Moving Beyond DRM in Music

In the tired illegal downloading debate, there are few things the different sides can agree on. Is it stealing? Is it moral? Does it actually affect sales? Does it hurt the artists? One thing I think everyone can agree on (including the RIAA) is the need for a new distribution model. DRM (Digital Rights Management) isn’t really stopping anyone from pirating music right now.

It took the film industry a long time to embrace and make obscene profits from the VCR and eventually DVDs. As technology moves forward, so must the entertainment industry, and that includes record companies.

Here are a few ideas on how they can still make money and not prosecute downloaders or impose DRM on legitimate customers:

  • Include “advertisements” in the songs themselves, much the way Hollywood has product placement in its movies.
  • Flood filesharing seeds with low quality or screwed up versions of songs.
  • Set up official download sites that are attractive, easy to navigate, full of high-quality downloads, and funded by advertisements.

In other words, make money the same way TV does. If people feel entitled to getting stuff “for free,” bombard them with advertising. I may be old-fashioned, but I still like browsing through a record store and picking out CDs.

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  1. I’ve wondered why the record companies don’t practice the last two proposals themselves. Product placement, on the other hand, would compromise artistic integrity too much (but it’s also being done…).

  2. This whole subject is such a joke. “They” (meaning, the powers that be, whoever they are) should stop whining about people burning music and movies and actually do something about it, if it bothers them so much.

    They could up the prices of CD-R and DVD-R discs, for one thing. That would stop much of the problem right there. These discs are so cheap right now – for example, you can often buy 100 CD-R’s for $10 – it just makes it that much easier to “borrow” music and movies, instead of buying them full-price.

    Or if they would stop putting disc-burners standard on just about every computer, it would make it just that much harder for the average person to do.

    I don’t understand how they can so willingly hand out the tools to burn media and then slap the wrists of those who indulge. If they made it just the least bit difficult, we might actually believe they mean business.

  3. Well, at this point, it’s not really about the burning of CDs. A lot of people use portable music players (like iPods) to listen to music they’ve downloaded… or just listen to them straight off the computer (using the operating system as a media center).

  4. Funny, Max Barry made a post about this just the other day, saying that all the entertainment industries would eventually be structured like TV. I think that’s probably where this is going.

    They kinda started this themselves though, in making CDs that didn’t sound as good as vinyl (a lot better sounding *now*) and charging vinyl prices for them. I’d like to see how many people pirate music at $5 a CD. Probably only college students would do a lot.

    Hollywood does product placement passively though, it’d be kinda disgusting to make artists have n many references to a Time Warner product in this album.

    In response to your previous post, I download a lot of music. I have no money personally to be buying this or album. I don’t really care if the artists don’t get any money from me, because I generally don’t have any, and they generally do. You’re right that no downloader of music actually carefully researches what entities he might be taking money from, but when you have no money for music to begin with, I don’t see why you should give a damn.

    Btw, I *really* like the DL sites full of advertisements idea. With the low quality option, it’d probably go back to friends with private FTP servers, or there would be a lot of semi-private torrent trackers like demonoid.

  5. It is a lot more difficult to download smaller independent artists work. Those folks tend to develop a community that is willing to help support them through purchasing their product and attending their shows and events. With out community theirs no real sense of ownership or participation. Like mentioned above, it is tough to care about the earnings of an artist that is marketed as being rich and having it all.

    I think a solid solution is to create a better product. The record companies have been pushing the same basic product while raising prices. It’s not necessary to top it off with advertising. Why not include commentary, or info about the process the artist went through to complete this work. They could get back to adding better liner notes. Another option I saw advertised was that by buying a CD they also received a ticket to a show. Recently, I bought a vinyl album online, was able to download the whole album immediately to enjoy until I received the vinyl.

    There are other routes, these companies are arrogant and unwilling to serve their customers, the music listeners, not the corporate shareholders.

  6. I’ve bought more music since the advent of the ipod and such than I ever did before. Downloading music lets me know if I’m going to like it or not, so I don’t waste my money on CDs I don’t like – and there are plenty. The recording industry hipes one song on the radio, then tried to sell a CD with 10-15 other songs that I’ve never heard for $20. If they did more singles, ala iTunes, they wouldn’t have that problem. But instead of embracing the technology early and beating all these pirates, they wanted to hold off and sue people, generally engender bad will, then try and educate people why the people are the criminals. It’s stupid.

    There actuall is a tax already on media like CDs and Tapes that goes to the recording industry to compensate them for losses, just like there is on VHS for the movie industry.

    It seems like movies should be able to get around this easily; sell adds like TV does. Put them at the begining, and just work up a player or something that does a CRC to make sure the file hasn’t been truncated to remove them. Done.

    For the recording industry, that’s not as valid an option. Frankly, I don’t see it as my job to figure out their problems. They’re like any other business; if they can’t find a way to survive, they’ll shut down. And despite all the media propoganda, I’ve never seen in the news “Wave of firings at Virgin Records – RIAA blames pirates.” The recording industy has movie sound track deals, concerts, billions of CD sales, massive iTunes sales and the like, yet they still want to harp about pirates. It seems to me like it’s just the potential money they’re mad about, not an actual bottom line problem.

  7. A model currently discussed in Germany by the web public which I find interesting is a “cultural flatrate”, meaning that everyone would just pay a fixed flatrate similar to a broadband internet connection and hence be allowed to watch and listen to _everything_ I presume. This could be organized in a way that the money is shared according to popularity of each “content”. I hate that term. Of course this could be organized centrally and technologically by a trusted public institute, meaning the content industry could be switched off.

    Personally I don’t buy music anymore since about 15 years because I found CD’s just too expensive. I’m actually irritated by the fact that I’m still paying for music I don’t listen to just by buying empty data-CD’s.

    Because I also don’t download copyrighted music. I download from jamendo.com which hosts CC music and allows the users to donate to artists they like. However this is a very new model and artists are just beginning to try it out – many beginning artists still, and some of them not very talented:-) I would pay for DRM-free music if I could download Flac codec like magnatune.com does. I also don’t listen to radio anymore which has, at least in Germany become *unbarably* bad.

    Since I spend a lot of time online, I signed up with last.fm which is genius in combination with Amarok. I’m listening to it right now, the tag “World” has much music which interests me. I added that tag manually in Amarok just guessing… last.fm can’t be ripped, at least not by the average user. However I don’t rip webradio either, I guess I have an underdeveloped hording impulse. I rather enjoy the surprise, for example that Paul Simon’s “You can call me Al” would pop up in the World section:-)

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