[JPL] Srticle-The DRM Manifesto For Musicians, Artists, Songwriters And Everyone Else Who Isn’t Paying Attention
earthmaker at pubnix.net
Thu Jun 7 10:02:38 EDT 2007
I found this of interest.Would love to hear some feedback on this from
members of the jpl list
The DRM Manifesto For Musicians, Artists, Songwriters And Everyone Else
Who Isn’t Paying Attention
By: Moses Avalon (Associate Writer)
/Or, It’s Winner Take All in the Cage Match Between Music And The Net.
Are You Watching From a Box Seat?/
<http://www.mosesavalon.com> *_PROLOGUE:_* In March of 2007, *EMI*,
facing serious strategic challenges, became the first Major label to
issue DRM-free (no copy-protection) downloads on* iTunes*. To facilitate
this, *Apple*’s CEO broke his promise to maintain uniform pricing of 99
cents: DRM-free will cost about 30% more than other sales. Response from
the other three competing Major labels was shock and disappointment.
Will they be forced to also do DRM-free to compete?
Two weeks later, the *U.S. Copyright Office* decided that Major labels
will be allowed to charge higher rates to webcasters for streaming
music. Response from Tech Companies was shock and disappointment. Will
they have to pay labels more to provide the public with a radio service
they don’t even charge for?
What would the perfect music business look like?
Would it be one where distribution is a given to anyone who thinks they
have talent? Or do you think there should be some form of filter because
Joe Average doesn’t have time to sift through millions of *MySpace*
pages? A filter is what we have had with the Major label system since
the 1960s. It’s one that many who are trying to squeeze through its
Now, technology is putting that system to the test by giving artists and
consumers new choices. But is the price for choice too high? Is it at
the expense of an entire industry that has supported tens of thousands
for over seven decades and produced some of the greatest music ever
Although creators of commercial music are artists, it is because of
sequencers and samplers they are compelled to become, to some degree,
“techies” as well. And since technology has aided pop music production,
many of us think they have complementary agendas. The reality is that
the tech world and pop music are at /war/, and these two super-powers
are vying not only for control of music distribution but also for the
loyalty pop music’s creators. One side is trying to make a complete fool
out of them.
*THE PREYED UPON AND THE PREYED*
In one corner we have the “Tech-Masters,” as I call them:
computer/gadget makers and internet service providers. They use pop
music as a loss leader to attract new consumers. They may be music fans,
but they resent record companies the same way we resent paying the
monopolistic electric company for a necessity we can’t even touch.
In the other corner, the four major record/publishing companies. To
support the huge bets they place on artists, they need to protect their
inventory -- copyrights.
To Tech-Masters, music copyrights are an inconvenience; a roadblock to
their master plan: selling gadgets and internet services to everyone and
their grandmothers. If they cannot rely upon record companies to license
them music /cheaply/, their logical alternative is to avoid paying for
it /at all /by challenging copyright law, BUT… only as it applies to
art—not their software. It’s a delicate trick, but one to which they
have committed undisclosed millions. If we let them, they will
eventually turn pop music into the free toy at the bottom of their
proverbial cereal box.
And here’s the scary part: the Tech-Masters are getting /you/, music’s
creators, to help them.
*IN DRM WE TRUST*
The recent Tech-Master campaign is “DRM-free music,” which is tech-talk
for downloads that have no copy protection encryption. DRM is a software
mojo that prevents or limits the copying of a song-file. Consumers love
the idea of DRM-/free/ because it means they can wax record company and
distribute many copies of your work at will, while only paying for it
once. Is it good for the music business?
Tech-Masters think so. They want record companies to stop whining about
P2P piracy and license their catalogs without this stingy, confining DRM
thingy. They try to persuade the Majors with arguments like “If people
can make copies, they’ll buy more music. Remember cassettes in the late
Labels don't agree. Back then, people could not make 100s of copies with
a mouse click. Tech-Masters retort, “But CDs have no copy-protection,
what’s the dif?” Labels sigh and shake their heads, “First off, the only
reason we don't have copy protection on CDs is due to complex technical
issues and second, CDs cost us about 60 cents and we sell them for about
$10. Downloads have a narrow margin and invite theft via illegal P2P.”
