Warner Hates DRM Just A Little Less Than iTunes.


So the net is abuzz with the story that Warner Music will sell DRM-free music through Amazon.

Numerous headlines call it a coup for Amazon, saying they beat Apple to the punch. And many are proclaiming it as a change of heart for Warner. It’s neither.

I don’t understand why it’s hard for some people to see that the only motive behind all this DRM-free love from Warner (and Universal before them) is motivated by the labels’ hatred for iTunes, and their attempts to break its popularity in the online music market. Amazon did nothing special to get Warner’s music, it was practically given to them by Warner.

Of the four major labels, only EMI makes their music DRM-free on iTunes as well as Amazon. And they did so long ago, without having to first make fools of themselves in a few more failed efforts. I would say that they have seen the light and shown a change of heart, but Universal and Warner? No.Consider the following:

  • It’s still not clear whether Universal has opened up their entire catalog DRM-free. That was certainly not the case when they initially made music available for Wal-Mart and Amazon.
  • Universal has also made their music available “free” (though not DRM-free) via other means such as Spiral Frog (which is bleeding money) and the Total Music initiative. They dole parts of their catalog out free or DRM-free to everyone but iTunes.
  • Warner is now making DRM-free music available for Amazon, but if it’s really a change of heart why do they care where the consumer gets the music? Why not make the obvious choice of also using the world’s largest online music store? Same goes for Universal.
  • Does anyone think Apple wouldn’t offer Universal or Warner music DRM-free if they could? Please. The labels are withholding it from them (either outright, or via unreasonable terms) in an attempt to gain some alleged advantage. This advantage is supposed to be pricing, and yet Amazon sells for the same (or maybe even less) than iTunes!

There is no change of heart, and the labels’ heads are still securely positions up their rectums. Any move they make to break iTunes, which is raking in money for the labels, proves that.

It concerns me that the labels hurt their own profits and customers’ interests in an attempt to get back at iTunes. It’s stupid, deceitful, and wrong-headed thinking. Why aren’t the stockholders enraged? I’ve come to expect this from the labels, but when I see how some of the headlines spin this latest announcement it’s clear some people aren’t paying attention.

Bottom line is this: If the music is truly without restriction, why do Universal and Warner care where you get it? It’d by like taking their CDs (also DRM-free) and selling them at Best Buy and Target but not Wal-Mart! It would be insanity to not sell your DRM-free CDs through the largest retailer, and yet when it comes to digital music this is just what Universal and Warner are doing. It’s almost impossible to construct a scenario where the reason behind this is anything other than taking misguided shots at iTunes in the face of ignoring your own potential sales, profits, and customers. Why they’re not called on this is beyond me.