Local Rhythms – ITMS Drops DRM? BFD

no_drm_apple_sqLast week, Apple behaved more like Detroit of years past , with new fins, bells and whistles adorning their computers and software. But there was no iPhone-level breakthrough at the annual Macworld Expo.

The biggest news proved just how underwhelming the whole show was.

In April, the iTunes Music Store will go DRM-free, stripping file locking from the millions of songs it sells.

But, as they say in the news business, the company buried the lede.

Sure, the remaining record companies followed EMI, which decrypted some of their music in 2007.  But in exchange, they got variable pricing, topping out at $1.29 per song.

It’s a move that Apple’s resisted for years.

There’s no official word yet, but I’m betting it’s the most popular music that goes beyond the once-standard 99 cents per track. That’s just how this business does things.

Utter idiocy.

To paraphrase industry gadfly Bob Lefsetz, who weighed in immediately after the announcement – only gas stations are raising prices.

The bestselling books are always discounted, and CDs with one or two hits on them are loss leaders from Best Buy to Wal-Mart.  Yet these moguls think digital music, which requires no assembly line, warehouse or shipping channel, ought to cost more,

Is it any wonder they’re bleeding red ink?

Anyway, I find the whole no-DRM discussion beside the point.  e-Music, with perhaps the best legal indie music catalog anywhere, has been doing it forever, and they don’t rule the world.

Music from iTunes is easily bought, and (up to now, anyway) simply understood.

But without the computer/iPod synergy with iTunes, it’s nothing.  Besides, 90 percent of music stored on portable devices is already DRM-free, because it was ripped from CD or stolen online.

Now, if an all-you-can-eat rental service went DRM-free, that would be newsworthy.  I swear by Rhapsody.  For 15 bucks a month, I get all the music I want when I want it.

My biggest problem with this unlimited library is that I can’t play it on an iPod.

Fix that little difficulty, and the iTunes Music Store will lose its cool factor in a Cupertino minute.

Which is why this big move is such small beer.  Anyone with an iPod gets music from Apple already.  I’d love to hear how many people even care that their songs are handcuffed.

However, if the next Justin Timberlake single costs 30 cents more, they may start paying attention.

When that happens, I’m guessing it won’t be a good thing – for Apple or the music business.

Now, on to the local scene:

Thursday: Johnny Winter & James Montgomery, Latchis Theatre – At 17, I snuck into a bar to see the lightning-fingered Winter play blues guitar.  It was mesmerizing.  Though he’s frail these days (like B.B. King, he performs sitting down), the flame still burns.  With harmonica genius Montgomery at his side, it should be a great evening. The event benefits the Brattleboro High School Marching Band’s trip to next Tuesday’s Presidential inauguration.  They’re the only Vermont band to receive the honor.

Friday: Elsa Cross, Salt hill Pub – The flood of Seacoast bands to Salt hill continues with this Americana singer-songwriter who claims Loretta Lynn’s music gave her an out of body experience, and whose own songs have been compared to a female Johnny Cash.  Accompanied by Steve Roy on upright bass, and PJ Donahue of the Amorphous Band, her debut Lebanon performance should be a barn burner.

Saturday: Soledad Barrio & Noche Flamenca, Hopkins Center – Spanish guitar and staccato heels feature in this centuries-old tradition, along with clapping, singing and incessant rhythm.  Dancer Soledad Barrio “dances as if possessed by the spirit of a Gypsy encampment…She breathes the essence of flamenco,” according to the New York Times.  After the show (which also plays Friday), there will be a question and answer session with Barrio and her husband Martin Santangelo, who directs the Madrid-based troupe.

Sunday: Johnny B and the Goodes with Ted Mortimer, Plainfield Town Hall – Johnny Bishop’s harp playing is a throwback to the masters of old – I loved his recent album.  Ted’s an ace guitarist with a delicate touch.  With a famous Maxfield Parrish mural as a backdrop, these guys will play the blues while celebrating next week’s inauguration. This event is BYOB, and I suspect they’ll be a lot of champagne corks popping, PBR music notwithstanding

Tuesday: Inauguration Party with Dr. Burma, Whaleback Ski Area – Our new president is at the center of several events tonight, including a Skunk Hollow open mike. The Whaleback party is dubbed “Brick by Brick: A Community Building Party.” It both celebrates the events in D.C. and shines a light on work done by non-profit organizations in the community. The Upper Valley Land Trust, the Upper Valley Haven, Vital Communities, and the Upper Valley United Way are represented so far – suggested donation is five dollars.