So, if gentle persuasion isn’t working, what’s the Tech-Master’s next
step? It seems to be shaming the Majors via an aggressive campaign of
winning of the public’s hearts and minds: dehumanize the enemy; make the
public think record companies are too dumb and greedy to see the
“logical” path for the future. Eventually, they hope, Majors will cave.
The plan is working.
The vast majority of music business stories in the press are negative.
They focus almost exclusively on the RIAA’s litigation and label
firings. Why don’t we hear about the good side? The tech industry
grosses about $85 billion a year, eclipsing the music business with its
$15 billion. While the tech industry spends tens of millions in
advertising with the mainstream press, ask yourself when was the last
time you saw a big add spread for a new album release. Advertising
revenue influences editors more than anything else. That’s not
conspiracy paranoia. It’s a fact.
But the “objective” press (deliberately or not) ignores the bigger
issues at stake for artists if labels falter:
If the tech world loses this campaign, they will simply have to pay a
bit more for their loss leader item. Since they tend to bundle music
with other products, this expense will not be felt in any significant
way by the consumer. It will just shave their gross a tiny bit to about
But if art loses this war, that is to say, if record companies and
artists lose their ability to control who gets to license their work and
at what price, the music business, as we know it, /ends/. Music itself
will suffer as an art form and the Tech-Masters will buy the labels,
bundle their music, and in a few years you’ll buy a lap-top and it will
come pre-loaded with an entire catalog of Classic Rock, Rap, Jazz,
This may sound great if you're a consumer, but if you're a music company
you will make only a small licensing fee and your artists and
songwriters will see a paltry fraction of this sum. The trickle down
effect of this for studio owners, producers, lawyers, managers, etc,
will naturally be devastation.
As a music professional, if you're not pissed off, you're not paying
Fortunately it’s not too late to stop this insanity.
*JOINING THE COLLECTIVE*
A truly successful Orwellian “hearts & minds” campaign means also
turning YOU, the very person who relies on copyrights to earn a living,
into someone who thinks that technology’s need to progress should be
senior to author’s rights. This, too, is a tough trick, but the
Tech-Masters are succeeding.
How? Because we love to bash our own industry! It’s cathartic. We just
love to opine about the “dying record biz.” The momentum has caught many
of us. I read this recently in a chat room, “I can't see it being
anything but good if the top four record companies went out of business.
The whole industry needs a fresh start.” Many on the page agreed.
These “pro music” websites who celebrate negative views on the Majors
are not friends to anyone who makes a living with music. (One example
that has me puzzled is *Downhill Battle*. They purport to be doing
artist advocacy while simultaneously insisting that you /never /buy
Major label music. The site is owned by software developers
Many of these sites peddle a covert pro-tech agenda with half-truths
about the music biz. The most recent one is yet another attempt to make
us feel that resistance is useless: /income from declining CD sales is
_not_ being offset from digital sales. /Sounds bleak. Even a poorly
researched and very tech-biased article in the Wall Street Journal
agreed. So it must be true.
But it’s not.
Tech-Masters don't want you to know that according to the annual reports
of *Universal, Sony* and *Warner*, in 2006 the music biz had one of its
best years ever, revenue wise. Or that revenue from the mobile space and
other new licensing sources has and will continue to put billions of
/new/ revenue into our space. They don't want you to know this because
it would deflate the Tech argument for DRM-free.
Instead, to distract you, they focus journalists on how Majors are
dial-up dumb, lazy and hurting artists by price-gouging internet radio
stations out of existence (more on this next month). They direct
reporters to the meaningless statistics of first quarter CD sales.
(Which are always low. It’s just after Christmas duh!).
They are hoping journalist don’t ask the fiscally logical question: in
the face of a recession, where automobile and many other industries are
showing losses, plus a radically changing technology landscape and all
the negative publicity, Majors are still showing respectable numbers. So
just how dumb are they? Who cares if sales of CDs are back to 1992
levels? That was still a very profitable time for music, and anyone who
says that companies like *Sony* and *Universal* cannot survive a shift
in sales paradigms is either lying, misinformed, brainwashed, selling a
book, or a sour-grapes ex-record executive caught in the downsizing that
this changing landscape requires.
