I haven't seen the conference, but I've been in touch with many twitters and I've been getting email updates on my cellphone (from where I'm posting this) and all the fuzz around this announcement started up my brain.
Well, what does all this mean? Well, a couple of months ago, Steve Jobs posted a public letter where he made many statements but the most important for all this debate was the fact that ever since CDs came out to the public, they were a good-quality free-of-copy-control way to distribute music. This has been true for the last 20 years. Big media makes a lot of noise saying that we are thieves (cf. The lovely CEO of Universal Music on the launch of MS Zune) and on piracy. What Big Media has not yet realised is the fact that we, the users/consumers of media, have the power to choose and enjoy whatever entertainment we want. And this power has been returned to the audience thanks to the Internet (A good example: Bum Rush the Charts).
Today Apple and EMI are announcing that the entire catalogue of EMI will be available on the iTunes Store DRM-free. This will cost more than the usual 99 cents but it means that this songs could be used in any Device, in opposition to the actual iTunes-iPod-MacTV only DRM system that Apple has been using since the launching of the iTunes Store.
From an economic PoV, this announce will indeed bring profits to EMI (I'm not that sure that Apple makes real profits from the iTunes Store) and will open the market to another marketing model.
On the other hand, this is a mayor decision for Apple. DRM-free songs mean that they can be used in any device. I'm not sure that the iPod's market share will change radically after this announcement but, however, this may change in a near future. DRM has always been the downside of online stores and online music services . The incompatibility between different standards have produced a bad effect on online sales. Users want to use and play the music they buy online everywhere they want, just as they did with tapes and just as they do with CDs.
This first step of a mayor record label will open the dialogue between online music service and record labels. My only hope is that those big 3 will listen to their consumers and will focus on music not on trials or attacking us, those who buy music.
I'll make another post once I've read/seen the announcement/conference.