Pandora Town Hall


Last week I attended a "Get Together" event for Pandora users.  Pandora is an internet radio station that allows users to create their own channel based on a particular song or artist, then Pandora plays similar music.  As each song plays you can give it a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" which helps Pandora learn what kind of music to play.  It's really a lot of fun to use and it's great for background music and for finding new artists.  Also, Pandora is free.  Tim Westergren, the founder of Pandora, ran the event and he essentially told stories about how Pandora started and took questions from the audience...for over 2 hours.  The experience was absolutely amazing.  We were able to get direct responses to questions, new feature requests, problems, and even details about the pending legislation in congress that could hike the licensing cost of music for internet radio stations and shut services like Pandora down.  But more than anything, the event made all us listeners feel really important.  Quite frankly, I can't think of too many more effective ways to build a brand and create customer evangelists than events like this.  More companies should find ways to reach out to their customers/users directly and personally.

Rumor: EMI to license music DRM-Free!
Plus EMI's Environmental Policy


Rumors have started circulating that EMI will license music DRM-free.  Recent articles in the Chicago Sun-Times and New York Times have all the details.  Also, EMI is the only "big four" music company with an environmental policy, at least that I was able to find.  According to their own figures they've reduced CO2 emissions from factories by about two thirds in 10 years.  However, they haven't made much of a dent in CO2 emissions from shipping.  One can only imagine what they could do if they were able to boost online music sales enough to actually manufacture and ship fewer CDs. EMI has also made significant reductions in hazardous waste, water use, and HCFCs (ozone depleting chemicals). One can only hope these numbers are as good as they seem.

License Music without DRM Restrictions, refocus on the environment

First of all the big four music companies should totally license music to online music stores without the DRM restriction. Jobs's points in Thoughts on Music are well made that the DRM requirement is stifling a huge potential for sales. While they're at it, they should make album artwork available in PDF format and make digital music available in a variety of audio qualities which can carry a modest price difference. In short they should do everything they can to make digital music truly competitive with CDs. However, more than anything I'd like to see the debate about digital music shift away from DRM and technological compatibility issues, and toward the environment. Read on to see what I'm thinking about.

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Steve Jobs on DRM-Free Music

Wow, talk about confluence. Just after posting about how great eMusic is, Steve Jobs releases a statement endorsing DRM-free music. When I wrote that hopefully we'll see other companies follow in eMusic's path I never thought Apple would be among the first. Here are some highlights, but I do recommend reading the whole statement, it's very readable and very interesting. Ok, now the highlights:

Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music.

Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store.

...the music companies are selling over 90 percent of their music DRM-free, what benefits do they get from selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system? There appear to be none.

The question is, how can we convince the big four music companies to license their music without the DRM requirement? Oh I know...

eMusic and DRM-Free Music


Whenever I see a new article about the RIAA or CD prices I just roll my eyes, thanks to eMusic. With so many lousy music services out there, it's so nice to see one actually done right. For those unfamiliar with eMusic, it's a subscription based music download service, but you don't have to keep subscribing to listen to the music you download. That's because eMusic songs come in DRM free MP3 format that play on anything from iPods, to Zunes, to cellphones. The basic plan starts at $9.99 for 30 downloads per month, so it works out to about $0.33 a song. But the real reason I wanted to write about eMusic is that it's the first major (legal) experiment in DRM-free downloads and it appears to be working. So hopefully, we'll see eMusic's catalog increase and other download services follow in its path. I've been a member for about a year now and it's fantastic. EMusic only offers independent music, so while it's fine for me it's definitely not for everyone. They have a particularly good collection of underground hip-hop, which really keeps me happy. My only real complaints are that eMusic is not all that helpful in finding new music, and I really hate that I can't preview songs in my browser. Also, there really aren't as many user reviews and ratings as I'd like. They should really have some reward for reviewing and rating music, like 2 additional monthly downloads for every album you download and review. Oops, that one just slipped out.

Anyways, if anyone wants to try out eMusic leave a comment and I'll send you a link for free 25 downloads.

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