Even Apple music wants to be free, sort of

January 7, 2009

The New York Times headline on Apple’s Macworld convention is so snappy that it almost frees me of the obligation to write this blog entry today:

Want to copy iTunes Music? Go Ahead, Apple says.

Fortunately, the Times couldn’t fit this other part into the headline, giving us something to quote:

Beginning this week, three of the four major music labels – Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group – will begin selling music through iTunes without digital rights management software, or D.R.M., which controls the copying and use of digital files. The fourth, EMI, was already doing so.

In return, Apple, whose dominance in online music sales gives it powerful leverage, agreed to a longstanding demand of the music labels and said it would move away from its insistence on pricing all individual song downloads on iTunes at 99 cents.

Instead, the majority of songs will drop to 69 cents beginning in April, while the biggest hits and newest songs will go for $1.29. Others that are moderately popular will remain at 99 cents.

The music industry thinks these moves will help sales, while people who like to share their music or play it on devices that are not iPods might stop re-mixing geek rallies with street protests.

The move was as much about competition as beneficence, as The Wall Street Journal noted:

New online-music rivals have also emerged, including Amazon.com Inc., which sells many songs at a cheaper price than iTunes and without copy protection, giving users more freedom with the songs they have purchased.

Also from the WSJ:

Starting Tuesday, Apple said iPhone 3G owners will also be able to download songs from the iTunes Store via their cellular networks instead of having to connect to a wireless Internet network. The company said the price, selection and quality of the songs would be the same as they are online.

Reuters and Bloomberg focused on the Macworld show itself, and how from a fireworks perspective, it was plain boring.


The company said last month that it won’t attend Macworld conferences anymore after this week. Apple shares often fall after its events because investors frequently want bigger announcements, said Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray & Co. in Minneapolis. Even so, today’s presentation was “underwhelming,” he said.

“Apple made a statement that Macworld is not important and they showed it with the products they announced,” Munster said. Updated software, a new notebook and iTunes price changes are “nice, but not needle moving.”

And Reuters:

With consumers flocking to low-cost PCs like netbooks, which Apple has dismissed, many analysts hope to see some new product catalyst in the near term to bolster the company’s sales in a recession.

Of course, Reuters noted, that’s not what they got this week.

Keep an eye on

New York TImes, Part 1: Your correspondent and a bunch of others wrote about the paper’s decision to start running display advertising on the front page, with CBS getting the first slot this past Monday. So far, that’s the only one we’ve seen. Tuesday and Wednesday featured ad-free fronts. C’mon advertisers — save your favorite paper! (To be fair, The Wall Street Journal and other papers don’t ALWAYS sell their front-page ads every day)

New York Times, Part 2: Writing in the Atlantic, Michael Hirschorn posits the notion that the Times could go under — in a few months’ time. Having scared the kids, he points out how slim the odds are. It’s tempting to embrace nightmare scenarios, but let’s keep in mind that the Times could do a lot of things to preserve its core: the newspaper. (The Atlantic)

New York Times, Part 3: Many media writers can barely resist the urge to beat up on Times Co Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr, the latest of the Ochs-Sulzberger clan to chair the company and publish the paper. There’s plenty of reasons to do so, as New York Observer’s media writer extraordinaire John Koblin points out. Still, he said that Sulzberger is sticking to the task at hand: journalism. That might help the Times ride out the storm when other newspapers founder. That, Koblin said, is why the NYO has named Sulzberger one of its “Media Mensches” of 2009. (New York Observer)

(Photo: Share your Randy Newman tunes, courtesy of Apple. Here’s Randy performing at Macworld. Reuters)

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