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EMI May Sell Entire Collection as DRM-less MP3s 188

Posted by Zonk
from the and-away-we-go dept.
BobbyJo writes "According to the Chicago Sun-Times, EMI has been pitching the possibility of selling its entire music collection to the public in MP3 form ... without Digital Rights Management protections. According to the article, several other major music companies have considered this same route, but none as far as EMI. The reasons, of course, have nothing to do with taking a moral stand; EMI wants to compete with Apple. 'The London-based EMI is believed to have held talks with a wide range of online retailers that compete with Apple's iTunes. Those competing retailers include RealNetworks Inc., eMusic.com, MusicNet Inc. and Viacom Inc.'s MTV Networks. People familiar with the matter cautioned that EMI could still abandon the proposed strategy before implementing it. A decision about whether to keep pursuing the idea could come as soon as today.'"
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EMI May Sell Entire Collection as DRM-less MP3s

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  • Recent EMI News (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Friday February 09, 2007 @10:26AM (#17947468) Journal
    First off,

    EMI has been pitching the possibility of selling its entire music collection to the public in MP3 form ...
    Not quite, they're looking to sell it to a service. If my tax dollars were paying for all of EMI's music to enter public domain, I would imagine a lot of people wouldn't like that idea.

    Recently, I learned that EMI will be allowing music videos to stream freely to UK, German & French users through AOL. [webpronews.com]

    Also--possibly in relation to this--EMI's top legal counsel, Charles Ashcroft, has stepped down [thelawyer.com] after ten years with the company. There's been a lot of internal restructuring [cmj.com] so I wonder if these no-DRM propositions are on the way in or on the way out.

    From the article linked above,

    EMI, which is the world's largest independent music company, reported revenue of £867.9m and £62.7m profit for the six months ending 30 September last year.
    I'm assuming that those profits are primarily music based so what amount would you have to offer the world's largest independent music company to be able to release their MP3s without any form copy protection? It's difficult to consider anyone being able to afford this.
    • Re:Recent EMI News (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Divebus (860563) on Friday February 09, 2007 @10:43AM (#17947696)
      Somebody has to do it but first, the music "sharing" (pronounced "stealing") problem still needs to be solved or EMI will be very broke, very fast. I don't think the "honor system" has been completely worked out (or is it "honour system"?). Second, I wonder how much one of the majors would charge for a lifetime, unencumbered digital music license? Otherwise, this is a very exciting development. Competing with Apple would be less a factor since the iPod is the cash cow (not the iTunes store) and the iPod is an MP3 player first and foremost.
      • Re:Recent EMI News (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Daniel_Staal (609844) <DStaal@usa.net> on Friday February 09, 2007 @10:53AM (#17947854)
        To get the honor system to work, they need to make it very easy to buy music. Easier than finding it for free. People will sill 'borrow' from friends, but if it is easy enough to find and buy music through them, then most people won't make the effort to find it for a lower price.
        • Re:Recent EMI News (Score:5, Interesting)

          by psykocrime (61037) <mindcrime@cpphac ... k minus language> on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:07AM (#17948072) Homepage Journal
          To get the honor system to work, they need to make it very easy to buy music. Easier than finding it for free. People will sill 'borrow' from friends, but if it is easy enough to find and buy music through them, then most people won't make the effort to find it for a lower price.

          Exactly. Personally, I'll happily pay to go to an official service, with high quality mp3 downloads, where I can quickly search by artist, song-title, album, etc. and find the exact track I'm looking for, know that what I'm getting is what is actually labeled, know what the quality of the file is, etc. As long as the files aren't DRM'd and the price is reasonable. Why waste time with p2p networks where you never know exactly what you're getting, download times are inconsistent, etc?

          Hopefully if the labels go through with this, they follow the "long tail" approach and put plenty of obscure tracks up as well... demos, b-sides, live recordings, unreleased tracks, etc. Give music fans what they're looking for and they'll pay (well, some of us will anyway).
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by dave420 (699308)
            If there weren't people providing quality releases to BitTorrent, where the tracks are encoded using a good encoder, tagged correctly, including artwork, etc., then you'd have more of a point. BitTorrent is great for 99% of the music you want to hear. Even the obscure stuff is available, and download speeds are more than adequate. If it's not on BitTorrent, it might not even be on the online services anywhere.
            • If EMI put their whole catalog on-line similar to how allofmp3 works, where I pay based on download quality and can preview at ultra-low quality for free, then even if they are 4x the price of allofmp3 I will always buy my music from them rather than elsewhere. Especially if the interface is as easy to use.
              -nB
          • Re:Recent EMI News (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Bright Apollo (988736) on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:08PM (#17949068) Journal
            The translation of this concept from Russian to English, of course, is "Allofmp3"

            -BA

            • Re:Recent EMI News (Score:5, Insightful)

              by shark72 (702619) on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:56PM (#17949888)

              "The translation of this concept from Russian to English, of course, is "Allofmp3""

              Exactly. And since the EMI catalog would presumably include album art, it would make it that much easier for Allofmp3 to bolster their library.

