You know those movies where you think they've killed the last zombie and then the hero turns a corner and here comes a whole new crop of them sprung fresh from the graveyard? That's how it feels with DRM in the last couple of days. First, the New York Times' Bits blog leads with a questionable assertion from an NBC exec that Microsoft is considering building some sort of content-filtering into the Zune which would block transfer of non-approved video. (I know, this isn't quite the same as DRM, but bear with me.) Then RIAA exec David Hughes claims … Read more
If you're one of the few who downloaded music from MSN Music, which Microsoft shuttered shortly after launching its Zune initiative, then you have until Aug. 31 to get that music onto the five devices you're allowed to put it on. After that date, Microsoft is shuttering the DRM servers used with the service, and any further transfers will render the songs unplayable.
This is the inevitable last step in a transition that began when Microsoft killed its old PlaysForSure initiative. Why keep paying to maintain a service that's no longer offered, and runs counter to the … Read more
Sony BMG and Warner are both reported to be considering subscription-based music services.
Earlier this week, the AP quoted Sony BMG CEO Rolf Schmidt-Holtz discussing a subscription-based service that would offer unlimited downloads of all songs in the Sony BMG catalog for 6 to 8 euro. The downloads would be transferrable to all portable devices, including Apple's iPod. DRM would presumably play a part, so that content would be disabled on a device if you stopped paying the subscription.
Warner is taking a different approach, proposing that consumers be charged a monthly fee by their ISP--maybe five bucks--for the … Read more
Over on the Audiophiliac blog, Steve Guttenberg is polling readers about how they get their music. Here are my answers to his questions.
Do you buy CDs, LPs, MP3s, iTunes, or 8 track cartridges? I purchase about 80% of my music on LP. For a few years in the early 1990s it was almost impossible to find new vinyl, but now it's reasonably common, especially for indie rock, electronic music, and hip hop. (Classical? Not so much. Jazz? Only re-releases.) In fact, vinyl availability sometimes convinces me to buy a record I otherwise might have skipped--Of Montreal'sGladiator Nightstick Collection … Read more
Yahoo Music's going to join Amazon.com in offering DRM-free MP3s, either for free as part of an advertising-supported service, or for sale on a per-download basis, according to anonymous record company executives cited in this AP story.
Ian Rogers, the exec in charge of Yahoo's music service, has certainly thought long and hard about the future of the music industry, and Yahoo's got tons of traffic (which it hasn't done a very good job of monetizing, but that's another story). I like the site's search interface--it's a lot better than Amazon's, … Read more
A few days after I criticized Sony BMG for missing the point of DRM-free music--it's about convenience, which isn't served by forcing customers to walk into stores and buy cards and redeem them online--they proved me wrong by agreeing to release their catalog for sale on Amazon's DRM-free MP3 store. That means you'll be able to buy and download just about any song from Amazon and play it on any software or device. Let's hear it for universal playback, a mere ten years after the first MP3 player went on sale.
Subscription services like Rhapsody … Read more
Before I get into some of my CES floor finds, I had to comment on the strange announcement from Sony BMG this morning. As previously rumored, Sony will indeed join the other three major labels in selling DRM-free MP3 files to consumers. But wait! First, customers will have to walk into a retailer, plunk down $12.99 for a Platinum Pass card, then redeem a code from the back of the card on Sony's MusicPass.com Web site. And the music itself is being trickled out, starting with only 37 albums. (Press release is here if you want the … Read more
Looks like the first (and easiest) of my 2008 predictions is more or less coming true by the end of March. According to a story in today's Business Week, unnamed sources at Sony BMG have said that the company will sell at least some songs without DRM by the end of the first quarter. We've heard this rumor before: apparently Sony BMG will participate in a promotion sponsored by Pepsi in which soda buyers get free MP3 downloads from Amazon's music store.
This would be a remarkable turnaround for a company that didn't even let its … Read more
I've always preferred prognostication to nostalgia, so rather than replay the best of 2007, I'll use these late December doldrums to make 10 predictions for the coming year. Some editors will warn you that this kind of list is suicide--it's too easy for everybody to look back a year later and see where you were wrong--but it hasn't hurt Cringely, so here goes. In no particular order.
Amazon's digital music store, Amazon MP3, is now offering songs administered by Warner Music in the DRM-free MP3 format. This gives the store 2.9 million tracks, and leaves Sony/BMG as the last major label holdout. Not bad, considering Amazon MP3 launched only in September and is technically still in beta.
Amazon also said that 2007 was its best holiday season since it opened in 1994--and it wasn't just a strong economy, as other retailers reported a generally weak season. But I don't know if Amazon's effectively using its traffic to promote its digital offering: … Read more