January 11, 2008 - 12:40 pm - Posted by iDunzo
Wow, that didn’t take long. Barely days after Sony’s announcement about its peculiar plan to sell unprotected MP3s through a brick-and-mortar-store gift card system, it’s relented and announced that it will begin selling portions of its music catalog as unprotected MP3s through — who else? Amazon.com.
Good! I guess the generally negative press and a big fat thumbs down from consumers in general had something to do with it. Or, maybe — maybe — it had at least provisionally planned to do something like this for a while and was just seeing what it could get away with first.
Either way, this is something of a milestone: Every single major record label in the United States is now delivering at least some of their catalog through a digital download system with no device restrictions at all.
Even a couple of years ago that would have been unthinkable, but I suspect it’s about the only way left to fly at this point. The reasons are pretty plain:
DRM causes more problems than it solves.
It’s not just that every implementation of it turns out to be something you can work around in some fashion; it’s that all too often it creates an impractical hassle for a perfectly legitimate consumer. Treating the consumer pre-emptively like a thief does nothing to endear them and slows the adoption of the very technologies you’re trying to sell.
The best anti-piracy strategy is a good pricing strategy.
A friend of mine had a discussion about this just the other day. With Amazon and eMusic and Napster and all the rest selling licensed, high-quality tracks for a buck a pop, there’s no earthly reason for a legit consumer to go onto a P2P network and trawl for someone else’s potentially dodgy rips.
There’s that much less money to spend in general, so it helps to be able to spend it that much more wisely.
It’s more economical to buy the one or two songs off an album that you know you actually want to hear, instead of dropping $12 or up on a CD that won’t get a full end-to-end workout. Unless you’re buying the CD used, of course.
Since used CD sales aren’t tracked very consistently, it’s hard to say what portion of total music sales is taken up by used CDs, but I’m guessing it’s been on the up-and-up since places like Amazon made it all the easier to get them in the first place.
There’s still some experimenting to be done, I think, with how to price things. Amazon’s pricing is around $8 to $9 an album (with a discount for a whole album’s worth of tracks); eMusic is a flat monthly fee for a fixed number of tracks regardless of length, with discounts as you spend more money upfront.
Both plans have their merits and either one is better in my mind than scratching around to see if maybe someone has the song you want in their shared directory.