              The gotcha here is that customers want a "fair price," and many people have mentioned that since allofmp3 sells for less than $0.10 per track, that's a "fair price" and anything else must be henous profit-taking. The reality is that in the US, the minimum mechanical royalty payment by law is about $0.07 to the songwriter and lyricist (not to mention royalties for performers, bandwidth, credit card processing, and all the expenses that happen when people who draw salaries touch the product somewhere), so if your net cost per track is greater than $0.10, you can't break even no matter how many you sell. And as noted in the article, EMI netted eight points of profit last year, so they don't have a lot of room to play with.

              People mentioned ease of use. The thing is, the people on the pro-piracy side have pretty good designers and coders, too. No matter how good Apple makes the iTunes interface, BitTorrent clients and sites like allofmp3 keep getting better, too.

              What this means is that people will always find a moral reason to pirate. EMI releases their catalog in MP3 format in a variety of compression rates and with album art? Sorry, chaps, allofmp3 will give us the same thing, and they're $0.10 (lower than EMI will ever be able to sell at unless the law is changed), so EMI must be the greedy fucktards here. The iTMS is easy to use, you say? Sorry, bittorrent clients are just as easy and have just as much eye candy; thus iTMS et al. have clearly dropped the ball and we shouldn't give them our money.

              I mentioned the law requiring minimum mechanical royalties. A few months back, the record companies actually were trying to change these royalties, and to say that it did not go over well with the Slashdot crowd is putting it mildly. If the law does get changed one day, then many people will certainly use the logic that if the record company isn't paying the artists, then they shouldn't have to. EMI is big and evil; allofmp3 is the our friend since they've been selling cheap, DRM-free music for a while now. Guess who will get the average Slashdotter's money?

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by the_womble (580291)
                The statutory mechanical royalty rate is paid to the music publisher, not the artist. In most cases of music EMI sells, they would be the publisher.

                The statutory rate can be overridden by a contract and is, in effect a maximum rate, not a minimum, see http://www.joelmabus.com/royalties.htm [joelmabus.com]

                Other costs of selling downloads are much lower than CDs.

                Lower costs could raise volumes.

                The type of people who regard big media as evil, are exactly the people who would see a company that dropped DRM as good. The rest do
              • Re:Recent EMI News (Score:4, Informative)

                by Bright Apollo (988736) on Friday February 09, 2007 @02:13PM (#17951182) Journal
                Most of you probably know all this and I'm likely just stating the obvious.

                RIAA uses an old but effective technique to keep their royalties coming: information hoarding. A fully-transparent accounting of costs per CD, traced back to what the artist gets and including taxes, etc, would neuter most of the arguments or at least put them on the same playing field for fair comparisons.

                Once this is done, it becomes easy to look at artist output as the sum of recording studio time plus expenses, then promotion costs, and so forth down to distribution which, then, becomes very small as a line-item cost. Once the cost components are transparent, effective arbitrage pushes these costs down as well.

                -BA

          • by hachete (473378)

            Exactly. Personally, I'll happily pay to go to an official service, with high quality mp3 downloads, where I can quickly search by artist, song-title, album, etc. and find the exact track I'm looking for, know that what I'm getting is what is actually labeled, know what the quality of the file is, etc. As long as the files aren't DRM'd and the price is reasonable. Why waste time with p2p networks where you never know exactly what you're getting, download times are inconsistent, etc?

            Hopefully if the labels go through with this, they follow the "long tail" approach and put plenty of obscure tracks up as well... demos, b-sides, live recordings, unreleased tracks, etc. Give music fans what they're looking for and they'll pay (well, some of us will anyway).

            I'd happily buy most of my MP3 collection again if I knew I was getting the following:

            1. Consistent, high-grade quality recording
            2. Full Metadata on each track.

            And i'd probably like to buy into other services like film-previews, guitar-tabs, words, scores etc. Imagine a fully-searchable database with that amount of meta-data. Google would go nuts to do something like that. The linked advertising would be a freaking gold-mine.

            I've noticed that my militancy - as measured by how much and exactly what I downlo

            • Re:Recent EMI News (Score:4, Interesting)

              by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Friday February 09, 2007 @01:56PM (#17950904)
              I've noticed that my militancy - as measured by how much and exactly what I download - has gotten worse the more the *AA stupity has gone on. In the beginning, it was stuff I'd already bought. Now it's a little wider.

              Interesting - my experience has been exactly the same.

              I want to support the artists. I think most people do. I still buy CD's most of the time. But I will not buy anything encumbered with DRM (at least not DRM that I can't easily get around).

