Monday, April 02, 2007

Mine's a 99p download

News that EMI are going to ditch DRM (Digital Rights Management) and encode their tracks at a higher bit-rate, but for a cost, reminds me of the old joke about whether you'd have "sex for a million pounds." Ok, if you say yes, we know what you are, now let's negotiate on the price. For the joke is that the music industry does already sell DRM-free digital tracks - they are called CDs. Given that they tend to translate 99p in the UK to 99 cents in the US (twice the price, thank you very much), I'm not sure this is exactly the revolution that will save EMI from the ditch in which its been driving. Let's now talk about price... a £5 back catalogue CD to download with 12 tracks will now cost you £12 from iTunes without a cover or any of that other nice stuff; and that its still in bed with the abysmal Apple doesn't make it any better. I prefer the 20p a track I'm paying with emusic, with no downloads, and a lovely excursion through the backwaters of independently released music. If EMI had any balls it would have made its entire back catalogue available DRM-free either through iTunes or someone else and had differentiated the price as it does in record shops - but totalitarian Apple wouldn't want that either, would it? It's clear that this "model" - higher quality, higher price - is to enable them to sell the Beatles catalogue in a little while, even if this wasn't their announcement today. This is, remember, a last throw of the dice for beleaguered EMI, that they've thrown it so tentatively shows how little faith they have in either their product or consumer. This one will run and run....

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