Blog Post

Amazon nets Warner for DRM-free tunes. Are we at the tipping point yet?

Amazonmp3Amazon scored another win for themselves and for consumers today with the announcement that Warner tunes will be DRM-free on the Amazon MP3 site. Although I have an iPhone and use iTunes with it, I haven’t succumbed to spending hundreds of dollars in music downloads. I used the Zune Pass subscription service for a year, but once Amazon opened up their DRM-free store, I cancelled my music subscription from Microsoft.That was the tipping point for me because I knew Amazon had the staying power and clout to make a music store without DRM work. Of course, no content store is worth its salt without… well… content. (duh!) With the addition of Warner Music joining Universal & EMI in the Amazon store, I’m thinking we’re at or nearing the tipping point for a faster move away from DRM for music. I can often find the same DRM-free tracks for less at Amazon as opposed to iTunes or other stores and I don’t have to go through the hassle of burning my tunes to CD only to later rip them for various devices in the house like iPods, Windows Mobile handhelds, PCs and Macs.While I can appreciate the need for artists and labels to make money for their content, I’m firmly convinced you shouldn’t have to buy the same content for different devices. The same goes for book content on eBook readers, but I won’t go there just now. Yes, I’ve purchased the same book on different platforms and yes, I’m bitter about it. ;) Have you “tipped” towards the Amazon MP3 store yet?

9 Responses to “Amazon nets Warner for DRM-free tunes. Are we at the tipping point yet?”

  1. Cant_Drive_55

    Wow, TicRay, where should I start?

    I am not looking for a smackdown, but you took my points all wrong. I have been around a while, going back to the early ’70’s with Dual 1229 turntables, Shure V-15 type III cartridges, master pressings, CD-4 with 38Khz frequency response, SQ encoding, four channel, Dolby, dbx, McIntosh amps, the whole nine yards. If the record/CD market was targeted at purists (RCA Masterwork series comes to mind with the Philadelphia Philharmonic playing the best of Shostokovich), they would sell a thousand records instead of millions. Say what you want, the music industry could care less how well the music sounds, as long as someone buys it. Cassettes were sold in huge quantities and their quality was far less than even todays 64k MP3s. Records popped and crackled, no matter how much the average and above average audiophile tried to suppress it. We got our music from AM radio stations with crap for freq response.

    When CDs came out the purists claimed that it wasn’t as rich and nuanced as the analog version. When transistors replaced tubes, the purists claimed that the signal wasn’t as warm. When Class C amps replaced Class A amps, purists claimed that there was clipping and harmonic distortion where the wave passed the 0 volt line. Some people are never happy.

    Could you drag a McIntosh tube amp with a Phase Linear pre-amp and a Nakamichi cassette player with Sennheiser studio reference headphones with you while you jogged? Hell, no. A Walkman was plenty good for the situation. And they sold millions of them to play those god-awful cassettes.

    Now, most people listen to music on earbuds, 1″ notebook speakers, or if they are lucky, nice desktop speakers with no bass response. And what are they listening to? Friggin’ hip-hop… distortion in a box! No one cares about quality. Podcasts are considered fantastic quality if they have a good Skype connection and the phase shifting is low enough that the speaker doesn’t sound like he is connected to a phlanger and a wah-wah pedal.

    As for sales… how many records and CDs do I have in my back room that I have only listened to one or maybe two songs? Most albums are not worth listening to in-toto, but the record labels were finally able to kill the 45 single in favor of the LP. What was the net result? A $4.99 sale (at the time) instead of a 95 cent sale. The songwriter, composer and such made X number of pennies per song as well, so I guess everyone won except for the consumer. Where do I submit my claim to the RIAA, ASCAP and BMI to get a refund for all the songs that I DO NOT listen to? Did I pay to possess a song, or to listen to it? If I hum a song and enjoy it, do I owe anyone a royalty? What if the damn thing is stuck in my head all day, do I pay for it once or every time I replay it?

    Now, people can download a song that they like without being strapped to 13 other songs that they could care less about. That is free trade. Who is losing? The record labels? Shades of schadenfreude coming from my quadrant! Everyone hated the labels with their indentured servitude of artists. Now are we to feel sorry for them? Indies are doing OK. “Downloaded tracks from the website to promote a tour” is the new “Touring to promote an LP” except that in many cases, the labels are cut out of the deal. Awwww. Merch tables are a gold mine if you can convince someone to pay $35 for a $6 t-shirt. Who is ripping off who?

    And have you noticed that most of the less-than-30 crowd cannot stop yapping and using their cellphones while attending a concert, even while the musicians are blasting out their ears at 120dB? I can’t figure that one out?

    (Where the artists are missing the boat is by not streaming concerts over the web for a few bucks, or selling concert recordings from every venue on their website.)

    The fact of the matter is that there are only about 16-21 waking hours in a day (depending on your age) and you can only listen to just so much music, along with watching TV, watching podcasts, playing computer games, IM’ing, going to the movies, talking on the cellphone, ring-toning, listening to voicemail, audiobooks, speed reading Kindles, click-through eyeballing, occasional sex and, God-forbid, working.

    How much more content can be thrust upon an ADHD-ravaged cohort, who is expected to come up with the cash from somewhere to remunerate all of the jackals with outstretched hands? We are already saturated, but we are expected to decide between Blu-Ray or HD-DVD to go with our 1080p Plasmas. Please help me decide whether to TiVo one of 180 channels on my DirecTV, or try to get HD to play wirelessly on my AppleTV box.

    Me? I am just happy to load up my iPod with audiobooks, music or podcasts, insert my earbuds, cover up my ears with sound-proof ear protectors and mow three acres on my Kubota tractor, even if the THD is 2%.


