Pepsi + Amazon + Super Bowl = Digital Music Revolution?

| 12/18/2007 11:13:28 AM

The issue of Digital Rights Management (DRM)—that is, technology that controls and restricts how consumers purchase, store, and copy digital media—hasn’t exactly riveted the mainstream. Calls for DRM-free media, which can be copied and distributed across different playback devices, rather than limited to, say, products licensed by Apple, have echoed mostly from web technologists and their ilk.

There are signs of change, but it’s not exactly coming from the grass roots. Billboard reports that will unveil—during the Super Bowl, no less—a promotional arrangement with Pepsi whereby participants will receive DRM-free MP3s at no charge. Amazon hopes to “give away” 1 billion such song files.

But, as is the case with all worthy promotional campaigns, the music is not actually free. You’ll have to consume the equivalent of one large pickle barrel full of soda (er, five Pepsi products per song) in order to obtain the activation codes for the music.

Writing for the web-tech and media blog Read/Write Web, Marshall Kirkpatrick notes that once Amazon and Pepsi launch this campaign and flood music libraries with 1 billion DRM-free songs, “consumer expectation of a DRM-free experience in music may be a whole lot more mainstream than it is today.”

That sounds great—the promo is certainly likely to raise the visibility of DRM-free music. But will demand for the kind of product Amazon offers vastly increase the availability of DRM-free MP3s? Most importantly, might such an increase lower the price of digital music? Let’s remember: This campaign ain’t no consumer revolution, it’s Super Bowl marketing. Pass the Pepsi.

Michael Rowe

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