This one threw us for a loop the first time we heard it. And the second. And the third when MM (you know who you are!) dropped us a line about it. But then, Apple, Inc. settled with Apple Corps and suddenly, it seemed a lot more possible. Then, Steve came out against DRM, and now the pieces are starting to fit together.
To recap, Apple Computer (now just Apple, or Apple, Inc. if you want to call them that) and the Beatles’ label, Apple Corps, had a longstanding feud relating to Apple Computer using the Apple name in regard to music. It all started way back in the 70s, when Apple Computer was founded and was sued in 1978 by the Beatles’ label (more technically, the holding company that owns their label, but potato, potahto)…in 1981, they settled and Apple Computer agreed not to enter the music business. Eight years later, in 1989, Apple Corps sued Apple Computer again, this time because Apple Computer had added audio recording capabilities to the Mac…they settled again in 1991. Then, in 2003, Apple Corps came suing again, for use of the Apple Computer logo in sales of music via iTunes (among other charges), and finally, here in 2007, we have the third settlement (three strikes and you’re out?).
Interestingly, as a part of that settlement, Apple Computer now owns ALL of the trademarks related to “Apple” (at least, all the ones that they or Apple Corps owned) and will license a limited set of those trademarks back to Apple Corps! This ended the feud, and should, once and for all, put the whole mess behind everyone.
Of course, the rumor mill has been active with the concept of Apple now doing a deal with the Beatles, making a yellow-submarine iPod, or selling Beatles songs exclusively through iTunes, and bla, bla, bla. It was going to be announced during the Super Bowl, they say, and now it’s going to be announced on Valentine’s Day (good thing we only have a couple days to wait, huh?).
Well, THIS rumor mill has something bigger up its sleeve, and that is Apple’s plan to distribute music directly on iPod/iPhone, allow for pre-loading of songs via select retail outlets (Apple retail stores) but best of all, allow artists to distribute their music directly through iTunes, WITHOUT DRM and WITHOUT a record label. Now, mind you, we understand that we’re not quite there yet…iTunes isn’t quite dominant enough that it alone can bring new artists onto the scene and promote them enough to break them into radio airplay and the charts (not to mention the payola involved in actually getting an act on the air and in the stores is crazy, exactly why no one has tried this before). However, for EXISTING artists, that are already big names (like for instance, U2…we all know how close Bono and the boys are to Apple), having music that is iTunes exclusive, can’t be bought in stores, is going to be a huge business for Apple. It will sell more iPods, too (and possibly other MP3 players if the acts decide to distribute their music without DRM).
What is also really interesting about the U2 angle is that U2 happens to be on the Interscope Records label…Interscope Records is owned by Universal…Universal has cozied up with Microsoft already and gotten paid by them for each Zune sold…and they want Apple to do the same thing (here’s a little article about it). Funny how they would be so vocal about it, and funny that U2 happens to be one of their acts…does anyone want to think about what it’d do to them for U2 to jump ship to Apple, and shout from the rooftops that they make FAR more money with Apple as their label than they ever did with Universal?? Could it be the end of the RIAA Cartel?? And if Apple does this, without DRM, won’t everyone else look pretty damned stupid? Add the Beatles to the mix, and suddenly you have two pretty huge acts with broad appeal making tons and tons of money and the RIAA is left right out in the cold…
Now we need to go change our names and go into witness protection, as we’ve just implied the end of the RIAA…pretty soon they’ll be suing our dogs and deceased grandparents!
What do you think? Send us your thoughts, comment below, and…aw heck, you know what we’re going to ask, so we won’t bother…