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Music Labels Screwed, DRM Is Dead 346

Posted by Zonk
from the damn-the-man dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Peter Jenner, former manager of bands like Pink Floyd, T.Rex and the Clash, states in an interview with the Register that music label executives have lost faith in DRM and dollar-per-track online music selling isn't working too well as a model. He predicts that in two to three years time, many countries will have moved to a blanket licensing regime." The article goes on at some length, talking about the value of digital music, patterns in the music industry, and some business at the end about 'the tyranny of the playlist' that I'm not hep enough to follow. I'm not sure this rant has any connection whatsoever with reality, but it is something to think about.
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Music Labels Screwed, DRM Is Dead

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  • I certainly doubt that unless someone does all the work for them, hands it to them on a plate and has a potential market share that can force them into it (like the itunes store back in the day) that the major record labels will continue to resist changes until they die out. Even in the early 90s bands were refering to the record companies as 'Dinosaurs on the way to extinction'. The extinction will be a long time coming but the companies are not known for their ability to adapt which will kill them in the
    • by maeka (518272)
      The article did question whether it would be "bottom up" (record labels making changes) or "top down" (governments imposing licensing structures).
      • by aussie_a (778472)
        or "top down" (governments imposing licensing structures).

        Whilever the American people's Congress is bought and sold by big business, don't ever expect this to happen in America.
        • by fyngyrz (762201) *

          You know, I'm very happy with the straight "dollar per track" business model, with the exception of the DRM. A buck seems like a very fair price for the tracks I like, and I kind of view it as a way to avoid the tracks I don't like.

          I mean, would you pay ten bucks for an album full of tracks that without exception, are totally aligned with your taste and give you that musical "kick" when you listen? Because that's what happens after buying ten tracks, since you picked them. You've got ten great performan

    • I certainly doubt that unless someone does all the work for them, hands it to them on a plate and has a potential market share that can force them into it (like the itunes store back in the day) that the major record labels will continue to resist changes until they die out. Even in the early 90s bands were refering to the record companies as 'Dinosaurs on the way to extinction'. The extinction will be a long time coming but the companies are not known for their ability to adapt which will kill them in the

  • ...but it bashes the music industry, so it gets dumped on the front page of Slashdot. Wonderful.
  • So Jenner's wonderful idea is a music tax?

    Frankly, I'd rather have the DRM.

    The "freedom" people are telling us I have to go out and sell more T-shirts - it's an argument I find tremendously insulting.

    Nobody cares, Mr Jenner. Nobody cares.
    • by CRCulver (715279)

      So Jenner's wonderful idea is a music tax?

      Most Western governments already fund new art music. Many composers make their living indirectly from taxpayer money. Institutions like IRCAM in Paris or the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki are completely publicly funded. Even in the U.S., which has lesser taxation than much of the EU, you still have the NEA.

      • by SQL Error (16383)
        Yes, and a lousy idea it is too.

        But what they don't do is use this as a means by which to compensate all so-called musicians.

        And that is what Jenner is after.
    • by Znork (31774)
      Copyright is essentially a taxation right and the effect it has on the economy is comparable to other forms of taxation. The whole issue is much easier to analyze if you simply consider the above-market price exacted through monopoly pricing to be a form of VAT. For example, for a CD costing $15 you can assign $14 to copyright VAT, and $1 to production (and theoretical free market pricing) cost.

      It's neither worse nor better than the disease, it's the same disease with another name.

      As such, it becomes a simp
      • by elgaard (81259)
        > Without costing consumers and taxpayers any more than today

        But it would cost me more than today because I do not listen to music from the "big IP-industies". And I never buy CD's.

        I do buy some music from e.g. Magnatune, but then I want to know which artist get my money.

  • by ezzzD55J (697465)
    I'm not sure this rant has any connection whatsoever with reality, but it is something to think about.
    Why, then?
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Sunday November 05, 2006 @07:11AM (#16723843)
    Whether music labels, musicians, Peter Jenner, you or I like it or not, there's a fundamental problem that everybody seems to understand: as long as lossless copies of music (or movies or photos for that matter) can be made, paying for music is dead.

    What I mean is: before computers became widely available, people had the option of sharing bootleg analog copies of something (which was prone to sound degradation during copy, and media aging) or buying a legit copy of the medium with the best possible song. That is, people who wanted good quality music bought the "officially sanctionned" medium it was imprinted on. Now that everybody can copy a file a million times without any quality loss other than the one possibly introduced during sampling, who's to stop people from copying things for free? only two thing: people's sense of morality ("I don't want to steal from artists") and people's fear of the law ("I don't want to be caught with illegal copies on my hard disk"). That's hardly the basis of a healthy business model.

