Suicidal Music Industry

There’s an article in ars technica about “big content”:

Songwriters, composers, and music publishers are lobbying Congress to legislate the payment of performance fees into downloaded music. If music publishers get their way, they’ll be able to extract additional licensing fees from music downloads, movies, and TV shows containing their music, and even 30-second previews…

The people doing the lobbying are the mainly the major music publishers together with some hangers-on, who see revenues for CD and DVD sales dropping. They claim “you can’t compete with free”. You would think that they might eventually learn the message demonstrated by Apple’s iTunes, that you can make money competing against free services (in this case, illegal downloads) by offering a better or more convenient service. Just the same as the bottled water industry competes successfully against tap water.

In fact, there is no difference between competing against another competitor who is charging for goods or services, and those who give them away – if you don’t understand why, take a look at this explanation on techdirt or download Chris Anderson’s book Free: The Future of a Radical Price about competing with free products, which is as it happens, available free of charge.

If the music industry can only think of increased use of DRM as the way to survive and doesn’t understand how free competition works, their future looks bleak indeed.

DRM will always be broken sooner or later – the technically savvy find a way to prevent it protecting the content and people will find a way to pass the cracked content on. Only the uninformed honest customers suffer because their use of content bought legally is restricted, whereas the illegal content swappers are not. That’s no way to treat your customers.

If ISP’s are compelled to cut people’s access to the internet, if caught swapping content online, the swapping will simply move offline – today if you want to swap content offline you can lend your friends a hard disk full of content or use a legal media swapping service such as hitflip.com. The possibilities will expand if DRM spreads further. Indead, given the poor deals that artists get from established media companies, it surprises me that more artists don’t market themselves via magnatune or CD Baby and cut out the incompetent marketeers of the traditional music labels.

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