              The more pissed off I have gotten with the RIAA, though, the more I've almost wanted to actively stick it to them. I've downloaded from Allofmp3.com, and I've downloaded through bittorrent. Not a lot, and I still try to justify it by saying it's stuff that I wouldn't otherwise buy at all. (For stuff I really care about, I still buy the CD.) But that's more of a rationalization than just downloading music I already own on another format, which is also how I started out. The RIAA has made me care a lot less about being on the right side of the law, because their idea of what the right side of the law is is both factually incorrect in many cases and also completely unreasonable. It's like telling somebody that not only can they not jaywalk (which is and should be illegal), but that they also can't cross the street from a corner with a "walk" signal. You're only allowed to cross the street in the presence of a uniformed RIAA representative, and if no such representative is around, tough. That is not an edict I'd follow, anymore than I'd follow their edicts about DRM'd music (especially their consideration of ripping CD's for my own personal use as "piracy"). Worse, the fact that they're trying to redefine the law on their own terms and enforce it themselves just makes me want to do exactly the opposite of what they're telling me to do. So now I'm going to jaywalk too, even when I wouldn't have before. I mean, if they're gonna make a criminal out of me anyway, I may as well go all the way.

              They need to seriously start repairing their relationship with their customers. Ditching DRM is a good first step, and a necessary one. But it's going to take more than that to win me back as a full-time customer and to wean me off physical CD's. They need to completely re-evaluate everything from the top-down, starting with the artists they sign and promote, then the deals they sign with those artists (the artists need to be the ones taking the lead in promoting their music - I shouldn't even know what label somebody's on), then the way they distribute that music and the value they include with it. They need to be way more customer-friendly, which includes not insulting my intelligence with a bunch of American Idol wannabes all the time, not forcing DRM down my throat and not complaining that CD's are "too cheap". They need to realize that we're the ones keeping them in business with the products we buy, so if they want to make more money, they're going to need to provide us with more value for that money. Part of that means not crippling their songs with DRM.
        • by dirk (87083)
          I think the only reason this is even being talked about is that the they don't have to rely on the honor system as much. P2P has been slowly dying for the average person for a while. With music being available to purchase online, and the crap quality of downloads from most P2P services (viruses, fake, files, mislabeled songs, etc) most people have moved away from P2P. BitTorrent is the one exception, but that is still more of a geek tool that the average person has no clue about. P2P certainly isn't dea
        • by Jessta (666101)
          So make the honour system work. They have to make good music and people have to care about the bands enough to buy the music.
          You have to sell the band not the music.
        • The best way to satisfy the both sides of the argument, is to provide a Digitally signed MP3, or watermarked MP3 to the user who purchased the song. The watermark, and/or the digital signature will be "damaged" on an attempt to recode or change format.

          The files are still MP3's, and are playable on any system. It can be backed up whole, and will satisfy any fair use clauses.

          A file can then be validated as genuine by checking the prescense of the signature/watermark. If the watermark/signature is valid, then
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Given M. Sur (870067)
        Somebody has to do it but first, the music "sharing" (pronounced "stealing") problem still needs to be solved or EMI will be very broke, very fast

        How do you figure? They've been making quite a profit selling CDs which are easily transferable to mp3, so why would also selling mp3s hurt that profit? If anything it'd help.
        • by Divebus (860563)

          ...why would also selling mp3s hurt that profit?

          Here's my leading theory as to why selling MP3s and selling CDs is different: Most people who have bought CDs used them in a CD player. As pervasive as portable music players are becoming, I'm sure the majority of individual CDs have never been ripped. Slashdotters don't count as a majority (sorry). I get that data from the cross section of people I know with large CD collections who don't own a DMP/iPod. The ones who do own an iPoddish device maybe rip a C

        • by shark72 (702619)

          "How do you figure? They've been making quite a profit selling CDs which are easily transferable to mp3, so why would also selling mp3s hurt that profit? If anything it'd help."

          Their profits were actually reported in the article. They netted 63MM pounds last year on sales of 868MM pounds. That's about 7% net margin, which is pretty bad compared to some of the companies we all know and love. It puts them on the razor's edge, which explains why they are quite paranoid about trying anything radically new.

      • Re:Recent EMI News (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ZachPruckowski (918562) <zachary.pruckowski@gmail.com> on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:16AM (#17948214)
        Currently, nearly all music from EMI is available on CDs anyways. So there's no "sharing" issue, because it's just as easy to pirate someone's MP3 they ripped as to pirate someone's MP3 they bought. Therefore, removing DRM from downloadable music does nothing to most piracy.
      • "the music "sharing" (pronounced "stealing") problem still needs to be solved or EMI will be very broke, very fast"

        Protectionism at its best. EMI is going to go broke because what they do (find, promote, and distribute music) is done better and at lower cost by middle schoolers in their spare time.

        • by jfengel (409917)
          Well, yes and no. Those middle schoolers aren't passing around indie bands. They're passing around what EMI sells them. Those middle schoolers are extremely influenced by advertising. That's why all the middle schoolers are trading the same stuff (and why it's so easy to find on file sharing networks: they're all sharing the same stuff).

