Just like all those shitty mall record stores like Musicland and the Wherehouse died, leaving only awesome tiny independent record stores and horrible Best Buy behemoths; just like music videos shown on cable rotation died, leaving only YouTube and 3D megaplex screenings; and just like the middle class in America has died, leaving only the poors and the well-to-dos; so dies any middle ground when it comes to music formats. You can either have your oh-so-physical in the form of 12″x12″ LPs—which has always been my choice, petroleum and all—or you can have no physical object whatsoever in the form of an mp3.
This Monday’s anticipated announcement of Apple’s iCloud service goes even further: your music collection won’t even take up any hard drive space. You’ll have nothing except a tether to your files, floating somewhere. In 2005 terms, we call this “YouTube,” where nearly every song ever recorded resides. How to spiff up this non-material concept is something I’m sure Apple will handle with trademark skill, but what interests me is that for perhaps the first time in the history of the music industry, a major corporation is going to be spending millions of dollars convincing the American public to buy nothing at all.
No more burning and wasting CD-Rs. No more hooking up cables between computers. No more importing into iMovie and saving as mp3s. No more FairGame, or DRMDumpster, or MyFairTunes.
But if you’ve got a large iTunes library and want to kill the DRM encoding, Apple’s gonna raid your wallet.
In a move rivaling the RIAA’s decision last month to stop suing people who illegally download music, Apple Inc. announced today that finally, 80 percent of its 10 million songs in iTunes will now be available in the DRM-free version of iTunes Plus, and that its entire library will be available DRM-free by the end of March.
But in a move rivaling Mafia shakedown tactics, music fans with songs purchased from the “old” iTunes have the option of converting their current DRM-encoded songs to 256kbps DRM-free files for an “upgrade fee” of 30 cents per song. If you’ve got 2000 songs, that’s a whopping $600—and all for something that both Apple and the major labels should have been offering all along anyway. It’s basically a shrewd and unforgivable variation on the music industry’s tradition of forcing fans to pay for the same music all over again. Fuckers.
Interestingly, the company’s started a variable price-point system as well: songs from iTunes will now cost either the usual 99 cents, the cheaper 69 cents, or the premium $1.29. The labels get to decide how much to sell their songs for, and I think the results will be pretty hilarious. Don’t expect their prices to be based on reality (i.e. new releases vs. back catalog tracks).
Sigh. It’s days like this that remind me the music industry is a festering money bog of rotten slop.