While the blogging world is falling all over itself in praise of Yahoo!’s release of the so-called “DRM-free” Jessica Simpson track (I won’t even comment on the fact that the track is from Jessica Simpson, oy), I think that the music industry is indicating how desperate they are to break from the iTunes hegemony that they have created and how they aren’t really willing to get rid of DRM any time soon.
First, let me address the DRM issue. The downloadable Jessica Simpson track is available as a personalized track. If your name is Jason, Jennifer, or Jared, you are in luck and pay $1.99 for a personalized track from Jessica Simpson, which if you think about it, is a pretty cool idea. But if you continue to think about it, unless your entire social circle has your name, most of your friends won’t really want to copy your song. File trading networks probably won’t have a comprehensive version of this song, so while the Jason’s of the world could probably find their version of the song on BitTorrent, I’m betting the Jordi’s of the world are probably out of luck.
You see, the Jessica Simpson track is only available as a personalized track and therefore, the DRM is social.
Second, even if I’ve overplayed the impact of personalization (I haven’t heard the song), this still signals what the music industry really wants to do, and that is to raise prices on music downloads. The music industry has created a monster and that monster is more concerned about the user experience than about making a quick buck.
Despite all of this, I wonder if the music industry is starting to realize the truth, DRM-free music is the easiest way to break iTunes’ dominance on music downloads. The music industry loves price fixing, but not so much if someone else is doing it. DRM-free music removes most of the advantages that iTunes currently enjoys and allows any number of resellers to distribute music for any price that they (or the labels) want.
So, come on, music labels… let’s hop to it. I’m a huge fan of Apple, but DRM sucks and we all know it.