Thursday, January 8, 2009

The New Tale of iTunes

Apple announced recently that things are going to be a little different in iTunes town starting in April. The good: Steve Jobs and co. have added three more major labels (Sony, Universal, and Warner Music) to their arsenal. The better: DRM-free MP3s (digital rights management that prevents easy copying). The "eh": ITunes is getting rid of its flat rate of 99 cents per song and instead basing pricing on popularity and age. 69 cents will get you an older catalogued tune, 99 cents will get you a regular "new" song and a $1.29 will get you the latest single from the Jo. Bros. (that's right, I can't even bear to fully type out the names of this (Mickey) mouse dropping of a band).

So what does that mean for us? There's never been a better time to have obscure taste in indie music and a love for oldies.

As for the DRM-free business, I could care less. What the implications are of making it easier to copy MP3s, I'm sure I don't know fully, but I doubt this will change much. If someone is seriously concerned with copying music, then you've got to wonder if they paid for it in the first place. Just sayin'.

I've been digging around, reading up on the subject. If preventing piracy is so important, then why would seemingly vital protection be compromised in a business deal? Well, some seem to think that DRM was more of a bargaining chip in the first place, something that could be held on to to wrangle price hikes or whatever else. I can buy that theory. Others think it's been a control issue more than a protective measure. Apparently iTunes was "the last major hold out" regarding the protection on its music. Ex. Amazon has been DRM-free over a year now.

Another article I read pointed out that this weakens the link between iPod and iTunes, meaning people could start going for competing products like SanDisk, or iRiver. That's Apple's problem, but I tend to think that there's way too much brand recognition and built-in status in the iPod to seriously worry about potentially plummeting iPod sales. I could see more of an issue in the inverse, like who cares what kind of coffee you put in your Starbucks mug? But, why would you put Starbucks coffee in a regular mug if that's what you're going for? No doubt, there are better products than the iPod, but in many ways they are lesser-known entities and that hurts. On principle, I sell the average consumer short when it comes to technology. And I make no apologies about it.

Taking a step back though, I think iTunes is going to remain king a long time and as long as they don't do something stupid like stop selling music, there's not a whole lot they could do to screw things up.

Enjoy this excellent illustration.

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