I think it’s time for Apple to stop “negotiating” with record companies and just start buying them. Some of the smaller guys like Warner and EMI are ripe for the picking. Apple needs to just buy them, lay off the idiots running the companies (saving a big chunk of money), switch to an all-digital / burn-on-demand distribution model and sell the music DRM-free directly through iTunes at a lower price.
I am a rabid music fan. I firmly believe that people will (happily) buy music instead of pirating it and revive this industry if buying music is:
- easy – through services like iTunes, emusic, Rhapsody, etc
- cheap – by doing everything digitally and cutting out more of the middlemen
- friendly – through the avoidance of DRM and an end to suing the customers
Personally, I’m happy to buy music and support artists. I buy lots. But I hate DRM which makes it complicated to do what I want to do with my music. I also think that paying $1 / track is ridiculous, especially if the path from recording studio to my iPod is all digital. I think $.25 / track is a fair price and that’s where we should be shooting.
The record industry as it exists now is dying. But on the other hand, the music itself is in great shape – there are a cornucopia of great bands out there and more ways to find and discover those bands then ever before with services like last.fm, The Hype Machine, etc.
Given it’s commanding lead in both music distribution and devices (and it’s history of innovation), Apple is in a unique position to define a new model and drag the industry out of the grave. There are probably other ways for this to happen, but I think Apple would be able to move things at a much faster pace if they actually had a roster of artists to work with directly. It would play well with their image of creativity of artistry. They could encourage artists to use Apple products for their web presence, audio/video editing, etc.
Bias alert: I am an APPL stockholder and Apple admirer (but probably short of fanboy status).