Jobs’ Thoughts on Music

This may turn out to be big, Steve Jobs outlines possible scenarios for the future of music, among them to end the folly of DRM:

The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.

Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy.

Of course this was written in response to the pressure that some european governments like e.g. Norway are putting on iTunes and the Fairplay DRM-Scheme (see point no.2 in this Wired article by Eliot Van Buskirk on why mp3 will kill DRM – hehe, may this be one tiny little reason for Jobs move? Anyway he’s right, Apple’s got quite some flak lately, so better put up some shields or better lead the flak to a new goal – SonyBMG, EMI …).

Yet I couldn’t agree more, this scenario might be the best for everyone, i.e. media consumers, artists, labels and distributors alike.

Well, some DRM-based business model innovations may go down (and then, who cares or likes nifty-smarty pricing schemes that depend on DRM etc. when all that is really needed is simplicity of use), but there will be other chances for business model innovations in the music industry …

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