          I've never heard of an indie band being discovered by middle school students. Occasionally one gets heard and achieves a kind of cult status among college students, but ha
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by punkr0x (945364)
        One can already get all the free music they want from EMI artists. This won't change the illegal file sharing side of things; maybe make it a little easier, but the music is already out there so what's the difference. I think it is a fantastic move to cater to what the consumers want, rather than telling them what they want.
      • Re:Recent EMI News (Score:5, Insightful)

        by pla (258480) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:51AM (#17948776) Journal
        Somebody has to do it but first, the music "sharing" (pronounced "stealing") problem still needs to be solved or EMI will be very broke, very fast.

        Why?

        DRM-less music has existed for longer than its DRM-encumbered counterpart. The web, Napster (v1), Kazaa, AllOfMP3 all made every album ever released fairly easy to get free or cheap, without any DRM.

        And yet... The music industry still manages billions of dollars in sales per year.

        How can that happen? It only takes one copy, right?



        What the RIAA, MPAA, and apparently you need to understand, most people consider themselves basically honest. People want to "do the right thing", and they want to support their favorite artists.

        People do not, however, like getting "burned" buying an album of crap with one overhyped single on it.

        You basically have two kinds of music downloaders... The first group (which I consider the vast majority) downloads a few tracks to check them out, and if they enjoy the music, they'll buy the album. The music industry should court these people, not take them to court, because they count as customers (if they don't get too pissed off at the antipiracy measures put in their way). The second group will download anything and everything the can, and wouldn't dream of paying for music. You can fairly call them parasites, but their behavior (and how little they actually buy) wouldn't change in the least if the MP3 fairy came along and made it physically impossible to pirate music. So, as much as the industry may hate them, they have no effect on sales, whether given free reign to download, or whether DRM eventually proves effective in stopping them.

        I would actually add to that one more pseudocategory, the "potential" customers... These people fall into the first group but currently can't afford to actually buy much music. Many college students fall into this category. Although they may superficially look like group #2 at their present station in life, in a decade they will start replacing their collection with legally obtained copies, to the great profit of the music industry.



        So, does the industry need to address the "problem" of try-before-you-buy, or embrace it? Since we don't already all have a complete collection of every song ever made, despite the ready availability of them, I'd say "no". This problem exists only in the closets and under the beds of media company CEOs.
      • by Gr8Apes (679165)
        The music "sharing" issue is irrelevant to EMI's selling no DRM music. I guarantee you that you can go out and find any EMI artist on some P2P network. However, if I now can download a guaranteed lossless quality music stream at a reasonable price without DRM, there'd be no qualms here about buying it online.

        Note that MP3 != lossless, thus MP3s online are of little value to me. They're merely teasers for getting a CD, or not.
      • by aralin (107264)
        What are you talking about? I get a CD, rip it to mp3 or I buy an mp3 in digital store. Where is the difference? If EMI is not going very broke from selling 90% of its music on CD, then I see no reason, why they should go broke with selling the rest as mp3. What you say is not insightful, it is repeating the logical fallacy that brought us here!
        • by Divebus (860563)

          What are you talking about? I get a CD, rip it to mp3 or I buy an mp3 in digital store. Where is the difference?

          There's no difference between the two in your scenario. The difference is you're buying music instead of "sharing" it from somewhere else.

          What you say is not insightful, it is repeating the logical fallacy that brought us here!

          Ahhh... bullshit. What I'm saying is what brought us to DRM. According to the music industry, they're not selling 90% of the music out there. The global piracy rates [forbes.com]

      • Re:Recent EMI News (Score:4, Insightful)

        by DreadfulGrape (398188) on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:52PM (#17949798)
        I respectfully disagree.

        When DRM is abandoned, sales of digital music will go through the roof. It will promote greater competition across a more level playing field all throughout the music industry (i.e. Jobs is right).
        • by Divebus (860563)

          When DRM is abandoned, sales of digital music will go through the roof.

          I'd say we do agree but for slightly different reasons. Maybe sales to Slashdotters will go through the roof but the general public hasn't cared so far - a couple billion DRM'd tracks sold tells me that. The major impact may well be subscription services going the way of the DIVX [pay-per-view] DVD and those customers will begin actually buying music. Also, the general notion of making it simpler to buy music which plays anywhere will

    • Re:Recent EMI News (Score:5, Interesting)

      by uradu (10768) on Friday February 09, 2007 @10:44AM (#17947712)
      > If my tax dollars were paying for all of EMI's music to enter public domain

      Who the hell is talking about that? You're reading things into it that aren't there.

