A couple of nights ago, some colleagues and I were discussing music over dinner. Well, we were talking about priacy and P2P, but it led into music.
Music and songs are a unique thing. Often times one has to work to find a band they like, or a style of music. Before you invest in a CD, you generally want to listen to at least some of the songs once. And after you buy it, you are going to play it over and over for a long time coming.
Contrast this with movies, which generally someone goes to see just based on ads or word of mouth, and usually sees once or twice. Even if they buy the DVD, watching it more than once a week for any sustained period of time is probably rare.
So, going back to music. Having been a working musician, and still enjoying to play, the whole Napter/Piracy thing has a special place in my heart. Heck yeah, I used Napster. And Audiogalaxy. I never could find myself willing to use Limewire or Kazaa, but I do buy music from iTunes. And, of course, I own a lot of CDs. But, as a musician, I know that downloading the songs does hurt the musicians to some degree (no matter how I justify inside). So most of the songs I downloaded fell into 4 categories:
- Songs I already own on CD or something similar
- Songs I owned at one time (like my Pearl Jam Ten album which has gotten lost along the way)
- Songs that interest me and might convince me to buy the album
- Songs I couldn’t buy anywhere else, or couldn’t find (a lot of my live songs fall into this category)
Sure, there were some songs whose albums I never intended to buy, and there were songs I needed for a one time thing. Most of that has gone away with the iTunes model, since I don’t mind shelling out 99c for a song I am wanting to hear.
Anyway, the conversation led, as it normally does, to the point being made that artists don’t make any money off of the songs – they make it off merch and concerts. True to some degree, but it doesn’t make taking the songs any righter. But, my friends pushed to say that what they really wanted to do was to be able to tell someone, “Hey, I found this awesome group – listen to it!”. With a CD, you would just let them borrow it, perfectly within your rights. But if you send them an MP3, they might do the right thing and buy it if they like it, but why would they – they already have a perfectly good version of it!
So this is where I see the application of DRM. If I could send a song to you, but put some restrictions like you can listen to it 3 times but then have to buy it, I don’t feel guilty about giving you the song, and if they decide to keep it, that’s fine, because they can’t listen to it without buying it.
This is also where I see DRM break down. If, instead of sending you the DRMd song, I want to burn you a copy of the CD, I might just do that. And I should be able to do that. Or, in other words, DRM shouldn’t be used to restrict what I can do with it – it should be used to allow me to choose to restrict it to others.
So, here’s my model. I purchase a song, or a CD. When I purchase it, I get it as an MP3, with no restrictions. So, if I choose to send that to my friend, he can choose to listen to it over and over without buying it. But, I have another option. Either something on my computer, or something online, allows me to send a DRMd version to my friend to listen to. So, I can send one that expires after 3 plays, or 5 days, or something. It’s easy to do, I get to spread the music but not feel a little dirty about sending over a version which he could just copy and never buy.
In other words, give people the choice to send things as DRM. Make it an easy option for people to use, both in sending it, and using it. Develop a single consortium which all devices can play – like MP3s. And don’t make me sell my soul to do it.
So that’s it. That’s the model I’d be willing to live with. Give me the choice to do whatever I want, but entice me to use DRM by making it easy, universal, and, most importantly, optional. Force it down my throat and I’ll run the other way.
Now, if I can just get that gig as CTO at Universal…