So here’s the deal: The National Music Publisher’s Association has said that they want to increase the royalty rate for each legal download from $0.09 to $0.15 per song. Apple has responded by threatening to shut down iTunes.
I assume that “iTunes” means “iTunes Music Store,” and this has nothing to do the the TV Shows, Films and Applications that also go through iTunes, because, well, that would just be stupid.
I’m not here to argue the merits of what one side will say is only a six cent increase and the other side will say is a 66% increase, nor am I going to point out that this is Apple’s way of saying that if they don’t continue to get exactly what they want, they’re going to take their ball and go home.
But I will say this: if the iTunes Music Store went away tomorrow, it wouldn’t even be a blip on my radar.
The reality is that I haven’t purchased anything from the iTunes music store in well over a year. I still buy CDs, and I’m quite happy with my eMusic subscription, thank you very much. If something comes out that’s long tail or not on eMusic, there’s always Amazon, Rhapsody, or increasingly, the artists themselves.
Hell, Paul Westerberg is pretty much putting out music every other week right now. And it’s nowhere to be found on iTunes.
And none of those above options are encumbered with the DRM restrictions that still plague the iTunes experience.
iTunes was huge, it was important, and it showed everybody that profit could be made from cheap, legal downloads, and for that alone, it was incredibly important.
But the fact is that I just don’t use it anymore, and that’s largely because of the DRM. Which, yes, you can get around by burning, then ripping — something that made iTunes tolerable in the first place — but is just enough of a pain in the ass that it became a final barrier to entry for me.
And yes, they do have iTunes plus: a whole separate area where some — not all — artists and albums have DRM-free music. But iTunes plus is a mess; a crapshoot at best. And, I think, it actually made things worse: what kind of sense does it make that — for example — the first two Hold Steady albums are iTunes plus, but the most recent two aren’t?
It all adds up to a barrier to entry in an era where there shouldn’t be any.
“But what about the iTunes exclusives?” Easy. They’ll just become Amazon or eMusic or Rhapsody exclusives.
The point is that iTunes is hardly the only game in town anymore, and if Apple is willing to just walk from their huge music market share rather than hammering out some kind of deal, then the same audience that gave them that market share will just figure out other ways of getting music for their iPods.