    The one-music==one-media confusion that is the basis of the **AA's business model is dead. In reality, record companies sell plastic disks, not music, and people don't need plastic disks anymore, so record companies are now obsolete. If they want to stay alive with their obsolete business model, they have to:

    - appeal to people's morality: not likely to generate revenues long-term
    - DRM-protect their music: easily circumvented as shown numerous times
    - DRM-protect hardware: easily circumvented regardless of the hardware, simply by playing and re-recording the music
    - push for harder copyright laws: circumvented by the sheer mass of file-sharers, which effectively means that an individual file-sharer has a next-to-null chance of getting caught

    *or*... they could disappear and music bands could turn back into what they once were: live performers, who were paid to play music on a stage.

    So in short: Peter Jenner is wrong. Nobody will turn to X, Y or Z licensing scheme. Eventually, people will share music for free, simply because that is the logical technical and legal way it must be, and they will pay musicians directly to give them what no amount of digital files can give them: live performances.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Jenner is wrong about DRM being dead... because DRM is not about controlling the distribution of music and video.

      You can only control data by controlling the applications that run. DRM is about the centralized development of software, and about forcing people to only run that software to access certain pieces of data. That's DRM is a nutshell.

      Once you understand that, you understand why DRM is not dead, and will not die just because a bunch of record/movie companies finally get a clue. The technology comp

    • "people's sense of morality ("I don't want to steal from artists") "

      This is about possible copyright infringement, not theft. Morality about stealing is hardly relevant. Not any more so than mentioning that people don't want to rape the artists.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by suv4x4 (956391)
      Whether music labels, musicians, Peter Jenner, you or I like it or not, there's a fundamental problem that everybody seems to understand: as long as lossless copies of music (or movies or photos for that matter) can be made, paying for music is dead.

      You're pretty wrong. It's not losslessness that caused piracy. It's the fact that pirated music has less restrictions, is more convenient, and is (sounds odd but) is cheaper.

      Using pirated music costs you: you can be sued, and you gotta use questionable service f
      • by Dun Malg (230075)
        Using pirated music costs you: you can be sued, and you gotta use questionable service full of porn, scam ads and trojans. Not every price has a dollar value.
        It truly is a terrible price to pay, having all that free porn available right next to all that free music.
        • by suv4x4 (956391)
          It truly is a terrible price to pay, having all that free porn available right next to all that free music.

          If you like to see flapping sex organs in the mouth of someone next to all your music, many people considerate it inappropriate and it offends them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GreatBunzinni (642500)

      In reality, record companies sell plastic disks, not music, and people don't need plastic disks anymore, so record companies are now obsolete.

      The previous role of the record company was more than "sell plastic disks". The record companies were the only entities that were capable of recording music, distribute the record and market it. Now, with the development and widespread adoption and use of computers and communication networks the role that the record company once played simply became obsolete. Now

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      That's nonsense.

      First of all, it's wrong if only because this would imply the similar death of the video gaming industry, which is not going to happen.

      But to address what you say: there are a lot more things out there that are held in check merely by "morality and fear of the law" but you don't see society crumbling because of it.

      Secondly, people DO want plastic disks. It might be easy for YOU to go online and get the music you want, but even in the absence of worrying about getting caught, much of the popu
    • You are right for th emost part about the shift 'back', but people still will want to carry music around with them. And that recorded music wont be 'free'.

      Beacuse of that, I dont think 'recorded music' will dissapear, it will just shift to the artists direct control instead of a 'association'. the need (?) for an industry to fund budding artists to get them started is gone.
    • *or*... they could disappear and music bands could turn back into what they once were: live performers, who were paid to play music on a stage.

      If artists decide to cut the middle-man and sell their music directly instead of using labels (or maybe some could create a coop to do it for them) then they could sell it very cheap (lets say $4.99) and make more money (labels gives them on average 8%). Lots of people would buy cheap shiny disks with nice printed lyrics booklets.

      With the cost of recording an

    • who's to stop people from copying things for free? only two things: people's sense of morality ("I don't want to steal from artists") and people's fear of the law ("I don't want to be caught with illegal copies on my hard disk"). That's hardly the basis of a healthy business model.

