I used to work for a record store called Cheapo. It was a fun job. After a year or so, I was one of the lucky few to get transferred to the vinyl department in the basement. The manager down there, Tony, was and is one of the coolest, funniest, friendliest persons I've ever met. At night, I had the pleasure of working by myself, pumping discordant tunes while a combination of older, mentally ‘unstable’ patrons and young idealistic DJs would peruse through our vast collection of vinyl.
Aside from the pay, the only shitty thing about the job was the owner, Al. He was an egotistical jerk and, worst of all, couldn't give a shit about his employees. After about a year-and-a-half, I had the pleasure to discuss with Al face-to-face about my thoughts on the company. He predictably undermined all my suggestions for improvements, which I guess was okay. I could only half-care about a company that hardly cared for me at all.
But then we got on the topic of DRM. Even though no major music group had taken the DRM-free plunge at the time, all signs were pointing toward a DRM-free world. Al, being the naïve businessman that he is, argued with me about the future of digital music as inextricable from DRM. His points were valid from a business standpoint, but they were far from practical. Since most people at Cheapo seemed to fear him for whatever reason, it felt really good to debate on this topic, even though it lasted less than 10 minutes.
That said, it is with exceedingly great pleasure for me to announce that Sony BMG has officially become the last major music group to drop DRM. And according to Hypebot (adding onto a story by Business Week), Sony BMG isn't half-assing this whole thing -- the group intends to make its entire catalog DRM-free. The decision was apparently made last month, and the reformatting of the MP3s could be completed within month.
Of course, a shift to DRM-free MP3s is a business move like any other. With all the negative press DRM has received, the majors are simply trying to create more flexible paradigms in which to sell MP3s in the future. Going ahead without digital restrictions will enable the groups to more fluidly penetrate social networking possibilities, Amazon, and any future businesses/networks that will surely arise. And it will also of course help them fight Apple's clear dominance in the digital music market (estimates are around 75-85%).
Besides, even though the idea of DRM was born out of P2P concerns, the restriction was always more annoying for "legal" purchasers of major label MP3s, not the "illegal" downloaders. Will these consumers have to repurchase their collections in order to get DRM-free MP3s? Will these DRM-free files be watermarked? The majors better suck up to their consumers, as they and the RIAA have been building houses on sand for quite some time now.
After my face-to-face with Al, he asked if I wanted to leave early or help him sort through vinyl. I decided to leave, of course, catching someone stealing a book on the way out the door, and then hopping in my car and listening to King Geedorah on the drive home.