never really affected by the DRM restrictions they impose -- if users are buying music to play on their iPods, then they don't really come in contact with the DRM. If consumers aren't bothered by DRM, or perhaps not even aware that it exists, will "no DRM" resonate as a marketing message? Recently released sales data seems to suggest so.A couple of weeks ago, I surmised that because Apple enjoys a dominating end-to-end position in the digital music market, most consumers are
"Too many people are already ingrained in the iTunes+iPod experience, and for many of them, DRM doesn't matter. They buy tracks on iTunes and put them on their iPods. As long as iPods control the player market, iTunes will control the download market," I wrote. But the UK's 7 Digital, which sells DRM-free tracks in Europe, recently announced that sales shot up 188% since they started selling music without DRM.
A 2005 study by INDICARE (pdf), revealed that in Europe that over 60% of digital music consumers had never heard of DRM. Just 13% had any real notion of what DRM was. Certainly, with the media attention given to digital rights management over the past couple of years, consumer attitudes might have changed, but even among a presumably tech-savvy audience, such as at the blog Mashable, a recent unscientific poll indicated that 36% of users wouldn't let the presence DRM affect their music buying decisions. If we can assume that Mashable's audience is generally more tech-savvy than the standard digital music consumer, then we can probably assume that a greater percentage of the general public doesn't let DRM influence their purchasing decisions.
Yet 7Digital specifically attributes the 2007 sales growth to "the removal of DRM and availability of high-quality 320kbps format MP3 tracks." And though Amazon has not released specific sales figures from its DRM-free MP3 store, CEO Jeff Bezos said in October that Amazon was "....very happy with the early results that we're seeing. We're getting terrific feedback from customers. Everybody loves the DRM free format, so selling MP3s is very successful for us..."
So it would appear that customers are indeed responding to DRM-free music in a positive way -- or they are just responding to viable alternatives to iTunes. Either way, the results should be good for the consumer, whether they actually care or not.