Major music labels ponder DRM-free future

“As even digital music revenue growth falters because of rampant file-sharing by consumers, the major record labels are moving closer to releasing music on the Internet with no copying restrictions — a step they once vowed never to take,” Victoria Shannon reports for The New York Times.

“Executives of several technology companies meeting here at Midem, the annual global trade fair for the music industry, said over the weekend that at least one of the four major record companies could move toward the sale of unrestricted digital files in the MP3 format within months,” Shannon reports. “Most independent record labels already sell tracks digitally compressed in the MP3 format, which can be downloaded, e-mailed or copied to computers, cellphones, portable music players and compact discs without limit.”

Shannon reports, “For the major recording companies, however, selling in the MP3 format would be a capitulation to the power of the Internet, which has destroyed their control over the worldwide distribution of music. Until last year, the industry was counting on online purchases of music, led by Apple’s iTunes music store, to make up the difference.”

“But digital sales in 2006, while 80 percent ahead of the year before, grew slower than in 2005 and did not compensate for the decline in physical sales, according to an industry report released in London last week,” Shannon reports.

MacDailyNews Take: The ability to buy (or steal) singles – or only the good songs – cuts into the labels’ profits as they can longer rely on selling 1 or 2 good songs bundled with 8 or more filler tracks as they could with physical media like CDs.

Shannon continues, “”There is a groundswell, and I say that on the basis of private conversations,’ said Rob Glaser, chief executive of RealNetworks, which sells digital music protected against piracy through the Rhapsody subscription service. ‘It will happen between next year and five years from now, but it is more likely to be in one to two years,’ he said.”

Full article here.
Today’s easily-removed DRM only hinders legal users, not the pirates. Removing DRM will increase online music sales. Bring it on – the sooner, the better!

Related articles:
Report: Apple to license FairPlay DRM – January 17, 2007
Hollywood movie studios demand Apple strengthen DRM limitations before joining iTunes – November 29, 2006
Apple’s vs. Microsoft’s music DRM: whose solution supports more users? – August 17, 2005


  1. Of course, this does not necessarily mean that iTunes songs would no longer have FairPlay. I do find it a bit interesting to look back and see all the people here that said that DRM is a necessity and that we will always have it.

  2. It’s a sensible move, because DRM just punishes your paying customers and is not successful in preventing copying. I’ve read countless reports on how Apple are the bad guys in all this, but the
    bottom line is that they were made to add DRM by the record companies. Another gripe I have is anti-piracy adverts at the start of every DVD, why do I have to watch that, I bought it.The guy watching the pirate doesn’t have to! Madness.

  3. “Most independent record labels already sell tracks digitally compressed in the MP3 format, which can be downloaded, e-mailed or copied to computers, cellphones, portable music players and compact discs without limit.”

    I absolutely hate it when these morons equate MP3 with DRM-free. OTHER FORMATS CAN DO EXACTLY THE SAME THING DESCRIBED! It isn’t about format – it is about DRM!

  4. …I don’t want MP3 anyway – I want a updated compression format that sounds better than MP3 or a lossless format.

    BTW, both and offer at least some music in lossless format already – .wav and FLAC, respectively. I’d much rather have the major labels chasing that than the current MP3 which is past its prime.

  5. DRM free, _and_ increased quality for the files. Please, at least give us the option of something like 320 bps settings at a higher price. It’s more revenue to the companies and artists, and better for us consumers as well.

  6. “…mp3 files are not compressed. They are lossy files where part of the data is selectively thrown out during encoding…”

    Sorry, but this precisely describes compression — and .mp3 files ARE compressed, so check the attitude at the door. Furthermore, .mp3 files are created using first-generation audio compression technology. The newer .m4p compression (also called AAC) is an industry standard replacement for .mp3 that creates even smaller (more compressed) lossy files with an even better level of quality. The audio quality of Apple’s 128-bit .m4p AAC compression is roughly equivalent to 160-bit .mp3 compression.

  7. Where exactly is it written that these clowns have to make more and more money every year? People aren’t paying for music as much because music is shit these days. When we are getting force fed the likes of Cold Play and Pussy Cat Dolls, you can only get crammed with so much garbage before you throw up.

  8. As usual, the clowns at the record companies are a day late and a dollar short when it comes to brains and seeing where the “industry” is going.

    These people have always been short-sighted, making the music business a joke in the eyes of consumers.

    From the days of payola and manufacturing groups to ride the wave of last year’s “breakthrough” new sound, these morons have been operating the same way for 60 years or more.

    The record execs still seem to be clueless that the phenomenon of CD’s that saved their asses in the 80’s and early 90’s was not a permanent gravy train. They all keep hoping (like the movie folks do) that the next wave format (Blu-Ray, HDCD, whatever) will trigger another huge buying binge so they can sell all their back catalogs again.

    Instead, they should be putting some thought into how they will generate future “oldies” – by releasing and supporting music from creative and talented artists today. But they can’t see that, so they’ll keep trying to milk the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s catalogs for as long as they can. Sure beats earning a living the old-fashioned way.

    Phooey. I gots no use for these mimbos.

  9. “The newer .m4p compression (also called AAC) is an industry standard replacement for .mp3”

    Actually, m4a is the AAC standard format. m4p is AAC with Apple’s FairPlay encryption applied to it, making it somewhat non-industry-standard

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