      Actually, I think there is a scheme which can leverage basic human psychology to get a workable system. It would go as follows:

      1. Watermark the digital content, with information specific to the person who purchased it. i.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pesc (147035)
      Whether music labels, musicians, Peter Jenner, you or I like it or not, there's a fundamental problem that everybody seems to understand: as long as lossless copies of music (or movies or photos for that matter) can be made, paying for music is dead.

      This is what the music industry is thinking, and I disagree completely.

      The filesharing we see today is not lossless copies, it is lossy MP3 files. Of course people will copy the music they buy and use the copies in their MP3 players, in the car and give some cop
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by repvik (96666)
      they could disappear and music bands could turn back into what they once were: live performers, who were paid to play music on a stage.


      And who will pay for recording in a studio? I *do* want my music recorded in a studio, as opposed to a live recording. The artists? Why? They're not getting paid for it, they only get paid for live performances.

  • A blanket licensing system won't work.

    It's merely a last-ditch effort by media companies to hold on to their existing business model as much as possible. What Mr Jenner is assuming in this interview is that collection organisations such as PRS and MCPS could have their reach extended further by encompassing not just broadcasters, performance venues, or regular retail, but every citizen that just *might* be using content that the media companies have acquired copyright for.

    What Jenner is failing to realise h
    • Well put. Keep in mind that those labels used to try to sign bands based on the idea of exposure. The angle was always that they "knew the music business" and could arrange shows, provide space on store shelves for their records/tapes/CD's, and in general make the band more money. But what we're seeing now is a situation in which those labels are less and less capable of trapping new talent, because the bands themselves realize how little added value the old channels offer over self-promotion. Who wants
      • by zotz (3951)
        Plus there is alwasy this:

        http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=204439&cid=167 01949 [slashdot.org]

        I think there might be some interesting possibilities in the answers to that question which now one seemed to want to try answer...

        Q: What would happen if the big tech compamies started funding the production of copyleft music and movies and the like?

        all the best,

        drew
        http://www.ourmedia.org/node/262954 [ourmedia.org]
        'Sayings', a novel in progress for the current nanowrimo.org competition.
        It is released under a Creative Commons Attributio
  • by unity100 (970058) on Sunday November 05, 2006 @07:27AM (#16723907) Homepage Journal
    only big label companies and their sponsored software developers believed to be so, maybe, for a short while.

    It was stupid right from the start - digital environment, internet is a free medium. freedom is its nature and its result. monopoly, impending 100-year old control schemes for distribution of intellectual property was a 'clueless' idea at best, if not stupid.

    Given the big label company ceos, execs are now of a generation that is in their 60-70s, it is no surprise that they have misjudged that we were still in 1950s.

    Gramps, you are of a dying generation. you are passing away.

    then, instead of trying to screw your label and your shareholders with dinosaur-worthy 'measures', embrace the new digital/internet revolution and leave a good name behind.

    or, leave your chairs to younger ones, who are actually able to understand the contemporary times and participate in it.
  • ...I would I believe him. For me, this interview is very informative, thank you very much :)
  • From the article:

    Few people know the music industry better than Peter Jenner. Pink Floyd's first manager, who subsequently managed Syd Barrett's solo career, Jenner has also looked after T.Rex, The Clash, Ian Dury, Disposable Heroes and Billy Bragg - who he manages today. He's also secretary general of the International Music Managers Forum.

    That's great! He sounds like a really fascinating, well-weathered guy who has had a hand in promoting and advertising musicians. I'm sure he has a lot of really cool s

  • by gilgongo (57446) on Sunday November 05, 2006 @08:02AM (#16724029) Homepage Journal
    I went to school with somebody who later became the MD of Sony Music UK. I met him at a mutual friend's new year's party a couple of years ago and we got talking about how he signed Travis, and bout new bands, and the rise of this Internet thing.

    I have a great deal of interest in the copyfight, and earlier that year had attended one of RMS's talks, was reading Laurence Lessig, et. al. Naturally, I wanted to know what he thought of all that stuff. As head of one of the most powerful A&R operations on earth, I assumed he would definitely have an opinion.

    But he seemed either completely ignorant of the issues, or completely unconcerned. He said something about how their lawyers are "doing something about it" but other than that had no interest. What about copying music? "Oh, we'll sort that out I'm sure." What about the role of the publisher as gatekeeper to new talent? "Er, what about it? We put a lot of investment into choosing acts that will do well. And they do do well."

