WIll Apple Bring Back DRM’d Music?May 15th, 2008 | By James Lewin | Category: Digital Music, iPhone, iPods & Portable Media Players
According to the Guardian’s Tim Anderson, DRM’d music is going to stage a comeback, and Apple’s going to be the one making it happen.
The music industry wants to sell new services, like music subscriptions, and DRM’s is central to making these services viable. To succeed, though, subscription music services need to work with iPods and iPhones:
Apple customers with a subscription would probably never buy from third-party services, even while the likes of Amazon could undercut iTunes and be iPod-compatible.
Says Jupiter’s Mark Mulligan: “It’s highly likely Apple will get into the next-generation service game. That could be Apple selling iPods preinstalled with unlimited access to music, or with a bundle to a subscription offering,” he says.
Mulligan sees the market evolving into multiple tiers. At the top end, a minority will be willing to pay a premium for the best quality, DRM-free downloads. The middle tier will be “subsidised offerings like Nokia’s Comes With Music, where you buy a device and the cost of the music is included subsidised”; while at the bottom will be advertising-supported services such as Qtrax, SpiralFrog and We7, where free music is paid for by embedded advertising.
That would leave Apple with the top-end iTunes downloads and a subscription business. But would Jobs back it? In January 2007, Reuters asked him if Apple would do so. “Never say never, but customers don’t seem to be interested in it,” Jobs said. “The subscription model has failed so far.” Which hardly rules it out forever. DRM might not stop pirates, but it does rivals. And in business, the latter can be a greater threat than the former.
It’s looking more and more like analysts may be worrying too much about DRM, and not enough about whether music services were actually useful to customers.
Apple’s iTunes store rose to prominence despite selling DRM’d music, and it’s grown even more dominant as competitors have started selling non-DRM’d music. If the market demonstrates that there’s an interest in subscription music services, Apple’s likely to dominate the market with its own DRM’d offering.
What do you think? Is DRM down for the count, or would you consider a DRM’d subscription music service?