Much has been made lately of the recent news that Warner began selling DRM-free music via Amazon. There was even talk about how three of the big four labels are now offering DRM-free music, so all that was needed was for Sony to get into line.Well, now there’s a story from BusinessWeek that Sony is negotiating DRM-free music sales as well.There’s a certain amount of rejoicing over this, but I’m still unimpressed.
Why am I not thrilled? Well, can you reasonably expect to buy DRM-free music from these labels at most places digital downloads are sold? No. Can you even expect DRM-free music from these labels at the major stores where digital downloads are sold? No.Consider this:
- The BW story says Sony will make “at least a part” of its catalog available. In other words, we’re throwing you some bones, but don’t think we’re against DRM to the point where we abandon it altogether.
- Sony’s music will be available online only from (surprise!) Amazon.com. No iTunes. Is it a coincidence that Universal, Warner, and perhaps Sony won’t sell on iTunes (you know, the word’s most popular download music store)? How could anyone believe that? I wouldn’t believe it for a minute. It’d be borderline collusion from the three largest labels.
- Universal, as far as I know, is also only allowing part of it catalog to be DRM-free. That was the case initially, and I’ve seen no announcement that they’ve opened up everything.
- Of the big four labels, only the smallest (EMI) made their DRM-free music available through iTunes. The other labels music on iTunes is still with DRM, while they peddle their DRM-free wares elsewhere.
So why only part of the Universal and Sony catalogs? And why not iTunes? It’s clear DRM-free is little more right now than the carrot on the stick the labels are offering consumers. It’s the shiny object they distract you with. But they have something else up their sleeve they’re not divulging.I certainly don’t mind people snapping up the DRM-free music wherever its available if they want to, but I do mind that not enough people are questioning the true motives of the labels here. This is not “seeing the light” or “embracing” the new order of DRM-free tunes. This is a carefully crafted attack by the labels on iTunes, pricing and, yes, keeping DRM alive in some cases.When the Warner deal was announced I wrote the following, and now I can add Sony:
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.
When the labels open up their entire catalogs DRM-free, and when they sell on iTunes (and other sites, for that matter), then I’ll believe they’ve finally gotten the hint and given up on all the stupid schemes and plans they’ve held for the last eight years. We’re not there yet, and until then I think they still need to be watched.[UPDATE:] Updated article based on confirmation that Amazon will be the only online store used for Sony DRM-free music.