An Open Letter from Steve Jobs: Dear Music Industry Execs, Open Up and So Will We

by M. David Peterson

Apple - Thoughts on Music

Much of the concern over DRM systems has arisen in European countries. Perhaps those unhappy with the current situation should redirect their energies towards persuading the music companies to sell their music DRM-free. For Europeans, two and a half of the big four music companies are located right in their backyard. The largest, Universal, is 100% owned by Vivendi, a French company. EMI is a British company, and Sony BMG is 50% owned by Bertelsmann, a German company. Convincing them to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace. Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly.


Let me just repeat that last part for you, just in case you missed it,

Convincing them to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace. Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly.


Let me just repeat that last part for you, just in case you missed it,

Convincing them to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace. Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly.


And if I could just throw in my two sense(sic) worth,

Don't sue your customers!

Thanks for your considerations :)

Oh, and to Steve Jobs,

Thank you.




7 Comments

Finite
2007-02-06 19:23:39
It would be a nice start if those baddies at the 4 major labels would just let Apple sell music from the minor labels without DRM, at least.


Jobs doesn't address this issue at all; he says big labels demand DRM for their music but doesn't outright say that they also demand that iTunes not sell any non-DRM music. But why else wouldn't they sell tracks without DRM, at least from the (many) labels who are already on eMusic and ok with selling sans-DRM music? Unless, the era of DRM has actually benefited Apple most...


That "only 3% of music on iPods is even from from iTunes" argument against lockin he makes doesn't address the reality of those billions of iTunes songs sold only being able to be played on one (his company's) portable player.


My prediction is (and always has been) that Apple will eventually drop the DRM, but not because they're on the side of the consumer -- it is because DRM's continued usefulness relies on keeping unkeepable secrets. It is only a matter of time.

Finite
2007-02-06 19:28:03
Congrats to Jobs, though, for kinda sorta acknowledging the futility of DRM, and its achilles heel (secret keeping). It is just about half a decade too late.
M. David Peterson
2007-02-06 20:48:21
@Finite,


> It would be a nice start if those baddies at the 4 major labels would just let Apple sell music from the minor labels without DRM, at least.


Agreed. This is the obvious step that needs to take place for any of this to matter.


> Jobs doesn't address this issue at all;


True.


> he says big labels demand DRM for their music but doesn't outright say that they also demand that iTunes not sell any non-DRM music.


Good point.


> But why else wouldn't they sell tracks without DRM, at least from the (many) labels who are already on eMusic and ok with selling sans-DRM music?


The only thing that comes to mind is that this was mandated by the bigger music companies, but by legal agreement, was not something that could be exposed.


> Unless, the era of DRM has actually benefited Apple most...


Or there's that possibility as well.


> That "only 3% of music on iPods is even from from iTunes" argument against lockin he makes doesn't address the reality of those billions of iTunes songs sold only being able to be played on one (his company's) portable player.


Agreed. That's a definite sticking point that he attempts to avoid by using the much larger 97% that Apples doesn't see any revenue from. As you point out, the 3% is still significant, regardless.


> My prediction is (and always has been) that Apple will eventually drop the DRM, but not because they're on the side of the consumer -- it is because DRM's continued usefulness relies on keeping unkeepable secrets. It is only a matter of time.


Agreed. I believe that Apple has proven that there greatest interest is in capitalizing on the success of their products from every possible angle. Put another way, consumer choice in consumer electronics is not exactly something Apple is famous for championing.


That said, and as you point out in your next comment,


> Congrats to Jobs, though, for kinda sorta acknowledging the futility of DRM, and its achilles heel (secret keeping). It is just about half a decade too late.


Agreed. Ultimately what this comes down to is that the consumer wins. How the win came about is less important than the fact that it did, so from this perspective, I am grateful for his post. But like you said, its about a decade too late.


But I guess later is better than never, so good on him for taking a stand. Now lets hope the labels respond accordingly.


Thanks for your comments, Finite!

Chris M
2007-02-07 05:51:53
An interesting read from a few weeks ago can be found here.


In it, an analyst from Forrester Research says he asked Apple when they would remove copy protection and they replied: "We see no need to do so."


In addition, an exec from the Nettwerk label (Barenaked Ladies, Avril Lavigne, Sarah McLachlan) says that Apple insisted on applying DRM to their titles, even though Nettwerk and its artists said it was unnecessary.


While I am glad that Jobs made these statements, I think that they were only made because his back was against the wall. He just changed the discussion from "Why won't Apple play nicely" to "Why won't the labels play nicely". The old shift the blame game... I just hope that Jobs doesn't come out of this as the "hero".

M. David Peterson
2007-02-07 08:17:56
@Chris,


Thanks for the link! Will be reading it with great interest when I return later this afternoon from a meeting I am preparing for at the moment. I most certainly agree with your "hero" comment... It seems as if its one of those things that could very easily happen, so will be interesting to see how it all plays out.


Will respond in full once I've had a chance to read the article.


Thanks for taking the time to comment!

jeremiah foster
2007-02-09 07:41:16
Good post, but we are hashing out some of these issues on the MacDevCenter blog. C'mon over and join us;


http://www.oreillynet.com/mac/blog/

M. David Peterson
2007-02-09 20:47:54
@jeremiah,


Thanks for the heads up on the conversation. Looks like things are a bit more interesting in your neck of the woods... As soon as I have a moment, I will head on over to join in the "fun" ;)