With Apple/EMI, Music Can Now Move into the 21st Century

In a move that demonstrates questionable sanity on the part of Apple and EMI, the companies released joint statements on the day after April Fools Day. Indeed, several folks I’ve spoken to since then have admitted thinking the announcement about the entire EMI music catalog going DRM-less in iTunes was nothing but phony.

However, it’s not a joke and the move represents the single greatest moment in new media-old media relations in some time. Major music conglomerates led by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and film companies under the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) have stonewalled against basic freedom of product consumption for years – and has been well documented.

In fact, as recently as February when Steve Jobs made a bold call for the RIAA to approve DRM-less music, the companies balked. Still, days after Steve Jobs’ keynote cracks began to appear in the RIAA armor and EMI finally decided to call Jobs’ bluff. Steve Fisher tells me that he thinks the record labels assumed that Jobs was politically posturing.

However, there is no posturing now and the deal is sealed. In May, consumers will be able to pay 30 cents more ($1.29) to purchase DRM-less music encoded at 256kbps as opposed to the standard 99 cent purchases with DRM and encoded at 128kbps.

If you have been blowing smoke about this thing simply looking to pick fights with the record labels, then stop. However, if this is something that is truly important to you – the right to purchase music and use it on whichever mobile device, computer, MP3 player or burned CD you want without limitations placed on usage – then when this becomes available in May, you should follow my lead and purchase plenty of DRM-less music.

This is not just a spending spree. This is a call to action as the other record labels will be watching the results of this action closely. If they see a surge in sales, guess what? It won’t just be the EMI catalog that is DRM-less. Less than 15% of all music on the internet is legal.

If the issue is freedom of choice, prove it with your wallet. If the issue is that you’re cheap, stop arguing that it’s a freedom of choice issue. For real, get real.

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Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

6 thoughts on “With Apple/EMI, Music Can Now Move into the 21st Century”

  1. I intend to at least upgrade all my music that I already purchased. I’ll also buy anything Beatles that I don’t already have, if they make them available.

  2. So you’ll actually have an option to upgrade your existing music to DRM-less?

    Geez, I wish they had started out with DRM-less. Then I wouldn’t be so dependent on the iPod. Are they also intending to open up iTunes so that it will work with other mobile media players? Maybe I’ll be able to settle on a new BlackBerry!

  3. Yep, Osolage. I agree but the only way that Apple could sell the record labels on iTunes back in the day was with DRM (FairPlay). I’d rather them allow us to upgrade our DRM’d music after the fact than us not upgrade them at all.

  4. Well said, Aaron. I’m looking forward to the experiment. Based on the list of artists on EMI’s site, I don’t have any tracks I could upgrade. But I will definitely consider buying some of the new DRM-less tracks.

  5. They covered this story well, last night on Talk of the Nation. A point that was made there, is that hundreds of independent record labels and independent artists have been BEGGING Apple to stop with the DRM on their music. To no avail. They’re still in limbo. Steve Jobs open letter in February rings hypocritical in that light. This move is also questionable.

  6. This is the clearest post on this topic that I’ve read. You made it make sense. Thanks, Aaron. I’ll be sticking to the .99¢ songs, myself.

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