      On a different note, if EMI is seriously considering selling unencumbered music, I would suggest they buy allofmp3's back-end software, or they develop something along similar lines along with a similar sales model, except of course more realistic pricing that hopefully actually compensates the artists. I personally consider up to around $5 an album for 128Kbps MP3 an acceptable price, any higher than than and downloads almost completely lose their attraction. Future pricing models simply HAVE to take into consideration the quality-per-buck aspect, otherwise it won't fly long term. Paying $10 an album for considerably lower quality than what you get on a CD from Target or Wal-Mart at the same price simply won't fly. Besides, offering a tiered pricing model also gives them the chance to zero in on the sweet spot of the market.
      • Re:Recent EMI News (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SkunkPussy (85271) on Friday February 09, 2007 @10:57AM (#17947908) Journal
        I wouldn't pay 5$ for a 128kbps mp3 album when I could down 192kbps VBR for free. 128kbps mp3 isn't even worth listening to, unless you're into poetry/other spoken material

        I would however pay £5 for a high- or very high- quality mp3 album.
        • by uradu (10768)
          > I wouldn't pay 5$ for a 128kbps mp3 album when I could down 192kbps VBR for free.

          We're not talking about pirating here, of course free will always beat non-free. We're talking about what a sensible pricing model would be so that a large percentage of people would buy instead of copy. And no, I don't consider 128K MP3 the bee's knee either, it was just an example. Somehing more palatable for $5 might be 160K WMA or equivalent. My point was to offer a tiered pricing model so users could make their own qu
        • by aclarke (307017)
          I'm with you on that. When I can get an actual, real-live "CD quality" download, or better yet, one ripped at an even higher bitrate from the master if it's available, I'll happily spend money on downloads. High-quality downloads without the physical CD and case are worth about as much to me as a purchased CD, which is to say $10-13 for a CD I really want. Which is why I buy most of my CDs used.

          Seriously though, if I could get at least CD-quality music at iTunes pricing without DRM, I'd spend money on
        • by byolinux (535260) *
          eMusic.com then. 15 quid a month for 90 or 75 downloads (they're changing from 90 to 75) - you can get 25 free downloads.

          http://www.emusic.com?fref=700038 [emusic.com] (referrer link - gives me 50 free downloads if you like it)
        • I wouldn't pay 5$ for a 128kbps mp3 album when I could down 192kbps VBR for free. 128kbps mp3 isn't even worth listening to, unless you're into poetry/other spoken material

          So buy the CD. The quality is great. Some people care about obeying legal systems even if they're working to actively change them.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jZnat (793348) *
        How about they just put their music on eMusic or style their store after Magnatune? On the eMusic side, they encode using lame --preset fast standard (or something similar, perhaps they truly do mean 192k VBR and use lame --abr 192 -q 2 or similar; however, VBR according to LAME is only available with the --preset [standard,extreme,etc.] and -V n [--new-vbr] options), which is definitely a high-quality MP3 file. On the other hand, Magnatune offers your choice of (each choice is in a zip file because you b
        • by Znork (31774)
          "How about they just put their music on eMusic"

          Please, no. Then I'd have to start riaa-radar filtering eMusic artists to avoid EMI.

          The jackbooted thugs of the RIAA may be doing what they can to corrupt the politicians, but I'll be damned if I'm going to help finance them.
      • by subsolar2 (147428)
        Actually eMusic would be better since they already have the back end setup and all they sell is unencumbered MP3s. Most of the music is encoded at 192Kbps VBR and sounds good for MP3s and they have Nettwerk and a few other labels selling unrestricted music on there. There are also alot of punk there if your into that.

        On thing I'm not a fan of is eMusic's subscription model, yes you can buy booster packs got get more songs than your monthly allotment.
    • Re:Recent EMI News (Score:5, Interesting)

      by antonyb (913324) on Friday February 09, 2007 @10:46AM (#17947724)
      The internal restructuring is on the back of extremely bad financial results. Its also worth noting that since the CEO and CFO stepped down, a deal has been struck with a Chinese ISP [emigroup.com] which comes off the back of a failed legal action by EMI to sue the same ISP for linking to illegal downloads. EMI internally, believe it or not, has a fairly enlightened view of mp3 & DRM, but have been hampered by their old-fashioned board of directors. I think they're likely to be the first to ditch DRM and sell unfettered music downloads.


      ant.

    • I'm assuming that those profits are primarily music based so what amount would you have to offer the world's largest independent music company to be able to release their MP3s without any form copy protection? It's difficult to consider anyone being able to afford this.

      No one needs to offer EMI anything. Even in the summary, it says that EMI wants to drop DRM in order to compete with Apple's iTunes. Since iTMS sells everything in DRM form, they're hoping (rightly so) that people will get their music from someone that does not do DRM -- or more accurately, someone that will allow them to play their music on whatever player they choose, move it to their home stereo, etc.

    • by rolfwind (528248)

      I'm assuming that those profits are primarily music based so what amount would you have to offer the world's largest independent music company to be able to release their MP3s without any form copy protection?

      They've been releasing music for years now without copyprotection and still do. It's called a music CD. DRM does not protect music from pirates, it merely makes it more annoying for customers, hopefully to point that they'll end up buying the same music again.

