With Apple/EMI, Music Can Now Move into the 21st Century

In a move that demonstrates questionable sanity on the part of Apple and EMI, the companies released joint statements on the day after April Fools Day. Indeed, several folks I’ve spoken to since then have admitted thinking the announcement about the entire EMI music catalog going DRM-less in iTunes was nothing but phony.

However, it’s not a joke and the move represents the single greatest moment in new media-old media relations in some time. Major music conglomerates led by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and film companies under the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) have stonewalled against basic freedom of product consumption for years – and has been well documented.

In fact, as recently as February when Steve Jobs made a bold call for the RIAA to approve DRM-less music, the companies balked. Still, days after Steve Jobs’ keynote cracks began to appear in the RIAA armor and EMI finally decided to call Jobs’ bluff. Steve Fisher tells me that he thinks the record labels assumed that Jobs was politically posturing.

However, there is no posturing now and the deal is sealed. In May, consumers will be able to pay 30 cents more ($1.29) to purchase DRM-less music encoded at 256kbps as opposed to the standard 99 cent purchases with DRM and encoded at 128kbps.

If you have been blowing smoke about this thing simply looking to pick fights with the record labels, then stop. However, if this is something that is truly important to you – the right to purchase music and use it on whichever mobile device, computer, MP3 player or burned CD you want without limitations placed on usage – then when this becomes available in May, you should follow my lead and purchase plenty of DRM-less music.

This is not just a spending spree. This is a call to action as the other record labels will be watching the results of this action closely. If they see a surge in sales, guess what? It won’t just be the EMI catalog that is DRM-less. Less than 15% of all music on the internet is legal.

If the issue is freedom of choice, prove it with your wallet. If the issue is that you’re cheap, stop arguing that it’s a freedom of choice issue. For real, get real.