Jeff Croft

I’m a product designer in Seattle, WA. I recently worked at Simply Measured, and previously co-founded Lendle.

Some of my past clients include Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, and the University of Washington.

I’ve authored two books on web and interactive design and spoken at dozens of conferences around the world.

I’m currently accepting contract work and considering full-time opportunities.

Link // 02.07.2007 // 5:15 PM // 8 Comments

Reading Between the Lines of Steve Jobs’s ‘Thoughts on Music’

Gruber provides his usual insightful commentary on Job’s DRM essay. The most interesting bit, to me, is that Nettwerk, an indie label that has some big-name artists like Avril and The Barenaked Ladies, is already selling DRM-free music on eMusic and has ben told by Apple they can’t do the same on iTunes. I hadn’t heard this, but if it’s true, it seems really contradictory on Apple’s part. If Jobs wants this essay to have some impact with the big boys, Apple should make a DRM-free deal with Nettwerk and other indie labels in order to prove they’re not bluffing.

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  1. 001 // Brian Ford // 02.07.2007 // 11:36 AM

    I have similar concerns.

    They -have- to open this up to anyone who requests it now. And, if people request and Apple says “no” — the requester needs to publish an equally visible open letter to let everyone know of Apple’s hypocrisy.

  2. 002 // Ryan Berg // 02.07.2007 // 12:38 PM


    It’ll take more than just one publisher, even just one of the big 4, to have DRM-free tracks on the iTunes Music Store. It would be a mess for consumers if different tracks had different rights restrictions. No matter how clearly the tracks could be labeled “Rights-restricted” or “DRM-free” there will be people who simply won’t know what exactly they’re downloading. There’s no way Apple will allow for anything but a consistent iTMS experience.

  3. 003 // Jeff Croft // 02.07.2007 // 12:50 PM

    Ryan, I think you might be right — Apple will certainly want that consistent experience. But, is it possible? Will it be logistically possible to get all record labels on the non-DRM train at the same time? Seems doubtful (especially considering some of the indies are onboard now, and the big guys aren’t).

    I think Nettwerk would be understandably pissed if Apple’s response to them was, “sure, we’ll put your music on iTunes DRM-free — just as soon as web convince everyone else to, also.” And, I think this is a situation where one domino needs to fall in order to set the other ones in motion. If one label goes the non-DRM iTunes route, others will follow. If no one takes the leap, then — well, no one will take the leap.

    This seems like a rock and a hard place kind of thing. Apple has to choose between providing and inconsistent experience for their consumers or possibly never having DRM-free music.

    Sticky situation.

  4. 004 // Brian Ford // 02.07.2007 // 1:01 PM

    And, Apple has made the rock rockier and the hard place harder by stating in no uncertain terms that they will put DRM free music up just as soon as the request comes in.

    I’ll see it as hypocrisy if they hem and haw and say “well, we meant when ‘everyone’ requests it.”

    Steve played his cards and he really has to live with them, now.

  5. 005 // Ryan Berg // 02.07.2007 // 1:28 PM

    A couple quotes straight from the horse’s mouth:

    The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely

    This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store.

    Emphasis in that last quote is mine. Apple would not be going back on its word by not allowing individual labels to sell music DRM-free. I would certainly like to see this happen, I just see it as unlikely.

  6. 006 // Brian Ford // 02.07.2007 // 2:07 PM

    So, you’re reading this as (essentially) a giant game of semantics on Apple’s part?

    If so, Apple is playing a dangerous game and all of the positive press they get from this will evaporate as soon as they are forced to admit that they only agreed to something knowing that the wording they used would be impossible to satisfy. In essence, it would become clear that they were trying to have their cake and eat it too — and I don’t think that will fly. As soon as several smaller labels say that Apple has said “no” to their request for DRM free music, the cat will be out of the bag.

    I would rather look on the optimistic side and assume that Apple is simply firing an opening shot and (essentially) inviting those who would like to be on their side of the battle to make contact. Posting this open letter would be idiotic, otherwise.

  7. 007 // Baxter // 02.07.2007 // 2:53 PM

    I’ve been thinking about this, and I think the one thing that no one’s touched on is the high probability that DRM-free music will cost you more.

    The RIAA is already (and has been) pushing for higher prices on iTMS. If they were to release DRM-free music, they’d surely try to use the perception of increased piracy as a bargaining chip. Just off general principle, if nothing else. While Jobs’ negotiating and sales skills are legendary, he very well may have to give a little to get a little.

    My prediction: if the RIAA considers DRM-free tracks at all, they’ll want them priced somewhere between 1.29 - 1.99 and full albums will cost MORE than just buying the CD.

    The RIAA is still wearing blinders, seeing the CD sales of a few major acts, rather than the overall sales of many smaller acts.

  8. 008 // Ryan Berg // 02.07.2007 // 3:13 PM

    Interesting thought, Baxter. Brian I used semantics to back my thoughts, but even without a word by word analysis of Steve’s letter, I never once thought he was inviting individual labels to go DRM-free. He’s pushing for a radical shift in they way the industry works, not a case-by-case evaluation of whether or not to use DRM.

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