    • Oh I'm ok if it's your tax dollars- just as long as it's not mine.
  • by gravesb (967413) on Friday February 09, 2007 @10:26AM (#17947490) Homepage
    One of the big four has to be first. Maybe if one takes that big first step, the rest will realize the folly of DRM and follow.
    • by Duds (100634) *
      It'll be interesting, because Jobbs has the cheek to claim that the itunes library is ALL DRM because he has to go for consistency and that's why they sell some stuff DRM'd that emusic doesn't.

      So.... what if one of the big 4 removes DRM, Apple is faced with the choice of either a) admitting they were lying all along and selling EMI stuff without DRM or b) Putting DRM straight back on.
      • by FLEB (312391)
        Who says EMI's going to sell it DRM-free through iTMS? The "consistency" Apple needs to maintain is both to keep the end-user process uncomplicated (more of the "PR-friendly" reason, but it does hold some water), and to keep their labels happy-- no one label wants to choose between dropping DRM or having a visible lack of value when placed next to less-restricted files in the same store.
        • by Duds (100634) *
          And that's the point, if Apple sticks to its guns and continues to put DRM on EMI's stuff they're going to get buried when people seriously start going elsewhere for everything owned by them. This isn't buttfuck records, this is probably a very measureable proportion of their sales.
  • Compression (Score:4, Interesting)

    by skriefal (267794) on Friday February 09, 2007 @10:30AM (#17947520)
    This is a good first step. Now start selling the tracks without lossy compression! 99 cents per track for FLAC downloads and even *I* might be interested.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by $RANDOMLUSER (804576)
      I think it is a good step. Selling MP3s for cheap online, and selling FLAC on CDs is a win/win for everyone. We'd get the "songs" we want for our iPods, and the "albums" we want for our audiophile rigs.
      • by stud9920 (236753) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:42AM (#17948618)
        An average audiophile will find a FLAC tune worse than the equivalent CD.
        • Sure, but an average audiophile is also convinced that 1000$ cables sound better than 100$ cables... So, do you know of any ABX test results of CD vs. FLAC (both played by a good quality DA-converter naturally) or are you just telling us what the average audiophile would like the results to be?

          I'm not picking a fight here, I'd be really interested to read about a test if there's been one...

          • by imsabbel (611519)
            The last Audiophile forum i read in FORBATE double-blind tests as "unscientific and biased" in their forum rules.

            And inside, tons of stories how that new golden SPDIF cable and the newer power-plugs improved sound.

    • Hmm, I just have to pop your bubble - any sampled music is lossy... ;)
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)
        Any recorded music is lossy. If it's digital, then the loss is determined by the bit rate and the compression algorithm. If it's analogue then it's determined by the bandwidth of the underlying substrate. The question is, how much loss are you willing to accept? I have a few CDs where I can hear loss from the original analogue recording, and some where I can hear loss from the digital transfer. Most of my CDs, however, are a sufficiently close approximation of lossless that my ears can't tell the diffe
        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:03AM (#17948000)
          I am willing to accept zero loss. Until the music industry can get its act together and have the band play a concert at my house for 99 cents a song, I refuse to pay. Those of us with high-end auditoriums in our garages don't want any of this lossy sampled stuff. Good day to you, sir!
          • by Kjella (173770)
            What an outrage! At those prices, they should build the auditorium in your garage. And the garage. And hold a backstage party. And bring groupies. In fact, forget the concert.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I have never bought online music simply for the DRM. If this is available (at a good bit rate)
    and the price is fair, there are a lot of songs I've wanted to buy. I only liked one or two
    songs from the album so I was never going to go buy the whole CD anyway.

  • Dear EMI, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kirun (658684) on Friday February 09, 2007 @10:39AM (#17947648) Homepage Journal
    You want my money? You sign up with eMusic and so will I. Deal?
  • by jpellino (202698) on Friday February 09, 2007 @10:41AM (#17947672)
    "My father sold his entire music collection to the public in MP3 form without Digital Rights Management restrictions... ONCE."

    • AllofMP3.com sells it over and over and over.

      So can EMI.

      • by shark72 (702619)

        "AllofMP3.com sells it over and over and over. So can EMI."

        ...but why would you buy from EMI when the pirate sites sell it for pennies on the dollar?

    • "My father sold his entire music collection to the public in MP3 form without Digital Rights Management restrictions... ONCE."
      It's not like the music sold with DRM doesn't wind up on pirate sites anyways. All it takes is one person to convert a song to mp3 and it's all over the net. Might as well give your paying customers the benefits of mp3.
      • We've been up and down this piracy issue a thousand times, and I think we should all be able to agree by now: They can't stop piracy. It's just not going to happen. For any DRM, all it takes is one person to be able to bypass it or crack it, through however elaborate means are necessary. That person can upload it to the internet, millions of people can copy it, and the DRM has failed.

