DRM Music — Hell Freezes Over Again!!

12 08 2007

The most interesting thing about Friday’s news articles about Universal Music Group announcing that they will sell non-DRM (Digital Rights Management) music is not that they are excluding Apple’s services from that deal (which is all about negotiation), but that they made the announcement at all.

UMG has been one of the biggest proponents of keeping protection on their music, claiming that they want their artists (along with them) to be able to be paid for their work. While that’s a laudable goal, I’ve long said that the days of selling pieces of plastic with music on them is long gone. What the Big Four music companies can do better than any indie ever is to:

  1. get the music out into the world (distribution),
  2. market the hell out of it and,
  3. they also do a passable job of collecting the monies that are owed to them.

In a world in which downloadable music is fast becoming the norm, rather than the exception (Apple is now the second or third largest music retailer, I believe, up there with Wal-Mart and Best Buy) the first and the third of those skills will go away in short order. What companies like UMG can do, however, is to make sure that we know about the music. In a world in which everybody can upload their songs to their MySpace account, how many of those singer/songwriters can you name? My guess is that most of you learn about your future music purchases, not by trawling through online music areas, but from friends and marketing. In that world, the Big Four music companies can make boatloads of money by getting involved with concerts, promotion and management. Of course, that will step on the toes of companies like Clear Channel, but all of these companies have got to merge or work it out at some point.

So, the fact that UMG is finally admitting that they can no longer control their music distribution in the way they used to, is big news.

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