Oh My God! They Killed Music DRM!

Digital Rights Management in music was, to be fair, always doomed. As long as there exist free mechanisms to transport music, it will always be impossible to protect it from unauthorised copying. The Internet was to music distribution like the steam engine to industry – it has revolutionised how things are done, but not without some serious fall-out in the traditional world of large corporations – who, lets face it, have been conducting rear-guard actions without really managing to keep the revolution at bay. Just recently we’ve seen EMI fall to an equity company whose goal seems more to sweat its assets than release the creative juices of its signings. I know, if we put all our effort into Coldplay and Robbie Williams, we can just get them to work 36 hour days. Oh dear, Coldplay have broken up. Robbie, where do you think you’re going?

One of the technical casualties of the demise of the music industry, it is already becoming apparent, is DRM. Today we saw the launch of Qloud (pronounced “cloud”, and to quote from this article (which looks like a royalty-free direct copy of the press release):

“The Qloud My Music application is a revolutionary music service that delivers online music to users how they want it — legal, cost-free, DRM-free, on-demand and linked to their personal music libraries — and where they want it — inside social networks where they can share music with and discover it through their friends.”

Qloud isn’t a one-off. A couple of weeks ago, Apple cut the price of its DRM catalogue to 99cents. Want more? Consider EMI’s earlier announcement of the same, followed up also a fortnight ago by its announcement of a partnership with Imeem. As well as indicating just how confused EMI is right now (one is reminded of Microsoft’s relationship with Open Source), its a sign that things are unravelling rapidly for DRM, for a number of reasons.

Not least, technical. As part of a recent purchase, I was offered a license to download a Keane song. I had to jump through several hoops just to listen to the darn thing: create an account, download file, go somewhere else, download license, install… sure, it was a nice song. At least I think so, I’ve since reinstalled my OS and I can’t be bothered to go through all that rigmarole again. Alternatively I could choose to lock myself into a platforma such as iTunes. Both approaches are directly opposed to the viral nature of social networking, pioneered by Myspace and being picked up by Facebook (no doubt to be continued via Google’s OpenSocial).

Music needs to be made to be shared, and this is what will put the final nails in the coffin of DRM. Be not alarmed, dear musicians – there’s still plenty of money to be made even if the model may sometimes need a bit of tweaking.

P.S. who’s going to bet me a bottle of shandy that Nokia’s spiffing new music store doesn’t go DRM-less by the end of the year? 🙂

P.P.S. Steve Jobs wrote a good article on the weaknesses of DRM, here.

Oh My God! They Killed Music DRM!

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