02 April 2007

The Great Content Taboo is Broken

This is what we've been waiting for:


EMI Music today announced that it is launching new premium downloads for retail on a global basis, making all of its digital repertoire available at a much higher sound quality than existing downloads and free of digital rights management (DRM) restrictions.

The new higher quality DRM-free music will complement EMI's existing range of standard DRM-protected downloads already available. From today, EMI's retailers will be offered downloads of tracks and albums in the DRM-free audio format of their choice in a variety of bit rates up to CD quality. EMI is releasing the premium downloads in response to consumer demand for high fidelity digital music for use on home music systems, mobile phones and digital music players.

The tracks are a little pricey:

Apple's iTunes Store (www.itunes.com) is the first online music store to receive EMI's new premium downloads. Apple has announced that iTunes will make individual AAC format tracks available from EMI artists at twice the sound quality of existing downloads, with their DRM removed, at a price of $1.29/€1.29/£0.99. iTunes will continue to offer consumers the ability to pay $0.99/€0.99/£0.79 for standard sound quality tracks with DRM still applied. Complete albums from EMI Music artists purchased on the iTunes Store will automatically be sold at the higher sound quality and DRM-free, with no change in the price. Consumers who have already purchased standard tracks or albums with DRM will be able to upgrade their digital music for $0.30/€0.30/£0.20 per track. All EMI music videos will also be available on the iTunes Store DRM-free with no change in price.

but that's not the point. A taboo has been broken, and things will never be the same again in the world of digital content.

8 comments:

Andrew Smith said...

The genie is out of the bottle....

glyn moody said...

Let's hope...

Bill said...

The new higher quality DRM-free music

Which means that the quality to date has been sub-optimal (or, as I prefer to call it, crap). Which is why I never bothered with online music in the first place.

What I don't get is why they are bundling the higher quality with the absence of DRM. Why not make the better stuff available all along? Also, if we are going to try to get inside the heads of moneygrubs, why only one extra charge for two new incentives to buy?

glyn moody said...

The cynic in me says that this is because they don't want people to follow the logic "no DRM" = higher value, ergo DRM = lower value (as you rightly say).

So they're trying to confuse the issue by changing two variables at once: "no DRM + higher bit rate" = higher value, but not just because there's no DRM, oh my word no....

Stephen Darlington said...

The funny thing about the pricing is that there is a premium for singles but not for albums!

The other thing I thought is how this is likely to affect Microsoft (I blogged about it). They spent the last five years duplicating Apples closed system, only to get there and find the rules have changed...

glyn moody said...

I think the fact that we're confused is an indication that they're confused....

You're probably right that this puts pressure on Microsoft on the music side, but I imagine they'll just switch their attention to video, where they're much more closely aligned with the big studios than they were with the music producers.

DRM'd video is going to be a much harder nut to crack than audio, I fear.

Rob said...

Sounds good (pun intended) but where these guys are going to trip up is that the music isn't going to be offered in MP3 format. They're still pushing the proprietary AAC format, just minus the DRM.

Now, I know that AAC files feature better compression, but gigbytes are cheap. And I'm sticking with MP3 for compatability-sake.

glyn moody said...

I agree: there are still obstacles. But removing DRM was the great taboo; with it gone, moving to MP3 (and maybe one day to Ogg) is much easier.