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Apple music kiosk nets ‘1m downloads’

Pigopolists happy

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Not surprisingly, Apple's music partner, Universal, is continuing to hype the online kiosk the pair launched last week. Universal claims that the store clocked one million downloads in its first week of operation.

But the music 'industry'[*] is desperate for the venture to succeed, as it represents the first public acceptance of DRM, which it has spent fruitless years seeking to promote. DRM is a restrictive technology which will assure these villains' future.

"Any area where there has been even an ounce of competition has dropped the DRM crap like a hot potato, because users wouldn't stand for it," wrote Linus Torvalds recently.

But Apple's UI excellence has given the loathed DRM technology the sugar-coating that the Pigopolists craved.

Well, evidently, DRM is very OK with some Apple users. Feel free to enjoy it.

But we would be remiss in failing to point out that the terms are being dictated by the record labels, which reserve the right (check your licences, folks) to change these terms in the future, and which already place burdens that many of you find intolerable.

By accepting DRM, on the oligopolists' terms (Apple is not, as yet, a content producer and so enters negotiations with the major labels as a supplicant) two great hurdles have been crossed.

These are historic for both the personal computer industry, and the record labels.

Firstly, it legitimises the right of this oligopoly of distributors to retain their control over our culture. Labels are not the originators of this work: that's the artists, who typically get a raw deal. The labels are simply the distributors, and by the end of the Napster trial, even Judge Patel questioned the legitimacy of the labels to carry on their distribution oligopoly into a new distribution model. She wondered if they'd earned that right.

Secondly, it marks a fundamental shift in ownership. As Mac users who failed to "authorize" another Mac in advance of a catastrophic disk crash will discover, the music you bought doesn't belong to you. With CDs we have a limited licence, but in DRM it's even more limited. Users who trill that the DRM is 'harmless' or give us bland assurances that it will be, touch wood, circumvented miss the point. DRM hands control from the technologists to the dying labels: the terms will henceforth be set by them.

Pollinate

I have my own personal reason, as a Mac user, for shunning the Apple Music Store and it's nothing to do with Apple. I simply don't like music hypermarkets, as I think they're detrimental to the health of the culture.

(Don't all reach for your Lugers).

A good record store has several obligations. If there's a good one in your neighborhood, you'll have seen this yourself. Good stores work like hell to source the richest selection of music they can possibly find. Good stores are judged on the breadth and character of what they offer, and it's hard work to find these sources. And a good store promotes and nurtures new subcultures, often drawing on the richness of the past, because these represent an investment in the future, and it's your duty as a store owner to pollinate. It's your duty, quite simply, to be good.

These two characteristics aren't just good common business sense, they're a recognition that the culture doesn't belong to you, or anyone else, and that it's your responsibility to preserve its health. Setting up a kiosk with a limited selection of music doesn't fulfill these obligations. It's a parasitic activity that parallels environmental carelessness: it messes up the future for your kids. ®

[*] Pedantics semantics: Prior to the industrial revolution, the word 'industry' meant only one thing: 'hard work'. Then it became associated with industrialised manufacturing. The word retains its prior meaning, but the new application has dubious legitimacy today. The record labels are hardly manufacturing anything, only distributing the labors of their artists. It's time we stopped referring to the Pigopolists as an 'industry'. They're not doing any work.

Particularly those recently 'let go' by Sony Music Entertainment.

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