Yes! They Took the Bait! Music Industry Grumbles About Job’s Vision of a DRM Free Future
“Edgar Bronfman Jr., chief executive of the Warner Music Group, said in a conference call with analysts yesterday that Jobs’s stance is ‘completely without logic or merit.'”
“‘We don’t think that a wholesale abandonment of DRM is necessary,” added Mitch Bainwol, chairman and chief executive of the RIAA. “I think you’ll see some experimentation, but that’s a lot different from a policy saying ‘forget it.’ “
Ok, so earlier this week when Steve Jobs penned his beautifully crafted anti-DRM missive, thoughtfully entitled, “Thoughts on Music,” I wrote a post about Steve Jobs being a marketing genius. And my point is beginning to be made here.
The quote above by Edgar Bronfman, Jr. (what a name) may have just as well come from John Hodgman in a hospital gown with a cam strapped to his head.
Just like Bill Gates took the bait complaining about Apple’s recent ad campaign that portrays the PC as an overweight sickly virus ridden machine, again, with a hillarious cam strapped to it’s head, Edgar Bronfman Jr. and the rest of the music industry just took the bait on DRM. I’m still waiting for the next Apple commercial that has Hodgman with a kick me sign on his ass.
And the louder they complain, the better it will be for Apple and Jobs. Why? Because at this point if the music labels dropped iTunes there would be outcry and backlash of massive proportion with the winning message being, screw them then, I’m going to Limewire… opps, I mean Acquistion.
The labels are too far immersed into iTunes as the the leading seller of online music at this point to back out now. What’s more, any attempt by the music industry to raise prices from here (and they are still burning up inside about the screwing they took when they didn’t think to ask for a piece of the hardware pie from iPod sales) will only allow Jobs to portray them not only as DRM loving scum but as greedy DRM loving scum. Obviously I exaggerate to make the point. Jobs would be much more eloquent with it all than I am blunt.
At the core, what Job’s anti-DRM missive is about more than anything (irrespective of the fact that he’s totally right and I’m sure believes in what he wrote) is a marketing message that resonates with future buyers of Mac computers, iPods, and most importantly iPhones.
Apple makes the best consumer technology in the world right now. The Mac is vastly superior to the PC. The iPod is better than the Zune. The iPhone will be one of the best phones ever. And… you almost thought I was going to say that iTV was the best way to consume television didn’t you? Psyche. (Although CableLabs watch out, your turn is coming next)
But the point is that making the best hardware isn’t enough. The real genius behind Apple’s business is not even building a better mousetrap — it’s design, style and marketing. It’s fashion. It’s the difference between a hip young nerdy looking Justin Long vs. John Hodgman with a bad haircut alternating between a hospital gown or a suit from the 80s.
Everybody hates DRM and the RIAA. Hating DRM is like hating bigotry or hating racism or hating those horible predators that Chris Hanson grills on NBC’s “To Catch a Predator.” Again, I exagerate to make a point.
The funny thing is that the more that people like Bronfman now bitch about how wrong Jobs is and how important DRM is, the more the volume gets turned up and the more the popular tide shifts to Job’s message (which again, emphatically, is the right message).
Look, after Jobs penned his masterpiece earlier this week you even had Cory Doctorow himself, the father of all anti-DRM, cautiously and suspiciously saying, “well, Ok, that’s cool, I think…”
The music industry at this point has two things that they can do, and in both cases Jobs wins.
The first thing they can do is continue to grumble and bitch about DRM. And every few weeks or so Jobs will let a comment slip here or there about how they are wrong and he’s right, and he’ll get standing ovations over it and believe me, the marketing team at Apple will craft some real zingers for him to drop into the right media moments.
And it’s not so bad if this happens anyways. After all iPods are largely sold based on illegal music. Of the 97% of tunes on iPods that Jobs quoted in his article, how many of those do you think were legitimately ripped from people who still own those CDs (Amoeba Records is a great place to sell your used CDs by the way and they have an innovative 7 day “insurance” plan just in case you buy CDs that you don’t like a few days latter, wink, wink). So who the hell cares about iTunes. It’s irrelevant. It offers Jobs a valid defense to the argument that iPods are basically filled with pirated songs and that’s all that really matters.
The second thing the music industry can do is capitulate and give in, and begin offering DRM free music. This is the right thing to do by the way… but the music industry doesn’t always do the right thing, it’s run by idiots.
Now if this happens everyone will point to Job’s anti-DRM (at this point in the canon of great computer literature) letter as being the catalyst for all this great change.
Jobs wins again.
So, NYPost. Keep printing headlines like Bronfman Rips Jobs. But know that when he reads that he’s slamming his palm down on his granite countertop kitchen (complete with Sub-Zero everything) and jumping up and down yelling, “YES! They took the bait.”
Now that’s what I call a win/win…
…well, unless you’re the record industry — but even there it’s a win, they just don’t realize it yet, just like they thought the VCR would be bad for their business once a very long time ago.
Genius, Jobs, pure genius.
Oh, and if anyone wants to check out my gallery of Apple imagery you can check it out here on Zooomr (which, by the way, is a cool and awesome site built on Macs, hehe).
Disclosure, of course, I’m CEO of Zooomr.