(Photo Courtesy of Jesse Wu)
This week Steve Jobs’ web site posting Thoughts on Music has created quite a bit of hype. Commentary on this news item is spread across multiple blogs, websites, newspapers and magazines (when they finally get their printed versions out). I first heard of this on Thomas Hawk’s Digital Connection and then later read an article in the USA Today (it was a travel week and the USA Today gets 10 minutes of my attention during breakfast when I get it delivered to my room..).
What I find so interesting and quite shocking, is how most of the media attention given to this story totally misses the point of why Steve and company wrote that piece. There are a lot of smart people out there who like to point out how it’s a bit of marketing genius (and it is), but they think that it was done to free the music from the restricting shackles of DRM and the music industry.
Come on. It’s about Apple’s revenue stream. It’s about selling more iPods!
Last quarter Apple posted an 18% increase in net sales of iPods over the same period last year (and a 29% increase in “Other music related products and services”). At the same time, Norway declared that iPod and iTunes DRM is illegal (and a slew of other European countries are about to follow their lead). It doesn’t take an MBA to realize that the continued backlash across Europe of Apple’s DRM means that these double digit increases in sales can’t (and won’t) continue.
So, what is a responsible CEO to do? Same thing that all responsible CEO’s do, protect their revenue streams. (no mater what a CEO says, a companies first duty is to itself). One of Steve Jobs’ greatest achievements was to convince the record labels to bless Apple’s iPod and iTunes by providing content for them. All Apple needed to do was provide DRM protection for that content. This is what allowed Apple to market both products without a backlash of bad publicity from the recording industry. Now, in order to continue to sell these same products, Steve needed to strike out at the recording industry against DRM.
Poetic in a Ouroboros kind of way…