Another free music downloads service launches today. Qtrax is a free and legal download service that uses P2P technology via its own modified Mozilla type browser (which currently looks similar to Songbird’s last make-over).
Digital rights management is used and with a future Mac compatible version due on March 18th it’s raised some questions as to how Qtrax is going to make audio files that will be iPod compatible but still feature a DRM restricted technology that hasn’t been licensed from Apple.
Peter Gabriel recently helped fund the advert supported WE7 downloads service and Brit-based Last.fm recently added the limited ability to play favourite tracks on demand.
So far the public have been wary of advert-supported free music services and maybe cautious of being tied to subscription based services such as emusic whilst iTunes continues to offer the ease of a per track or per album payment model and is slowly removing its own DRM where possible.
Meanwhile Amazon has announced that its current US-only DRM free mp3 downloads service will become available outside the US sometime this year.
The iTunes competition hots up but currently Apples music downloads service is still the market leader.
Update:Qtrax may have been a little premature in announcing signed deals with the major record companies as many now deny reaching deals with Qtrax that would allow their music to be offered for free. Until those deals are finalised their service will no doubt remain just a bold promise.
I was one of 16,000 people who got an email from HM Government’s on-line petition system in order to inform us that the BBC trust has considered out collective protests at being locked out of the BBC iPlayer. In part it says:
“In the case of the iPlayer, following the consultation, the (BBC) Trust noted the strong public demand for the service to be available on a variety of operating systems. The BBC Trust made it a condition of approval for the BBC’s on-demand services that the iPlayer is available to users of a range of operating systems, and has given a commitment that it will ensure that the BBC meets this demand as soon as possible. “
At the end of July the BBC will launch its iPlayer which will allow on-line users to access BBC content from the previous 7 days of television and allow them to view on their Windows computer for 30 days. In addition users will be able to watch ‘live’ TV via web streaming.The system itself is overdue and has attracted some criticism for its use of Microsoft’s media player and digital rights management (DRM) though some of that pressure, including from the EU and open source advocates may ensure that Mac users who are also license payers are not locked out of the system in the long term. The Beeb also want to make the content available via Virgin Media and via as yet unbuilt adapted Freeview boxes that can access the Internet.
Upon its launch two types of computer user will be excluded from use. Apple Mac users and Microsoft Vista users though it is hoped that they will be included at some future date.
Channel 4 already has its 4OD (on demand) system available for windows users and Five have dabbled with paid downloads
EMI invited Apple’s Steve Jobs to their announcement today in London of the availability of DRM free EMI music tracks via iTunes (& presumably elsewhere too). Quality is also doubled to 256k, up from 128k (this is still AAC remember- my grizzled hearing often finds it hard to hear the difference between 128k variable bitrate AAC and anything higher) for a small price increase (hold on, price rise via the back door??) and people with existing purchased DRM encoded tracks can upgrade the track for a small price. The bitrate increase is good for the audiophiles though I suspect the HiFi nuts (no offence) would still want a lossless solution. There’s much talk of interoperability across all players now though we’ll still need to see AAC playback added to many of the devices out there in order for that kind of talk to make sense though without DRM then trans-coding to other formats now has no real legal barrier.Presumably for the technically challenged all EMI tracks would be available from mp3 and WMA based download services too? No announcement yet concerning the availability of Beatles tracks on-line so we have to presume from what was said at the post event press conference that that is still being thrashed out.
DRM free music comes to iTunes in May. Press release here. :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::
Warner Music says no to Steve Jobs attempts to remove DRM from music tracks. This response is a little predictable as the music industry these days are really not able to think outside the box. It’s been hard enough to get them to acquiesce to making legal downloads available so removing their security blanket is hardly going to appeal. Maybe it would have been better if Steve had negotiated with some new companies such as small independents to have a percentage of non-DRM tracks in the iTunes store. You just need someone to lead the way and then show the others the sales figures to (hopefully) prove that DRM is more of a hindrance than a help.
I guess the potential removal of digital rights management from Apples on-line offerings would only lead to having to offer mp3 instead of AAC tracks as it would only rake up the old proprietary formats argument.AAC is not a proprietary track format but many detractors see it as such. The whole money making model of the music industry IS going to have to change, You can’t keep milking the same old cow forever.
Those of us of a certain age will remember the home taping is killing music logos that appeared on records and cassettes in the 80′s, appropriating the recording of vinyl onto cassette and sharing with friends as a threat to the profit margins of the music industry. In truth, the industry survived. There was no real way to stop us recording onto cassette and anyway we did it so we could listen to music on our Walkmans and in the car and above all to preserve our pristine but fragile vinyl masters. Some of us bought cassettes, even the higher quality chrome ones but somehow recording from vinyl ourselves gave us better quality and anyway we could leave out the odd album track that we were less than thrilled about.
DRM or Digital Rights Management is the way the music (& video) industry attempts to control their product and business interests in the new digital domain. The Internet makes sharing and acquiring music much easier and the industry seem relentless in pursuing every last drop of profit out of the consumer. But DRM acts against the interest of the consumer and undermines the relationship the consumer had and now has with the music they love.
Apples iPod and iTunes store brought the music industry into the digital domain. Steve Jobs beckoned the industry into the new frontier when the industry was reluctant to travel further afield. they were quite happy where they lived thank-you very much and were not keen to sample the dubious delights of the new digital domains. To get them to dip a toe in the waters Steve jobs had to promise them a degree of control.He reluctantly gave them DRM in the form of their exclusive fairplay system AND encoding all download files in AAC format which would , he promised, keep the consumer within a tightly controlled roaming area.
Jobs must have known that DRM was a complete crock but he needed it to lure the industry into future. In truth Apple’s DRM and AAC encoding were simple to defeat and re-encode into other formats. You didn’t even need to download any new software to hack it. It didn’t stop many of us buying the tracks legally though.
Now Steve Jobs has said that the music industry should drop DRM from their legal downloads. this would work well for Apple. France had tried to legally force Apple to remove DRM from their product in it’s territory saying it impeded freedom of choice etc. in the end France backed down as having a French iTunes store was better than not having it. Bill Gates has been saying the same about DRM though Vista, Microsoft’s latest windows flavour, is choc full of “lovely” consumer-controlling DRM technologies put in place to please the video and music industries.
Even the BBC will soon launch it’s video on demand service allied to the DRM of windows media in the false (in my opinion) belief that it is needed to not undermine it’s other revenue streams and in the vain hope to control where and how their output is consumed (& in the process locking out the percentage of license fee payers that have computers that are running other than Microsoft Windows).
Consumers are people, not criminals. Sell something at a competitive price and they will buy it. Cream them for every penny they’ve got and people will look for other methods to acquire product. Restrict the area when and where you product is sold will only increase the illegal demand for your product. For the audio and video industry, the world is your oyster. Remove the fairplay (DRM) and actually play fair for a change.Who knows you might find that it works.