I recently responded to another blog posting regarding the lack of digital music file/player interoperability in the industry and I'm going to expand on my initial thoughts...Beyond unprotected mp3's, which pretty much play EVERYWHERE but are undeniably below true CD quality in terms of fidelity, the industry has been experimenting with different types and levels of digital rights management for the last several years. At the end of the day, it is incredibly challenging to reasonably protect the intellectual property of the music creators while simultaneously delivering a seamless experience for the consumers. In other words, for DRM to work, it must appear invisible to the average user - which iTunes and the iPod have succeeded in doing and pretty much set the bar for everyone else.
However, in my opinion, the next holy grail for the digital music industry is to design and deliver an easier (less confusing) AND even better experience for the consumer. The way to do this is to simply embrace .wav files for sale instead of "Play For Sure" .wma files or protected AAC's . By doing this the industry kill 2 birds with 1 stone with regards to cross-platform computer playability and mp3 player soundfile compatability.
1) Releasing songs as .wav files would solve one huge aspect of the interoperability problem of files sold at various popular online music stores (i.e. MSN Music, Rhapsody, Yahoo) not playing on the Apple iPod. I mean really, who wants to rerip files they legitimately bought into MP3 files just to get them into their iPod? Who has the time or the energy?
*** APPLE iPODS PLAY .WAV FILES JUST FINE ***
2) Also, uncompressed .wav files are "true CD quality" and actually provide something worth charging more for - if the major record labels truly insist on this variable pricing nonsense (i.e., $.50-$2.50 per song). Many of you would argue that compressing music files is necessary to carry around your whole collection in your pocket, but flash drive sizes and pricing are improving daily so its only a matter of time before space is a non issue here...(Besides, who really needs more than 24 albums on a daily basis when there are only 24 hours in a day. Most people only like certain songs anyway and probably don't even listen to the whole album!)
Take the steam out of P2P. I don't know, perhaps I think differently becasue I don't have to please any stock holders, but I think the entire industry would rapidly flourish and prosper together if they just decided across the board to sell music online at the same quality and mobility as CD's, cassettes, 8-tracks and vinyl records provided - without trying to lock it down with finnicky DRM. Reward fans who pay for their music by giving them access to multiple copies (i.e., sampling rate, size, bitrate, formats) of the music they buy so they can take it with them wherever they go...and they can experience it whenever and wherever they are...