My prognostications on major labels giving up DRM haven’t been great thus far—damn you EMI, doing the smart thing only a few years too late—so perhaps you should take this with a grain of salt.
Still, Universal’s decision to run a six month test of DRM-free downloads (just check Techmeme or Technorati, I can’t decide which of the forty billion links to refer to) seems a little off to me. It feels a bit like the test plan might look like this:
- Undertake very short test of DRM-free online music distribution.
- Intentionally exclude the largest online music distributor, because we’re in a bit of a snit right now.
- Wait six months, then express disappointment with relatively small sales.
- Conclude that results indicate that only a small segment of consumers see DRM as a significantly motivating factor when purchasing music for download.
- Come up with bizarre and unwieldy “some music is sometimes available without DRM” scheme.
An oddly familiar plan, but I just can’t seem to remember where I’ve seen it before…
In any case, to cover my ass I’ll note that letting DRM die off as an approach to driving a small wedge into Apple’s de facto stranglehold on the music download business would seem to make a fair amount of sense.
The question is whether Big Content has gotten through enough of the stages of grief regarding their old business model to acknowledge that fact; after quite a few years stuck in denial and anger, they’re just now starting to move into bargaining. Tick tock, says the clock.