Music Publishing

As you read this, ever more information is being converted to the digital form so that now it is easier than ever to duplicate intellectual property and charging money for it is becoming difficult. Looking at it from another perspective, there could be no easier way to distribute your content to more people without having to worry about being able to meet excessive demand. The supply is unlimited now. Your sole goal is to sell as much as you can.

The problems:

Music publishers became greedy seeing this situation. They want to somehow maximize their gains, but they are doing it the wrong way. They have tried to lockdown the system completely (and have failed grossly) and now they are hampering discovery of new music for potential customers.

Even buyers were to blame. They started thinking that they didn’t have to pay for music. The mindset is that unless I don’t have a physical CD in hand I have no reason to pay for music. We feel that when we buy a CD, we pay for the manufacturing cost of the CD. So if we are able to download the songs through torrents with no expense to the music industry, then the songs are free aren’t they?

Slowly and surely, the publishers made progress into convincing people that they should pay, if they want to carry their songs around with them. For music available on the radio, you didn’t have a choice of what to listen to, so it was free.

Once I got an original Wall-E DVD. Inspite of the price, I went for better quality video. When I came home, and tried to transfer it on my PSP, I was hit hard by the DRM protection. I ended up getting another copy from torrents to play on my PSP. I was convinced that it made more sense to get multimedia from torrents. Hence the move to DRM-free is a very strong move.

Some progress:

Back in 2007, songs bought from iTunes were playable only on iPods. People who bought music legally were not able to play their songs on the device of their choice and could only burn their songs a limited number of times. If people are so restricted, do they really ‘own’ the songs? Thankfully, Steve Jobs published a letter titled, ‘Thoughts on Music.’ In this ground breaking public letter Steve Jobs said that there were three ways forward for this industry:

  1. Stay the same way. Go crazy over DRM, while people switched to torrents.
  2. Apple should let other devices use its DRM. The drawback being more difficulty in plugging loop holes.
  3. No DRM! Why not request the four important music publishers to sell music online like they do offline, without DRM.

A year later, the world finally got DRM-free music downloads from iTunes and Amazon. Legal music buyers finally got the same amount of freedom as people who got their songs through torrents. Finally piracy slowed in growth and music was being bought legally again.

New services like Grooveshark and Pandora allow users to choose what they want to listen to anytime. Its almost legal and its free. How do define what to pay for and what is legal?

Ways forward:

The music industry has learnt that being friendly to your listeners and caring for their needs is how to sell them music, not fighting against them with DRM. They have begun to understand ways, to cope up with the fast growing internet:

  1. Make all music sold, DRM free.
  2. Support services like Grooveshark and Pandora. Not fight against them.
  3. Make music easy to purchase not only in the US, but worldwide.

The crux of the fact is to make music easily discoverable, buyable and then easily shareable for further discovery. Music publishers need to adapt the new viral marketing strategy instead of building a wall between listeners to prevent thieves at the cost of innocent paying buyers.


Originally published at paramaggarwal.com.

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