        If content owners want us to pay for content, they need to make it easier, not harder. They need to make the whole thing

  • by zuvembi (30889) <I_charge_100USD_ ... e@unixbigots.org> on Friday February 09, 2007 @10:46AM (#17947726) Homepage
    I thought I heard someone say something about one of the music majors actually wanting my money. Well, you know, without tying me down with a bunch of crappy DRM. Which I can't use anyway since I'm dumb enough to be a Linux user.

    I'm confused, and I think my wallet's a little frightened. I might actually be able to spend money on new music. How strange.
  • So by AllofMp3.com (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 09, 2007 @10:54AM (#17947870)
    Maybe they should buy AllofMp3.com, because that store was/is rivalling iTunes in the UK and that is despite being it on an iffy legal basis and requiring giving your credit card details to a dodgy Russian outfit.

    I know the common perception is that they shoveled product at dirt cheap prices, but the prices were not that cheap (albums cost around $3) and they were easily able to get the sale price EVEN THOUGH THE P2P NETWORKS HAD THE PRODUCT FOR FREE
      Plus they were working on download managers etc. and have the experience of running a major store.

    EMI could sell their own product through their own store (allofmp3 mk2) and make their own money and even sell it to iPod users.
  • by ryanduff (948159) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:09AM (#17948112)

    The reasons, of course, have nothing to do with taking a moral stand; EMI wants to compete with Apple. 'The London-based EMI is believed to have held talks with a wide range of online retailers that compete with Apple's iTunes.

    Not according to the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/09/business/media/0 9online.html [nytimes.com]:

    EMI, which releases music by artists including Coldplay and the Beatles, has discussed various proposals to sell unprotected files through an array of digital retailers, including Apple, Microsoft, Real Networks and Yahoo, said the executives, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Don't be confused by the submitter's opinion. Moral reasons vs competition was mentioned nowhere in the linked Associated Press article...
    In the manner of Steve Ballmer "FUD! FUD! FUD!"
  • by Zigurd (3528) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:10AM (#17948116) Homepage
    iTunes was critical for iPod to become dominant and fend off challengers, but now that both iPod and iTunes dominate in media players and media downloads, iTunes is more of a limitation than a defense for iPod.

    Apple will greatly benefit from the destruction of the iTunes "one price, everything DRM'ed" model for music. As Jobs pointed out in his essay, only a tiny fraction of music on iPods is bought from iTunes. If iPod is to continue to grow as fast as it is now, ripping CDs will become a bottleneck. A multi-supplier, competitively priced, flexible, compatible, user-friendly download business is needed for the media-player business to reach the next level of expansion.

    What will prevent piracy? The same thing that made phone phreaking obsolete: Music, like long distance phone service, will become too cheap to steal. $0.10 to get a high quality digital recording vs. swapping sketchy rips with sketchy people - the choice is easy. The other side of the coin is that $0.10 is too little money to support the customer service required when people migrate a DRM'ed music collection from one computer to another or one player to another.
    • by jonwil (467024)
      Actually, phone phreaking became obsolete when the phone companies upgraded to new digital switching systems that moved all the signaling and control out-of-band and sending tones down the phone line didn't work to get free calls anymore.
    • by RevMike (632002)

      What will prevent piracy? The same thing that made phone phreaking obsolete: Music, like long distance phone service, will become too cheap to steal. $0.10 to get a high quality digital recording vs. swapping sketchy rips with sketchy people - the choice is easy. The other side of the coin is that $0.10 is too little money to support the customer service required when people migrate a DRM'ed music collection from one computer to another or one player to another.

      Piracy via P2P is really motivated by three

  • If it's gotta be MP3s (as opposed to lossless), then please, please, please don't encode the tracks you intend to sell at worse than

    lame --vbr-new -h --preset standard

  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:28AM (#17948424)
    Hey, EMI!

    How about you just *continue* to release albums in the best digital sound quality possible (i.e. on CD) and just make the price of those a lot more reasonable?

    Then all of us out here in Consumerland can rip the CDs to whatever format is appropriate to us and not go into fits of hysterical laughter when a Beatles album that was recorded 40 years ago appears in a shop with a £15+ price tag.

    If people want the option of picking tracks from albums in a lossy format, then let them have it - but if theire lives are so damned hectic that they cannot find the time to listen to an album from start to finish, then they are not the true, CD-buying music enthusiasts anyway.

    And if people start whining about "only 2 or 3 good tracks on an album" then suggest that they do a little more research into music and go find some better music.

    • by shark72 (702619)

      "Then all of us out here in Consumerland can rip the CDs to whatever format is appropriate to us and not go into fits of hysterical laughter when a Beatles album that was recorded 40 years ago appears in a shop with a £15+ price tag."

      You are DEFINITELY shopping in the wrong places. Amazon.co.uk has most of the Beatles' catalog on sale for £7.99 - £8.99. That new "Love" is 15 quid, but it comes with a second DVD Audio disc with 5.1 sound. If you buy two of those £7.99 Beatles CDs

      • You are DEFINITELY shopping in the wrong places. Amazon.co.uk has most of the Beatles' catalog on sale for £7.99 - £8.99.