    Something about rabbits and headlights came to mind, so I asked him about where he went on holiday that year (France, it was really nice, you really *must* visit the Dordogne...)
    • Seems to me from your narration that your friend in Sony Music was just trying to be polite, and not take a stance in a dinner party. :-)

      • by gregorio (520049)
        Seems to me from your narration that your friend in Sony Music was just trying to be polite, and not take a stance in a dinner party. :-)
        I was thinking about the same thing...
  • It sounds like a mix of the license fees that retail establishments / bars / etc pay to play music combined with radio.

    You could play a flat monthly fee and listen to what you want, the various artists get paid based on what you decide to stream. If enough music was available that way it certainly would be a seismic shift in the way music is bought and sold - not just for iTunes and recored stores; but for services such as satelitte radio and cell phone providers that want to sell you music. If you could
    • by zotz (3951)
      "The one challenge is how do you allow playing away from a streaming signal - perhaps you allow a limited amount of music to be recorded and played at will - sort of like the Blockbuster / Netflix send a DVD model."

      I think if you check the article again, he envisions that you can save any part of any stream you want. (Kind of implied in the thought that a person doesn't want to pay twice and also in the download=stream=download idea.)

      all the best,

      drew
      http://www.ourmedia.org/user/17145 [ourmedia.org]
      'Sayings' - a nanowrimo
  • Anyone else find the title for this story misleading? I was expecting it to be about some new legislation that was suddenly passed, or some sort of skeleton-crack or something. What it actually should have been was "Some Guy Thinks Music Labels Screwed, DRM Dead".
  • payola n, Illegal promotion of music where record companies pay radio stations to play their songs.

    playlist n. Legal promotion of music where record companies pay promoters to pay radio stations to play their songs.
    • by krell (896769)
      "payola n, Illegal promotion of music where record companies pay radio stations to play their songs."

      I've always wondered why this is illegal/scandalous. Ad agencies and companies pay stations to play commercials, so what is so different about someone paying them to play certain music?
      • by BeeBeard (999187)
        Great point. Are we supposed to believe that (just to make up typical asshat DJ names here) "DJ Walrus Gordon and the Wildman: Gordon in the Mornin'" are too dignified, too principled to shill for a product, in this case, a certain band's CD? Celebrities do it, so why do button-pushing banter monkeys object to it?
    • Maybe you can explain this to me. Why is payola illegal? What's wrong with it? If record companies want to pay radio stations to play their songs, who cares?
      • by jZnat (793348) *
        According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

        Under United States law, a radio station always has had the ability to play a specific song in exchange for money; however, this must be disclosed on the air as being sponsored airtime, and that play of the song should not be reported as a "spin". Some radio stations report spins of the newest and most popular songs to industry publications, which are then published. The number of times the songs are played can influence other stations around the country to play or pass on a particul

      • Payola [wikipedia.org]
  • by zentec (204030) * <zentec@ g m ail.com> on Sunday November 05, 2006 @08:51AM (#16724255)
    The music industry needs to get around the mindset that they are due a monthly stipend. That pricing system rewards mediocrity and lack of creativity, which is all to prevalent in what the music industry calls its product today. There is absolutely no way I will pay any money for a license to listen to music that I may already own or music I wish to own. The fact someone is willing to pay money for a product, whether it's $15 per CD or 99 cents per download is the incentive this industry needs to give the customer what they want, not what the music industry wants. It's been written here so many times before that the reason the industry has lackluster sales is because the product isn't what the customer wants and its delivery method doesn't suit the method the customer wants.

    I can't think of too many "kids" who don't like iTunes. My kids and their friends eat up iTunes gift cards downloading the exact music they want without having to pay $15 for a CD that has one or maybe two songs they enjoy. Which heralds back to what I remember as a kid where I could run up to the local drug store, fork over a dollar and get a 45 with the exact music I wanted (yeah, I'm that old). That's what the music industry was built upon before it was turned into a cash machine that ate customer good-will. And that was before the advent of downloadable music; now the music industry is vilified to the point of no return in the eyes of its customers.

    • That pricing system rewards mediocrity and lack of creativity, which is all to prevalent in what the music industry calls its product today

      It depends on how it is distributed. What would happen if iTunes (or your music player of choice) periodically uploaded your play count and ratings, and this was used to determine how the fee was distributed? This would have the advantage over the current system that tracks or albums that were hyped a lot, and then never listened to after the first week would earn l

    • by Durrok (912509)
      Problem with that is you miss out on a lot of quality new music. Have you ever listened to an entire Pink Floyd, Metallica, Disturbed, album? There is a heck of a lot of good music there and it is a shame that a lot of it didn't get any radio play.

