We just got off the phone with Jeanne Meyer, the Senior VP of Corporate Communications at EMI. Even after adding a grain of salt, considering they did come from the horse's "official" mouth, there's are some interesting facts worth noting about the DRM-Free tracks on iTunes.
•EMI approached Apple about DRM free tracks, not the other way around.
•EMI is cool with any other music store doing DRM-free tracks. This is not an iTunes exclusive.
•Those stores can put songs in any format they want. The iTunes premium price and AAC 256 kbps format are Apple's Marketing decision.
•One underpublicized aspect of this deal is that full albums will cost the same. That means that while LCD Soundsystem's North American Scum will cost more than a DRM'd version, the full album, Sound of Silver, that it came from will cost the same either way. Combine that with the ability to upgrade tracks into full albums, and DRM'd songs into free tracks eases the stinging a bit.
•EMI made this move based on research that showed consumers want DRM-free tracks.
•They're doing this to get a bigger stake in online music, believing that even though CDs are 90% of their sales, those figures will shrink or stay flat. They're projecting that online sales should rise to to 25% of their sales by 2010.
•That includes music sales on cellphones. That's 500-million capable handsets, worldwide, by end of this year.
•The DRM-free tracks should, they believe improve sales: Even as piracy gets easier, so does the ability to play songs on any MP3 player available. (That is, once some other music store releases EMI tracks on MP3.)
•Although Jobs says, "We expect to offer more than half of the songs on iTunes in DRM-free versions by the end of this year.", EMI says the first of the new tracks will be on sale in May.
•EMI won't disavow RIAA lawsuits, however.
What this means is that Apple and Steve Jobs, by being the first to take up EMI on their offer, are great supporters in this transformation of how music is sold. But they aren't leaders. I think they can do more. Drop the DRM'd versions of iTunes songs entirely. And then get to using your keynote charm to change the rest of the entertainment industry.
Just use that mojo you steamrolled Cisco with during iPhone trademark discussions. Get all the music studios to change their mind, based on the eventual success of the EMI move. And while we're asking, let's do the same for video. Steve, we know you wouldn't let your +4 Billion dollar majority stake in Disney get in the way of doing the right thing at its sub labels like Hollywood Records, Lyric Street Records, Mammoth Records, Walt Disney Records, etc. After all, reasonable DRM inside of iTunes for both music and video are part of the user experience. And we know you're an uncompromising guy on that front. Right?