Apple - The Improver

by Jason Deraleau


I love reading all of the rumor sites out there. Spymac, Think Secret, the list goes on. There are so many different "news" sites out there, some more reputable than others. My Mac news mostly comes from a MacSlash feed and a MacCentral feed viewed through Kontent (a Konfabulator widget). These two sites tend to have accurate news. Not so much rumor as actual fact.



This week I saw a news item come through describing a music service through Apple. Links are here and here. Both articles link to the LA Times, which is where the news originally broke. It seems that Apple is working out a deal with the various record labels to provide music to iTunes users.



While other providers out there have similar services, the Mac platform remains (as always) neglected. The rumor is that Apple is filling the void by extending iTunes with consumer-friendly DRM. This is important for two reasons: 1) That Apple has resigned themselves to include DRM in their software under industry pressure. 2) That Apple is going to focus their DRM implementation on the consumer. Both of these are actually good things. If your peers are going to force you to ride on the DRM bandwagon, at least make sure you pick a good seat.



This is where Apple's creativity in improving technology comes in to play. The iPod is still the nicest MP3 player on the market, it was revolutionary when it came out. Apple can take a product and spin it in such a way to woo the masses. Can they do it again with a music service?



Of course the two biggest concerns are price and selection. If there isn't any music that anyone wants, it will fail. If the pricing isn't fair, people will just continue to steal. Hopefully, if this all turns out true, Apple will implement it in such a way that the downloads are easy and inexpensive. I'd like to see something along $10 a month (with maybe a $5 a month discount for .Mac users) for unlimited downloads to your Mac.



Once on your Mac, unlimited plays, just like any other track in your library. To move the tracks to your iPod, no charge. To burn them onto CD, one time charge of $1 per track. This last part I feel is fair. If I went to the store and bought a 15 track CD I wouldn't be surprised to pay $12-15. The advantage here is that I don't have to take time out to drive and I don't get all of those flakey filler tracks that are on so many albums these days.



Now, what would be really nice is if we saw the Rendezvous library sharing feature added to iTunes at the same time. This would allow you to download your secured music to one Mac and share it with others on your network. I've been waiting for this feature since Macworld last July. With any luck both of these features (the library sharing and the online music service) will make it into the next iTunes update. It's always nice to see Apple leading the pack.



Would you pay to download music? What's a reasonable price?


13 Comments

anonymous2
2003-03-07 23:35:50
Yes, but ...
Yes, I would pay to download music, but it must not have any "copy protection". I want to copy my music to any device I like. If I can't, I'm going to look elsewhere for the songs.


About the price. $0.50 per song would be adequate. And no subscription whatsoever.



bye. Andreas.

anonymous2
2003-03-08 03:54:59
subscription
i am already a .mac subscriber. why should i subscribe to an additional service?


the .mac is the 'identifier' and customer retention. the addition earlier this month of support for winXP suggests to me that .mac is the interface for this music service and that there will be a flat fee for the music downloaded. oh and of course no service for non-dot-mac people.

anonymous2
2003-03-08 10:08:19
Consumer Friendly DRM
Is an oxymoron. The concept of "fair use" still seems to be hard to grasp for both the music industry, and tech pundits. The market has shown that people will not pay for something they can get for free. The computer industry has continuously demonstrated that overcoming copy protection is a given. Based on this, it's time the DRM crowd realized that to truly cash in on the benefits of the Internet, they need to rethink their business model. This isn't the same era where they were able to castrate the DAT system.
anonymous2
2003-03-08 11:50:12
Comment on pricing
Quick disclaimer: I AM NOT a marketing major. So PLEASE take this a grain of salt. I just feel this is what will convince ME to buy into it. As a .mac owner I would be pretty disappointed if I couldn't get the subscription at a cheaper price than regular customers. I also think Apple would be smart to give it away for 1 to 3 months for first time and current .mac subscribers to try out. I think I should be automatically allowed to burn a copy one-time to a CD once I downloaded it. I do think $10 is a month for unlimited download is pretty reasonable. While $.99 a song is not a dealbreaker for me, if you really want this thing to take off Apple should do it at $.50 a pop.
czygmont
2003-03-08 15:45:08
Existing iPod Limitations?
I am intrigued by the possibility of a new service. I have always purchased my music on CD and then transferred them to my iPod. My problem will be if my iPod cannot use the new service due to the use of AAC. If Apple cannot firmware upgrade the software codec, then I'm not sure I can justify spending another $400 a year later on a new iPod. Unless.... the new iPod is very much better than my model (not just larger harddrive)
anonymous2
2003-03-10 13:17:10
Apple Music Service
The big record labels are alway whining about the cost of printed materials and media, and channel distribution, etc etc


99 cents per song is too much. Thats basically the same price I pay for CD (a little less maybe) but without the media, liner notes and other niceties.


