When Steve Jobs squawks, people listen: Earlier this week, the Apple honcho posted a lengthy missive about the need to make all digital music files unprotected, arguing that the major labels have to make their music as accessible as they can in order to combat piracy (reading the polite-but-firm essay was like reading the longest Olive Garden comment card of all time). And today, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that EMI is considering making all of its music available in restriction-free MP3 format:
The London-based EMI is believed to have held talks with a wide range of online retailers that compete with Apple’s iTunes. Those competing retailers include RealNetworks Inc., eMusic.com, MusicNet Inc. and Viacom Inc.’s MTV Networks. People familiar with the matter cautioned that EMI could still abandon the proposed strategy before implementing it. A decision about whether to keep pursuing the idea could come as soon as today…
According to people familiar with the matter, EMI initially began exploring the issue in earnest in late December, when it circulated proposals to online music retailers. Part of its proposal was a request for a one-time, multimillion-dollar “risk-insurance” payment that would not be tallied against future sales. Three people familiar with the talks said online retailers generally balked at the request.
EMI then returned with a new proposal in late January, around the time of a music conference in Cannes, France. EMI asked the online retailers to tell it what size advance payments they would offer in exchange for the right to sell its music as MP3s. Those proposals were to be submitted yesterday, said one person familiar with the matter. This person understood that EMI would decide whether to forge ahead with the MP3 strategy based on the offers’ aggregate worth.
We’re pretty sure no one at EMI is reading this, but if so, for God’s sake, do it! There’s no time left for “risk-insurance” dilly-dallying or advance-payment fussing about; the music industry as we know it is has about three or four more years left before it becomes a small-scale equivalent of the drug trade, and this is your chance to be its Newton Blade: You can control the product, set up the street rules, and still feel justified if you need to bust some heads now and then. Plus, you can buy a $25,000 salt-water tank, and fill it with baby hammerheads.