iTunes Plus and DRM Free Music is a Great Thing

I did something last night I have not ever done in all my music and digital life.  Download a full length (well EP) album from the iTunes store (Prospekt’s March).  You may be saying, who cares, but last week Apple dramatically changed the way their music is handled on their iTunes platform by finally offering their music in a DRM (Digital Rights Management) free version.

For those unfamiliar with DRM, in brief, it is a generic term that refers to controlling access to digital technologies (or files) to limit their use.  Sony (Sony BMG) have led the fight with restricting use of just about everything, but basically it is what keeps you from being able to take a song that you have legally acquired and burn the CD to your iTunes library, or move the file from multiple devices like your computer to your iPod, to your iPhone (also see this post).

Years ago, instead of the music industry embracing this new thing called an iPod, they tried everything they could do to kill it.  He we go, a way to actively spread our product to millions of users… what unbelievable potential to reach new customers, but no, they fought everything about it, and their industry has taken one of the biggest nose dives in history.

It is a lot more than that, but it is one more way the music industry has continued to try to commit suicide over the years instead of embracing technology.  There has been such an outcry to get rid of DRM that Sony had to remove it from their physical CD’s a while back, but Amazon’s music downloads followed suit, and now, finally, iTunes has as well.

With iTunes Plus, you get high-quality, 256-Kbps AAC encoding. All free of burn limits and digital rights management (DRM). So iTunes Plus music will play on iPod, Apple TV, all Mac and Windows computers, and many other digital music players.

So what does this mean for all of us?  Maybe nothing if you don’t buy legal music, listen to audio books, watch movies, have an ipod or digital music device.  For the rest of us, it is huge.  In the past I have purchased the bulk of my CD collection from Amazon’s used CD market.  Most of the time I can buy a used CD for a few dollars and have the freedom to do whatever I want with the CD (not something the artists really love since they don’t get royalities from most of the used market).  I can burn it in any quality I want and I always have a backup that doesn’t depend on any one company or the whim of DRM, all for a reasonable price around $5-$10 (including shipping).

itunes acc 256kbsFor years (I would say since Napster failed), I refused to buy any music via download from Amazon or iTunes because of the DRM restrictions, and haven’t even really looked at what is available from iTunes.   Now for the first time, I am checking out the music on iTunes instead of physical CD’s from Amazon’s used market.

A brilliant move for Apple’s bottom line when multiplied by their millions of users.  And for Apple, that’s what it is all about, their bottom line, but it’s more than that.  For me, now that I have the ability to buy DRM free music on iTunes, my options and alternatives have expanded dramatically, the artists will get paid on sales (so do the labels for that matter), and I can do what I want with the file.

The quality of the downloads is great, an ACC 256kbs file is fine for me.  I am currently reburning my entire catalog into ACC 256kbs files anyway, and I can do whatever I want with the file.  What I was amazed at is how much more you get with an iTunes album than what you get with the physical disc.

With the Prospekt’s March album, I got the digital booklet in high resolution pdf format (this is the CD artwork in digital form) and the Viva la Vida video.  Many albums comes with additional songs only available from iTunes.  This isn’t an end all, I will still buy some used for the price and backup, but something I have waited for from iTunes for a long time.

A Price Worth Paying For?

That was a really long way to say that more artists are going to be downloaded and heard (and hopefully paid), especially beyond the big labels.  Just because iTunes came to an agreement with Sony doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect the independents (Indie’s).  Some CD’s you just can’t buy a physical copy or they are some outrageous price on Amazon.  This will help, but on iTunes it also comes with a price.  That is $.30 per song to upgrade.  The one last ditch to hold on to DRM.  For those like me who never purchased anything prior to now, no big deal, don’t have any non-DRM free music.  For those who purchased anything on iTunes, you are held hostage at $.30 per song for old music, sorry.

I love music.  I don’t have a problem with paying for music, never have, but I won’t buy it with restrictions like DRM placed on it in the past.  Artist put time and effort into creating and producing something I value, and to put a price on it, gives it value, and I understand and appreciate that.  Several years ago my son told me how much music he had downloaded on his computer, some huge 50-100 gig of music files.  He later then told me he had deleted it all.  Not because he hadn’t purchased it all, but because he hadn’t listened (or learned) any of the music.  Something comes with the fact that you paid for the music.  You listen to it, learn it, understand the message the artist might be trying to give, or trash it because you don’t like it, but you listen to it.

Have you ever received a free CD and not listened to it.  I have.  But I can’t recall ever buying a CD and not listening to it, but ridiculous restrictions like DRM has kept me (and I am sure many others who want to obtain music legally) from buying a lot of music.  Perhaps this move will be a good thing for the artists as well as iTunes, I know it is for those who love to listen to music.

3 thoughts

  1. I’ve been an iTunes freak for a long time now and have always hated the DRM. Never really was a problem since everything I had was Apple, until I got a PS3, then a Tivo, both stream music from home libraries…but not DRM files! I started using Amazon and now I’m stoked that iTunes has gone (mostly) DRM free! I’ve purchased over a thousand tracks via iTunes over the last few years and I want to upgrade them all, but 1) not all of them are available in the new plus format and 2) even at $.30/track, that’s a lot of green!

    I too welcome the DRM free age!

    Joshs last blog post..My Lessons In Patience Lately

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