Music hath charms

Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.

It’s so true. Ol’ Bill Congreve knew what he was talkin’ about.

I’m sitting here listening to my music, conveniently contained on my beautiful video iPod. I’ve heard Barenaked Ladies’ folk-rock, to System of a Down’s hardcore rock (I loves me some “Pogo” to get going in the morning), to Seattle band Harvey Danger, to Morphine’s slow, jazzy rock, to Radiohead… It’s all good. Because it’s my music, and everything I put on there is something I like, for one reason or another, and I’ve got (I think) broad tastes.

Apple and EMI Music announced yesterday that they’re going to start selling non-DRM’ed music in the iTunes Music Store, online, for download.

My personal thoughts on DRM, or encrypting music to lock its use to one or a few devices, are this: it’s treating the customer like a thief, it’s ineffective because there are always ways to crack it, and it’s more about making the customer pay for the fair use that they should get for free. So I applaud the basic idea behind EMI experimenting with unlocking their music – but, again, they’re charging more for the right that should be free. They’ll still offer FairPlay (heh) enabled tracks for US$0.99 each, or super-special “free” tracks for US$1.29.

This comes after Steve Jobs said that Apple would drop DRM in an instant if the labels gave their OK (which I almost blogged about), and EMI stepped up, half-heartedly and still looking to siphon money from their customers in the process, but, y’know, still.

Once the music is available, I will likely, as a way to support the concept, upgrade any EMI tracks that I’ve purchased. Of course, since I only have a handful (maybe 40? 50?) songs that I’ve purchased from iTMS, it’s unlikely that I will be dropping very much dough.

The vast majority of the 4400+ songs in my digital music collection is legally obtained from ripped CDs – remember those? Yeah, they’re not encrypted or locked in any way, so it’s easy-peasy to buy them (used, most of the time, so discounted), then use my computer to suck the songs off and then onto my iPod. I get to choose the quality of the songs, instead of being locked in to the 128kbps or 256kbps that iTunes offers – I can even listen to nothing but full-on, non-compressed digital music.

Another large selection of my library is made up of songs that the artists themselves have offered for free on the internet. Not all artists are locked into serfitude with one of the five major labels, you know, and most artists like the fact that people want to listen to their music, so they’re open to distributing it in any way possible. Look at Harvey Danger’s free digital distribution of their awesome third album, “Little By Little”, for an example.

And most of the time, I’m downloading because I want to try something new, or I’ve been turned on to some new song or artist by a friend and want to sample them. If I like them, I turn around and buy their CDs (see two paragraphs ago) and attend their shows, maybe even buy the t-shirt or somethin’. It’s like the free songs are advertising. Wow, where did that idea come from – letting people hear the songs for free so that they’ll turn around and spend money on the band? Oh, right… that’s the model for radio. Which is apparently so old-fashioned and 20th century that the major labels are just not interested. Except for EMI. Sort of.

I do have a few (probably less than 200) songs that I’ve either pirated off the internets, or

But, y’know, still… I guess that’s my reaction to the whole announcement: “But, y’know, still…” It’s great, but…