A while I back I talked about DRM (Digital Rights Management) and the future of recorded music. Since that time there has been a number of events that seem to point toward the day of DRM-free music and perhaps even music available for all at a low or no fee. Since my original post we have seen:
1. Apple is making some songs available DRM-free. The songs are of a higher sonic quality (128 v. 96 kpb) however they cost more ($1.29 v. $0.99/song)
2. Warner Brothers have announced that they will make their entire library available DRM-free.
3. Amazon has established a song-purchasing site similar to I-Tunes. All songs are DRM-free and are $0.89 per song. Although Amazon doesn’t have the library that I-Tunes has, it does have 2,000,000 songs.
4. A woman from Duluth was ordered to pay over $9,000 each for the 26 songs she was caught illegally downloading. The backlash over this outrageous sum has cast a spotlight in the recording industry’s continued practice of suing random customers.
5. Trent Reznor has left his recording label and promises to provide any future recordings in a downloadable format.
6. Radiohead is allowing fans to download their new album, In Rainbows, from the Radiohead website. The cost: You name the price. The album will be made available today (October 10th) and right now the website is virtually impossible to access. If Radiohead moves thousands of albums via download, look for other artists to try something similar.
The problem for the recording industry is that the issue of DRM-free, cheap, easily downloadable songs has left the barn. There's no going back. Instead of suing its customers, the recording industry needs to figure out how to become a provider of downloadable music. The Radiohead example is going to be closely watched by all players in the music industry. If the album is a hit, more artists will look to move away from their labels. It's an exciting time.
If I ever am able to access the Radiohead site I will report on my experience. Anyone else out there downloading free music or the new Radiohead album?