with the song besides X and X, just to save time and space :)

    If the DRM was explained and the restrictions spelled out, as they should be, sales on iTunes and other services would begin to fall as soon as any alternative that allows people to do what they want with the songs comes out. Of course, seasoned digital music consumers have found an alternative already, but no money is being made off that yet... If no alternatives are allowed to hit the market then the average user, as they become more knowledgeable about the issue, will result to the same methods.

  • Re:Sheep (Score:5, Insightful)

    by notanatheist ( 581086 ) on Thursday December 07, 2006 @01:10PM (#17147886) Homepage
    Stop buying CDs? And what? Buy only downloaded compressed formats? Whatever. Obviously you don't own a Squeezebox or nice hifi system. Maybe you listen to all your music through some crappy headphones that came with a portable music player. Maybe if they find a way to do DAE off Vinyl I'll switch to that. (no, not the scanner hoax posted on Slashdot before). I want the freedom to choose the format my music is compressed in if it is compressed at all.
  • Which song? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whoami-ky ( 246318 ) on Thursday December 07, 2006 @01:16PM (#17147994)
    OK. I am willing to spend $0.99 on a DRM free song by Norah Jones just to "cast my vote" that I am willing to buy DRM-free music. Could someone please tell me which song it is? I can't seem to find that information anywhere.
  • Re:W00t - not. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Thursday December 07, 2006 @01:16PM (#17148002) Homepage Journal
    Well I like some Christian music, but there is very little good Christian rock, and I've never heard any that could be classified as progressive rock. Nor have I heard any Christian jazz. So, if I don't buy, does this mean that EMI will mark it down as a failure? Try offering some rock and some jazz, EMI, in either OGG or 320kbps+ MP3 format, then I'll buy.

    How many MP3s do they expect to sell from that offering - 100 tracks worldwide? I think their selected offering is a maneuver to "prove" that DRM-free music sales from the labels won't work.
  • by Apple Acolyte ( 517892 ) on Thursday December 07, 2006 @01:19PM (#17148056)
    I don't know what you're talking about. One iTunes library can have an unlimited number of iPods synched to it, and there's nothing preventing one from moving a library from one computer to another. The only major restrictions found in iTunes are on burning audio CDs with protected tracks (5 times) and on sharing protected tracks between computers (5 computers). You may not like the concept of DRM, but iTunes DRM is reasonable. There's no need to spread misinformation.
  • by matthaak ( 707485 ) on Thursday December 07, 2006 @01:19PM (#17148060) Homepage Journal

    I don't think this story is really very much about the record industry starting to recognize consumer frustration and so on. They simply want to distribute digital music through channels other than iTMS and still maintain access to the iPod market, which is enormous. This is the sensible explanation put forth by the WSJ (although they speculate consumer demand is a driver as well): In a Turnabout, Record Industry Releases MP3s [wsj.com]

    From the article: Blue Note and other music companies are beginning to think they will have to sell some MP3-formatted music both to satisfy customer demand and to provide access to Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod for songs that are sold by online stores other than Apple's iTunes Store.

  • No such signs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CODiNE ( 27417 ) on Thursday December 07, 2006 @01:30PM (#17148196) Homepage
    There are signs that consumers might be growing irritated by the Balkanization of the online music scene. Nielsen SoundScan reports that online music sales dropped during the second and third quarters of the year.

    This bit of misinformation has been getting around lately, actually they claimed the same thing last year. Perhaps they're hoping that if they say it enough it will become true? (Paging Godwin)

    Look 4Q is always the highest, think Thanksgiving and Christmas... followed by 1Q, think people using their iTunes gift cards or trying out the iTunes Store now that hey have a new iPod. I'm sure practically every consumer goods business has a similar sales graph where things drop off after Xmas. It's just interesting to me that analysts are using this to predict the death of the iPod ... oooops, perhaps I've just hit the nail on the head there, the anti-Apple folks need something to predict for the next 20 years. :-)
  • by kevin_conaway ( 585204 ) on Thursday December 07, 2006 @01:36PM (#17148312) Homepage
    Does anyone know if Christian music lovers are in the demographic of illegal file downloaders?

    Ehh, don't read much into the Christian label. Theres nothing real specifically Christian about their music (same with MxPx). They basically just don't do drugs, drink to excess, sleep around and their music generally has positive overtones.

  • Zune (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Thursday December 07, 2006 @01:46PM (#17148476) Homepage Journal
    I wonder if the release of the Zune has anything to do with this. With MS turning it's back on play for sure, the DRM format war has pretty much fizzled. There is the Apple option, with the iPod, and then there are a few other DRM options that might eventually share 25% or so of the music. So how do you sell music, and not piss off customers who want to play it on their chosen device. Fairplay won't work on a zune, but an unencumbered MP3 will. it will also play on the iPod. And you don't have to be a slave to the Apple pricing scheme.

    It could be that MS did us a favor by abandoning play for sure.

  • Re:Sheep (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rucs_hack ( 784150 ) on Thursday December 07, 2006 @01:50PM (#17148532)
    I thought the main problem with allofmp3 was that they didn't have permission to sell what they were selling, not that it was drm free.
  • Re:Good job guys (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Thursday December 07, 2006 @02:06PM (#17148812)
    I expect that in 15 years most record companies will catch up to today's reality ...

    And where will that put them? Oh, that's right. 15 years behind the times...We can only hope that their thinking will be so "progressive."
  • by badasscat ( 563442 ) <basscadet75@y a h o o . com> on Thursday December 07, 2006 @02:22PM (#17149106)
    ...and the industry has found that at $0.99. The iTMS has been an overwhelming success, despite the fact that everybody on Slashdot hates it because the pricing isn't "fair" and because the product is DRM-laden.