      Now have you listened to an entire Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Fergie, album? If they even have a good single on the radio likely the rest of the album is complete shit. I realized this in my teens because back in my day we had to buy the whole tape (o
  • The fact is, you can't outrun supply and demand. Prices don't set S&D, S&D set prices. When the supply is near infinite, the price falls to zero, and there is nothing the State can do to control it. Imagine if they State charged for air.

    This means that musicians and ALL artists will have to work just like everyone. They can create live (a show) for a fee. They can produce something unique (a jingle, or a painting) for a fee. They will have to do real jobs doing their thing if they want to make
    • "This means that musicians and ALL artists will have to work just like everyone. They can create live (a show) for a fee. They can produce something unique (a jingle, or a painting) for a fee. They will have to do real jobs doing their thing if they want to make money."

      One of these days, I want to find the person who started this entire myth about what the life of an artist is like and shoot them. Several times.

      I've got news for you - the creative artists who get really rich off their work are the tiny min
  • by Jugalator (259273) on Sunday November 05, 2006 @09:10AM (#16724351) Journal
    Let's say I pay a music tax -- how do the ISP in collaboration with the owner of the intellectual property then figure out who should get the money for something I downloaded? Assuming an "popularity/assumption model" is one of their ideas -- I do not want the income be split according to the popularity of artists, as that could give Madonna money for downloading from a far less common artist. And how is the fee adjusted to how much copyrighted music I'd download? Because it is, right, otherwise it's completely unfair.
    • by cronius (813431)
      I'm actually going to work on that question for my bachelor assignment. I'm going to try to extend the bittorrent protocol to include anonymous collection of trustable statistics for use in this exact scenario. It's not going to be easy though, lots of things to overcome (like attacks etc).

      About the price: If it's a flat rate then well that's what it is. People seem to prefer the current system where you pay a flat rate and can use e.g. your internet connection as much as you want, compared to the old day
    • Yup. It's a shame you couldn't design a digital music player that would keep track of how often a particular song was played. Oh, wait, every music player I've used (including the iPod) does this. Now all you need to do is add an option to upload your play counts to a central server periodically. If you do, then these are totalled up and used to divide up the music license fee. If you don't, then you get some extra privacy but accept that you have no say in where the money from your license fee goes.
  • i think i have this right...... basically he is calling for a tax on every internet connection (including cell phones etc). that tax going into a giant pot, and some magical piece of software decides what artists deserve what cut of that pot.

    he compared it to the licensing schemes for radio etc, but the radio one is kind of based on radio station submitting lists of what songs get spun however many times. if the station drops the ball reporting, or the artist is not registered, then they get nothing.

    i am no
  • The thing I don't understand is why doesn't a big name artist say fuck you to their studio and go out on their own. U2, Madonna, Britney, etc could all do it. Start your own site selling non DRM lossless songs, do individual deals for CD distribution, run a few commercials.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      The thing I don't understand is why doesn't a big name artist say fuck you to their studio and go out on their own. U2, Madonna, Britney, etc could all do it. Start your own site selling non DRM lossless songs, do individual deals for CD distribution, run a few commercials.

      Artists that big basically ARE the recording industry. Many of them are either producing albums for others, managing newer acts, or own their own studios. So while new acts may well benefit from a change in the status quo, these are

  • It's simply too difficult, without some sort of centralized tracking (such as a DRM download site) to figure out how those fees are distributed between the artist. It'll be a logistical nightmare.

    There are simpler solutions - Yes, DRM is a wholesale failure. Nearly every attempt at DRM has failed technically (it gets broken), and by assuming your customers are criminals, many of them will, in fact, make a decision to be criminals, because of the fundamental fact that the P2P networks offer a *better* prod
  • It does attempt to grapple with the unique aspects of digital media. It isn't likely that it will lead to other government-sponsored taxes. I don't see a government issued McDonald's coupon book for a free Big Mac/month for paying the McDonald's tax coming any time soon. So the slippery slope argument shouldn't be appropriate.

    Is it entirely fair? Well, no. But would it be the worst tax we are paying? I don't think so. Our phone bills already include several dollars of federal tax. Because enough peo

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