        Just to clarify that I do the majority of my music shopping online. But I do also browse round stores like HMV or Virgin and *only occasionally* do I find something worth buying at a low enough price. Most of the time, I use them to discover a new album is out, then go home and buy it from Amazon or some other online retailer.

        But the fact that they give those CDs such high

    • You can't that old, if you don't recall that the best quality was from audiophile records. No reduction of quality to 44 kHz - the full audio range was available.

      Of course, I'm now too old to appreciate the higher quality, so CDs are about as good as it gets for me ...

      And yes, I have purchased entire albums (vinyl or otherwise) for one good track!

      • I certainly had a large collection of vinyl LPs but I always thought turntables and styli to be far more hassle than they were worth.

        I'm not in a position to argue with claims about vinyl reproduction being better than CD but the CD format is more convenient and gives excellent reproduction for much lower cost.

        You have to spend a lot of money to get the best reproduction from vinyl and be ultra-careful about LP storage, stylus wear, etc. I treat CDs carefully but, for me, vinyl is just not worth the eff

    • Best sound quality possible? Haven't heard about SACD and DVD-A then, have you?
      • Yep.

        Haven't tried them, I'm pretty happy with my reasonable quality CD player, amplifier and speakers. I enjoy my music on those.

        Maybe one day I'll hear SACD and DVD-A and be convinced otherwise. But for the moment I'm happy with what I've got.

  • by jocknerd (29758) on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:16PM (#17949200)
    He made a statement that Apple would sell music without DRM if the labels would let him and people accuse him of being a cheat, looking out for his own interests. How would selling DRM-free music benefit Apple at all? It wouldn't. It would level the playing field on both online stores and music players. Apple has about 70-75% of the market with DRM. How could they sustain this market with DRM-free music? I don't think they could. So for Jobs to say he wants to drop DRM is a big statement.

    I hope EMI follows through on this. Without DRM, now we'll have real competition. Stores will differentiate on quality of music, artists available, and price. I think in the end, FLAC will become the format of choice so player compatibility won't be an issue at all.

    And I still think Apple has something up its sleeve. Now that they've settled their feud with Apple Corp., they are free to enter the music business. At some point, they will have an agreement with a major artist to sell the artists music on iTunes without one of the Big 4 labels being involved. This could signal a major shift in artists way of thinking. Who needs a label if you can distribute your music through iTunes?

    This will also start a new industry of marketing agencies whose primary business will be marketing recording artists. They will become the promoters instead of the record labels. In 10 years, the labels will either be transformed into promoters or be out of business.
  • MP3 eh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by twbecker (315312) on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:22PM (#17949314)
    While I'm really glad that some in the industry are beginning to realize that it might be smart to dump DRM, I'm a little disappointed to see that MP3 looks like it's going to be the format of choice. Newer formats, like AAC and hell even WMA, offer better sound quality at lower bit rates, and hence, filesizes. If iTMS started selling non-DRM AAC, you have to wonder whether the allegations of lock-in would really go down. AAC, although open, isn't widely supported on non iPod players, is it?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Ansible42 (961707)
      I wish they'd start offering music in FLAC format. If you have a good stereo you can tell the difference. I'd like to see higher-than-CD bitrates too, there's no reason to stick with CD or less quality. I'd pay a little extra for a better format.
  • EMI has been pitching the possibility of selling its entire music collection to the public in MP3 form ... without Digital Rights Management protections.

    take out the 45 second step that they're saving me by pre-converting the sounds in .mp3 files, but haven't they, since the beginning, sold their entire music collection to the public without Digital Rights Management?

    All the EMI cd's i have are...

    I think steve missed a critical moment in his letter. He should have pointed out with a LOT more punch that the
    • I think steve missed a critical moment in his letter. He should have pointed out with a LOT more punch that they are all ALREADY selling their ENTIRE music collections without DRM in physical stores... and that we're simply talking about making the same possible on online stores.

      He did exactly that: [apple.com]

      Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music.

  • By eliminating DRM, all music suppliers whose primary revenue is a monthly subscription will have to change their business model. Napster, for example: They sell you all the music you can download and you pay a monthly fee. But as soon as you stop paying the fee, the DRM attached to your music prevents you from playing that music anymore. Thus, if music is sold without any DRM, then Napster and the like won't be able to offer a monthly subscription model. So the new choice in online music will be something
  • My first thought was:

    1. offer MP3s at 64Kbps
    2. profit!
    3. offer MP3s at 96Kbps
    4. profit!!
    5. offer MP3s at 128Kbps
    6. profit!!!

    and at 160 and 192, and whatever other bit rates, profiting each time.

    And that's with a decent but not top encoder, like, say LAME version 3.90. Then they can do it all over again with LAME 3.96, LAME 3.97, and each time there's another tiny improvement in the encoder. And again, with Ogg Vorbis for each tiny improvement in that encoder. And do it again for whatever other audio for

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