This may surprise some of you, but, DRM has been very good for Medialoper. While it’s true that the whole ‘Loper team is generally opposed to all things DRM, it just so happens that a huge segment of new readers arrive at Medialoper each day after searching Google for solutions to various DRM related problems. The sad truth is, DRM is what brought many of you to Medialoper in the first place.
While our DRM related search traffic is mostly constant throughout the year, we see a surge in traffic around the holidays. That surge peaks on Christmas day as consumers desperately search for ways break the shackles on various DRM crippled holiday gifts.
While it’s great that new readers are discovering Medialoper, we’d be happier if consumers weren’t being suckered into the DRM shell game that restricts fair use and offers no value in return.
And so, in the spirit of the holiday season, and despite our best interests, we’re happy to present Medialoper’s first annual DRM-free Holiday Shopping guide.
Just six months after the launch of its mp3 music service, Amazon has emerged as the number two digital music retailer. While Apple still has a huge lead, that lead seems to be dwindling quickly.
The major labels may see this as some form of progress in their efforts to break Apple’s perceived monopoly in the digital music market, but the truth is they are very likely creating a new problem for their industry.
Despite the fact that the majors have begun licensing the rights to distribute DRM-free tracks to multiple retailers, Amazon seems to be the only company that has a clue about building a successful online marketplace. As a result, Amazon could quickly become something of a de facto monopoly for legal mp3 downloads. That’s astounding when you consider that the marketplace for unprotected music downloads should be wide open and highly competitive.
The formula for building a successful digital music marketplace seems relatively easy. Consumers want access to a wide selection of reasonably priced DRM-free music, presented in a well organized marketplace that supports all computing platforms. Retailers who expect to compete should offer decent search and discovery capabilities, and maybe even a few social features. This is 2008, after all.
This week the long anticipated Amazon digital music store finally launched. Unlike recent efforts from the likes of Wal-Mart, Amazon’s DRM-free store could pose a substantial long-term challenge to iTunes. While that may sound like bad news for iTunes, it could prove to be a good thing for Apple.
Here’s why I think Amazon will pose a serious challenge to the iTunes music store:
Wal-Mart jumped into the DRM-free pool with a big slash yesterday, as the retailer began selling high quality MP3s from major labels, at a price that undercuts iTunes.
The music industry is finally coming around to the realization that the only way to break Apple’s lock on the digital music market is to offer DRM-free music through a variety of online services. The thinking seems to be that the major labels can finally stop the iTunes juggernaut by flooding the market with affordable, high-quality, iPod compatible music. While the plan sounds good in theory, it remains to be seen whether it will actually work. If the Wal-Mart music store is any indication of things to come, the labels might want to prepare for the worst.
I was so intrigued by the possibility of buying unencrypted, cross-platform compatible music, from Wal-Mart that I decided to give the service a try. What follows is the sad and painful story of how I spent most of an afternoon trying to download one 94 cent song:
It’s no secret that our favorite music download service at ‘Loper HQ isn’t iTunes, but eMusic. Kirk discussed his reasons last year, and mine are pretty much the same: the wide variety of music, the great pricing, and the fact that I can do whatever I want with the music I’ve downloaded. No damn dirty DRM.
I’m not going to address the breadth and depth of the music itself, but rather the user experience. And to do that, I should very quickly explain how I use eMusic. It’s pretty simple actually: I pay $14.99 per month for 65 downloads (it’s a legacy plan), and every week, I login, go through the new music for that week, and save the things in which I’m interested in my “Saved For Later” page.
That way I don’t use up my downloads at the beginning of the month, and have to wait because something as awesome as The Hold Steady Live At Lollapalooza comes out the day after I used them up. (Of course, I could get a booster pack if that happens, but that’s not maximizing my music dollar.)
After doing it this way for the past couple of years, I’ve noticed some ways that eMusic could improve its user experience. Five ways, as it turns out, and here they are: