Friday, June 01, 2007

DRM's in Trouble? (Edit: Death of the CD?)

With this new announcement, saying that EMI is going to be providing free videos to YouTube, I'm starting to wonder. I think Jobs' speech might have hit home for a few people; it's not like P2P-friendly Canadian outfit Nettwerk is going out of business, after all, and it's not like all this DRM crap is helping the RIAA members either.

Edit: There's a pretty good article in the New York Times about this issue, talking about how this is likely the "last big Christmas" for CD sales- partially due to creative problems, and partially (supposedly) due to piracy- not filesharing, but informal ripping and burning between friends. Apple's sales on iTunes are exploding, but not as fast as CD sales are declining. Hence the no-DRM stuff- not only because Jobs doesn't like it, but because DRM-free AAC tracks can be played on any player, not just the iStuff.

I think the market's pretty much locked-in on iTunes, though. I've said it before, and I still believe it- Apple has been aiming to end up in a dominant position in the music industry as it shifts over to online distribution, and what we're seeing now is Jobs pulling it off. The real question is whether he can pull the same feat for other media, and I definitely think that's a real and significant one. AppleTV may not be as ubiquitous as the Tivo, nor will it ever necessarily be... but it might set the stage for other devices that play nice with iTunes and that blur the line between "television" and "downloaded video". The huge adoption problems that the HD-DVD formats are having are only going to accentuate this- why buy a huge new player and rebuy all your movies when you can just download the things and watch them through your iTivo or whatever?

This makes me wonder, though. With the CD dying, MP3s having the same old fidelity issues, and vinyl still popular among the DJ set, are we going to see a further revival of vinyl records? Sure, they can hiss and pop, but CDs have never quite replicated the warmth of sound that you get from a well-produced record, and CD-scratchers will always be ludicrously silly. The decline of rap won't help that much, but there's always going to be a market for turntablists- it's just too useful for parties.

Props to Michael Geist, who really is the best goddamned source on these here Intertubes on this sort of thing. Welcome to the blogroll, perfesser.

Edit again: Go read this piece in the Lefsetz Letter too on the death of the CD, and what music looks like afterwards. Depending on how you feel about the music industry, it's either depressing or exhilirating.

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