  2. “But I must say that I respect what Steve has done for the whole portable music world. Without him, we would still be ripping CDs and dodging the RIAA.”

    are you kidding, or is that a serious statement? have you seen the numbers of digital audio track sales versus CD’s? go talk to any music market analyst & they will tell you that downloadable digital audio tracks is a catastrophic failure, maybe the biggest single failure in music history. is it profitable, technically yes, but only because there is almost no reproduction costs involved. but it is nowhere EVEN CLOSE to what was promised to the music industry by Apple. it will continue to exist because the market (mainly teenage) demands it.

    so yes, unlike your statement, nearly everyone is still purchasing CD’s & ripping them to dodge the RIAA. besides, it is still the only way to get pure or HQ quality tracks (flac, monkey, etc) & DRM-free (everytime). i have never met 1 purist in my life that purchases music tracks from Apple as any sort of serious source for audio.

    btw, i am a production manager for a major studio. in the industry DAT’s have never been taken seriously & are sort of seen as “candy” for youngsters, while albums are still the main source for adult music fans.

  3. I listen to my music collection from a couple of ipods or through my stereo. All the music has been converted to MP3s either from CDs or purchased as MP3s. 256 kbs (Amazon’s bit rate) is the minimum bitrate I will use, if I’m ripping them myself I usually choose 350 kbs. I will not consider any other format as it might limit the device I purchase to play the music on.
    I like using itunes to load music into my ipods and for getting podcasts from itunes music store. Amazon’s free program downloads songs purchased from Amazon right into itunes along with album cover art work which is nice. But the main thing is that I can dump itunes or Amazon along with any device I currently use and just take my music files to be used with other devices and other software because they are MP3s.
    As far as file sharing goes; I’ve never been too excited about opening up my hard drive to strangers and I think people who do are probably not thinking too clearly.
    My current ipod is an ipod touch and the one thing I would love to be able to do with it is to get to my music collection kept on my network HDD via the internet and without a computer. Since this ipod has wifi; it should be possible. This would make this the last portable music device you would buy as its storage size (the reason people get new ipods) becomes irrelevant.

  4. Cant_Drive_55

    I am definately no Apple fanboy. I have had a love-hate relationship (mostly hate, since I bought my first Apple over 30 years ago) with Apple and Steve Jobs. But I must say that I respect what Steve has done for the whole portable music world. Without him, we would still be ripping CDs and dodging the RIAA.

    Over 10 years ago I approached an attorney with ties to the music industry about selling these ‘new MP3’ songs over the Internet and she gave me some sage advice: “There is no way in hell that they would even entertain the idea of electronic distribution.” How right she was. It took someone with the clout of Steve Jobs to even begin to legitimize electronic music distro.

    What really irritates me about Apple is that they really do come up with the ‘right’ way to do things. Not perfect… but usually really close the first time. iTunes is a case in point. It is pretty intuitive, and it is really a gathering place for all sorts of media (especially Podcasts, which is how I hooked up with this site.)

    I find that I would rather share books and podcasts than music. I know that I am the exception in this regard, but after I ‘read’ an Audible book, I sometimes want to let someone else read it, like I would a printed book. But I cannot. Some make the argument that an Audible book is cheaper so it shouldn’t be shared, but isn’t a paperback so much cheaper than a hardback book? Can’t we share paperbacks? And, though Audible books can be cheaper when you buy credits, look at the price for audiobooks on iTunes… damn close to hardback price.

    I don’t want to lose the experience of the iTunes and iPod integration, nor the ease of use of iTunes. What I would like to gain is the ability to use iTunes to seamlessly integrate my Amazon purchases or any other DRM-free purchases.

    Lastly, I have iTunes on 6 computers (and my iPod can only register on 5 of them) and I have content spread out all over and it is driving me crazy. It is like losing cassettes or CDs (is it in the car, the den, the Walkman, at the office, in the gym locker?) Why can’t we manage our media in the cloud and once we purchase something have a link to it in perpetuity, so that we don’t have to worry where it is physically located?

    Sigh… Nirvana (not the band) is so close, yet so far away.


  5. Although DRM-less Music is a big plus, I’m not ready to sing Amazon’s (or any other’s) praises yet.

    MP3 is a lossy format, and I am not willing to give up the sound quality on the primary copy of the song file. (And yes, I can hear the difference.)

    I’m also less than happy that some older/less popular artists and albums are not available. Since the labels aren’t making money off them now (because they are “deleted”), a price of $0.25-$0.50 per track would net them a lot more than just letting them sit rotting in a vault.

    When the labels show that they are not just embracing online distribution for newer/more popular artists and albums, then I’ll be prepared to re-think my policy. Until then, I’ll buy the CD and rip it.


  6. I wont buy music with drm so the Amazon store has been great. I cant wait till all the music stores are drm free and that’s just the norm.

    I’m also upset about the drm in ebooks. The Kindle would be great for my wife but she’s got over 200 books in the eReader format. But instead of keeping us locked into eReader, now we just dont buy ebooks till we figure out what we are going to do.

  7. Yep. I ditched another service for Amazon because I don’t “lose” my downloads for use on other devices. Now, if Amazon can just catch a clue with respect to Mobipocket and Kindle downloads . . . then we are getting somewhere.

  8. Yes and no…why the music companies think only allowing Amazon the DRM-free songs is going to net them anything is beyond me. I definitely like the fact that one can now get digital music like we did in the “old days” via MP3. However, locking out iTunes and others only trades one monopoly for another. More importantly, it doesn’t prevent me from using an iPod, Apple’s real motivation.

    How long do you think it will be before the record companies start pulling Amazon’s strings to hike prices? And how long after that, do you think it will be before people start pirating those new MP3s again!?

    Really, the music industry needs to get a grip on the new order of business!