My personal favorite Tech-Master sophistry is “Illegal P2P file sharing
hurts (tech owned) music subscription services, too. It drives up our
cost and we also have to compete with free.” This is true Machiavellian
genius: /compete with free for a service that is a loss-leader to them
in the first place?/ How dumb do they think/ we/ are?
Reality: it’s /because/ of techies that illegal P2P exists in the first
place and if illegal P2P prevails, record companies will be forced to
issue DRM-free music to compete. Which brings us to poor, almost
defeated EMI and their decision to take the advice of Tech-Master,
Steve is the classic Tech-Master. According to his annual report, he
does NOT make any significant money off of music sales--iTunes is a
break-even division for Apple. Like all Tech-Masters, he uses iTunes as
a loss leader to promote the sale of his cash cow-product, iPods. He
could care less if Majors make a profit.
If EMI’s DRM-free move catches on, the other Major’s will eventually be
forced to do the same. If Jobs turns out to be right and sales go up,
up, up—great. I’ll personally issue a mea culpa. But if he’s wrong, the
Majors will not be able to re-cork the Genie. Their catalogs will be
permanently devalued and they will eventually be forced to sellout on
the cheap. On that day, you can bet, Tech-Masters will be waiting with
*SO WHAT? WHO NEEDS THE MAJORS? LET THEM DIE!*
Nice fantasy. Sometimes I share it. And in terms of karma there might be
some justice there as well. But then I wake up and realize something:
The benefits would not outweigh the utter financial chaos it would cause
to /Indie/ artists.
Major Labels are the “banks” of our industry. They loan money to 1000s
of artists, who then spend it in 1000s of studios and with 1000s of
producers, who hire 1000s of engineers, who buy gear and invest in new
artists, who sign with labels, and so on.
Even if you’re an independent or emerging artist, you are in the wake of
this economy. Big artists draw people into music outlets/venues and thus
expose them to new music. Also, the big spending by Majors pushes down
the off-peak rates on studio time, materials, and CD replication. It
also creates the upside potential to justify investment in emerging
The fantasy that “if Majors die a Phoenix will rise from the ashes” is
very unlikely. The higher probability is that in order for there to be a
viable music industry at /all/, Majors/ need/ to stay in business.
*WHO SHOULD YOU BELIEVE?*
So-called media experts and analysts who applaud EMI’s “wisdom” and
curse the RIAA’s defense of copyrights are just sucking up to the
Tech-Masters who give them a media platform. Then, disgruntled music
executives grant interviews and ignorantly agree just to relieve their
angst. This bandwagon effect is helping Tech-Masters load the gun they
have pointed to our heads.
Think people! Have you ever heard a technology spokesperson /agree/ with
labels or argue IN FAVOR of copy protection? NEVER! They argue for
DRM-free music to make a more “consumer friendly experience.” They are
arguing that the consumers’ rights are senior to the artists’. Let me
repeat that: /they are arguing that the way consumers buy music is MORE
IMPORTANT than the rights of the people who create it./
As creators (or their advocates/vendors), one would think we would
refuse to help and insist on arguing with anyone who tries to convince
us that unprotected music is better for the music business or that
because the law requires Tech-Masters like /Apple, AOL, Yahoo/ or
/Microsoft /to cow-tow to a group that you also find repellent --the
Majors--that Tech-Masters are the “victims.” That is asinine.
The enemy wants your work for free. To seduce you, they offer gadgets.
To convince you to abandon faith in your industry, they peddle
hopelessness. It’s as simple as that. Don’t give in. Because, if you
think the bottleneck was tough when you had to deal with only four Major
record companies, imagine what it will be like under three or four Tech
companies, run by people who value silicone over a melody!
It’s time we started thinking like artists again. Not computers, or
This is winner take all. Should choosing sides really be that difficult?
/ For more information and to contact the author, click on the author’s
name at the top of the page./
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