    How do you define "overwhelming success"?

    We know from simple division that even among iTunes Music Store customers, the average number of purchased tracks is 21. We also know that the number of illegal downloads continues to outnumber legal downloads by 40 to 1. (Both of these stats come from previous - and recent - stories posted here.) People continue to fill up their iPods with music they have obtained elsewhere (legally and illegally). If such a small percentage of music sales can be deemed an "overwhelming success", then what would constitute failure?

    I think the music industry has seen these stats, they know these stats, and they also know that even with whatever limited success iTunes and the like has had (and it is "limited" at best, not "overwhelming"), most of that success belongs to Apple, Real, etc. Not to the music industry itself. So they know they've still got big problems.

    This sounds a lot like many arguments I hear for lower music prices which end with some form of "artists will just need to accept their new place in society." Why should they want to do that?

    Whether they want to or not is not really relevant. The fact may be that they have to.

    Look at it this way. In the late 1800's, a lot of people made a lot of money in the railroad business. By around the 1950's, that was no longer possible - the business just wasn't what it was anymore. Media is just like any other business, and in fact the exact same thing is happening to the newspaper and magazine industries right now. You can never count on a business to make you rich forever. How you feel about that as a member of that business matters not at all.

    Unless you want to count classical composers who often consorted with kings and queens (but were rarely really rich themselves), the whole notion of getting rich by writing and playing music is an entirely recent phenomenon. It's not something anybody would have assumed 100 or even 50 years ago. It was something people did for the love of the music, and hopefully they did it well enough to make a living. That living was mostly made through playing live, not through sales of media.

    Many people think the music industry's run as it currently exists is simply over. It does happen. Industries come and go as times change; they are not static things.

    That does not mean music will go away. It just means the current major label-dominated industry itself might, along with the ability to get rich by selling records. Being a musician may become more like any other profession, where the savvy and talented can make a good living provided they continue to work year-round playing live, releasing new music and creating other related merchandise. Labels will still exist - there does need to be someone to do the real production and promotion work - but they may not be dominated by the four majors. The entire industry may look a lot more like the indie record industry of today. eMusic may be the new model. Or, the opposite may happen, and it already sort of is - musicians that want to get rich will need to become "brands", transcending their career in music and turning themselves into full-on multimedia campaigns. Or, there could be some combination of both models, which is probably the most likely scenario. But you won't be able to get rich just selling records for very much longer.

    It probably sounds far-fetched to you, but then in 1930 there probably wasn't a man alive that thought there'd come a time when the New York Central wasn't steaming from New York to Chicago six times a day. Things change in business, often dramatically. And new technology is what drives that change.
  • $5 works (Score:3, Insightful)

    by weston ( 16146 ) <westonsd&canncentral,org> on Thursday December 07, 2006 @02:24PM (#17149142) Homepage
    Today, new CD releases are south of $15 and selection of online music is plentiful at $0.99 and below. Yet this price is still not "fair." For many people, it never will be.

    Maybe for some people. But for "many" people, $5 seems to be a good target.

    I've made/sold compilation CDs with a bunch of local musicians, almost all of us (with one or two exceptions) with only small followings. The idea was to cross-pollinate our audiences, really, but we were going to do our best to sell as many CDs to whoever would buy them at the summer festival where we were all performing and promoting the discs.

    $15? Even the fans of some of the artists on the CD were slow to buy.
    $10? Fans were likely to buy, but the average passerby would pretty
    $5? They *sold*. Almost all of 'em. Many to people who'd never heard a single artist on the compilation before.

    We repeated this experience over a few years. $5 is the magic number. We've been able to sell some discs for more as we acquired a rep, but strangers buy at $5.

    I seem to recall an NYC street musician doing a similar experiment and coming up with the same number. Wish I could come up with a link.

    As for individual tracks online, I don't have similar experience trying to sell, but as a buyer, I can tell you that at the prices AllOfMP3.com sells at (about $.10-$.15 per track the way I encode), I've found that I don't even think about the cost. If I want to listen to something I don't already have handy, I'll buy it. In some cases, I have even just bought songs I *already own* but don't want to bother looking for the CD. The cost of downloading is practically negligible and it's a very low-hassle experience. I'd probably continue to think that way up to a quarter per track.

    This isn't to say I *won't* buy music online at higher prices. I've shopped the iTunes store regularly and have bought a good chunk of music there. I'd probably never buy stuff on a whim there that I've bought at AllOfMP3.com (say, the "Flash Gordon" soundtrack by Queen), but I'm willing to buy some material I really like there, even with the DRM encumbrance, which is a hassle when it comes time to switch systems or share with friends.

  • Re:W00t - not. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Total_Wimp ( 564548 ) on Thursday December 07, 2006 @02:26PM (#17149176)
    It's a good idea to encourage civil behavior in your enemies. Getting a truce and a peace treaty is almost always much cheaper, eisier and almost always gives you a better outcome than spending every last ounce of strength trying to destroy them

  • by riflemann ( 190895 ) <riflemann@@@bb...cactii...net> on Friday December 08, 2006 @07:28AM (#17160358)
    Personally I'd rather see a "more legal" version of allofmp3.com...

    But allofmp3.com is completely legal. They are doing nothing shady, legally, they are completely abiding by the law.

    Oh you mean they don't comply with the laws of *your* country? Too bad. The US administration's references to them as illegal is absurd.

    We might as well go around calling women drivers criminal too. After all, it's illegal for women to drive....well in some middle eastern countries anyway, but that doesn't matter, because Americans seem to believe that laws of one nation apply to others.

Variables don't; constants aren't.