50 cents would be a great price per song. That would give the record companies more profit than printing and distributing hard media, hopefully it would add to Apple's bnottom line, and I would get music to use (hopefully) as I please in my iPod and burned to CD.

jldera
2003-03-13 15:10:59
Existing iPod Limitations?
I believe that the MP3 decoding abilities are actually part of the firmware and not necessarily part of the hardware. Two things that make me think this:


1) Apple added very different features with the past iPod firmware release (contacts and calendars)


2) People are running Linux on iPods, but they can't play MP3s very well because the Linux application they are using to decode the MP3 isn't running fast enough.


Based on those two facts, I'd say that adding AAC support to your iPod will involve a firmware update, which would most likely be released right around the same time as a new version of iTunes.

jldera
2003-03-13 15:14:36
Apple Music Service
I'm saying $1 per song to burn them to CD once you've downloaded it. The actual cost of acquiring the song would be part of your monthly fee. Once it's on your computer, it's yours to listen to at your leisure. Moving it to your iPod should have no cost either. Where the additional cost comes in is in the process of burning it to CD. This is where the music industry would run the greatest fear of losing money on the deal. If you just download 400 songs this month, all covered by your $10 monthly membership fee, and then burn them to CDs for your friends, the music industry will lose money. If you instead charge a fee to burn the songs to CD, then that cost will discourage people from abusing the system.


You'll lose your liner notes, yes, but when you consider that most CDs only have one or two hit songs and then several "filler" songs, you're making out in the deal in the end.

jldera
2003-03-13 15:16:09
Comment on pricing
If you're paying $10 a month, download 400 songs, and then use your free burn to burn them all to CDs, the music industry would quickly go out of business. Instead of buying 40 CDs, you paid for the equivalent of one and /made/ 40 CDs. Just doesn't seem fair to the music industry.
jldera
2003-03-13 15:18:35
Consumer Friendly DRM
This is where the marketing and legal representatives of the music industry would go to work. The legal group punishes a few thieves, and then the marketing group points it out and goes "Look! We have this service that still allows you to /easily/ get your favorite songs, but legally and at a fair price".
anonymous2
2003-04-11 13:39:13
music downloading
I think that even $.50 /song is high for unlimited rights, considering that the record label doesn't have any costs for reproduction or distribution. We the consumer have to pay for the technology and the product. And before you get all worried about the music industry losing so much money, I beg to differ, they still have concerts and ad spots to pay the bulk of their bills. Distributing the music shouldn't be the artists main income, it should be the live shows, that's historically how muscians made their money, so why should modern artists and their labels now have two faucets so to speak?


I would think it fair to pay .10 per song and would pay .25 for premium/popular songs but more than that, I don't think so.


Mariah

anonymous2
2003-04-29 04:18:53
music downloading
Sorry, the assumptions you make are wrong:
1) Record companies do not make money (and can not even make money) from concerts at all. Actually record companies often have to subsidise musicians concerts in a career development phase, since no one pays the amounts of money that would actually be necessary for concert tickets to be a valid source of income for shows with less then several thousand vistitors.
2) The real costs for record companies are not the manufacturing and logistics costs of CD sales, nor are they the costs for the studio production - the main costs are (as in many other products) in marketing, since not enough consumers will ever discover a musician without serious markting costs. Advertising costs (often including the costs of subsidising concerts) are in the range of US-$ 3 to 6 Mio. for one album by one star in the US and in the range of 1 Mio Euro in a medium sized european country. This does not automatically lead to a success if the audience does not like the musician or his music (which often has nothing to do with inherent quality), but is just necessary to give a musician a chance to earn a decent living from album sales and then later with live concerts. Without it, a musician can never reach sales figures of even 20.000 albums today - which would just give him a chance (with no studio costs) to make a normal income with one album per year (which is about the highest productivity that can be expected from a musician).
Actually, it is both funny and sad that prices are even discussed for music - no other business field will let this happen. If there is no chance for theft (maybe thanks to new DRM systems), then we just have what is normal everywhere else - the consumer does not have to use a product if he doesn't like it or the price is not worth it. What can not continue is people stealing because they claim the price is to high. If someone thinks that - well do not pay - and do not listen. As a musician I don't give a ... (but I want to be paid if you listen to my music, because I have to pay everyone else for their work.)
anonymous2
2003-10-19 14:07:37
music downloading
i would just like to say i think it is completley stupid for people to say it is wrong. Sure is dampering the music artist cds but look at it this way , 1 they could get the money from their merchantise . 2. these idiotic people did the same thing with video tapes, a couple years ago , They didn't win. with the tons of people who download music and audio everyday they don't have the chance. And also when you buy a cd there maybe one song you like a lot , and all the other songs that's a waste of a cd including a measly 20$. Fining people for it is still stupid they're making to where it's wrong we could at least vote on it every one and if & 75% say it right so be it , I would gladly like to take this case to the surpreme court. ANd one word to all the stupid people who are damn idiots , Actually three words , GO TO HELL !!!!! YOu piss me off so much !!


Wes Speed