David Byrne: One Of My Albums Sat On The Shelf For A Year Because Label Wanted DRM And I Didn't

from the drm-helping-musicians? dept

David Byrne, who has definitely been one of the more enlightened musicians for quite some time (using Creative Commons all the way back in 2004? Yup) when it comes to understanding both technology and new business models, recently sat down for an interview with Cory Doctorow about how the music business works today (which must have been really fun to watch given the two participants). The whole article is interesting, but one part in particular caught my attention:
As an artist, Byrne said that he has had his own problems with digital rights management. Following the Sony/BMG rootkit scandal—which saw thousands of CDs recalled after the built-in DRM software rendered computers vulnerable to viruses and malware—he asked his label to make sure there was no DRM software on an upcoming release. They were less than obliging.

“I’ve run up against this a couple of times,” Byrne said. “I was in the process of negotiating a record contract at the time, and I went in to the subsidiary of Warner Brothers and said, ‘I’m adding a clause into my contract that you’ll never put DRM on my record.’ And they said ‘Oh, oh, oh…’ The record was done, and the negotiation went on for a year. The record just sat on the shelf. It was very frustrating for me.”
Byrne, of course, has embraced direct to fan efforts a lot lately, and if I remember correctly, was the very first publicly announced musician to use TopSpin's direct-to-fan tools. Some will, of course, argue that he should have just dropped working with major labels, but especially at that time there were distribution advantages to signing a deal. But the fact that they would sit around and argue over DRM -- even right as the whole mess with the rootkit was happening -- shows the kind of thinking that major labels have gone through with DRM.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 4:36am

    Can we really call it thinking? It's more like a reptilian brain stem emotional response.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 5:35am

    Yup, he would deny his fans his work, on the basis of a disagreement over DRM. I can see how that advances the art :)

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Michael, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 5:39am

    Re:

    David wasn't refusing his fans his work, it was the record label which sat on it because they wanted to add DRM 'protection' against his wishes.

    This is meant to serve as a lesson. If artists want to truly advance their art, the very first step is not to sign with a record label.

     

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  4.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 5:41am

    Re:

    I think you will find it was the label who denied fans his work because they were too pig headed to see that DRM does not work in a digital business model. But, hey, don't let facts get in the way.

     

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  5.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 5:44am

    Re:

    Actually, that is a fairly good description of most corporate responses to problems.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 5:48am

    guess this proves how much 'say' the artists have, dont it. yet they still sign with these parasite labels. how they can ever say they always have the artists interests at the forefront is beyond me!

     

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  7.  
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    DannyB (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 5:56am

    RIAA: Winning the hearts and minds of artists and consumers.

     

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  8.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 6:11am

    Re:

    Another example was when Def Leppard wanted to make their music available digitally but could not get a fair deal from their label.

    In that case, Def Leppard signed with their label decades ago when there was no other option. Today, there is still a bit of a belief (although not as much) that if you want to 'make it big' you must get signed by a major label. It is this belief that we need to get rid of.

     

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  9.  
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    Colin, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 6:13am

    So people could have been buying it for a year but weren't able to? Think of all of those lost sales because of the label! I mean pirates!

     

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  10.  
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    Lowestofthekeys (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 6:36am

    To the music labels, it's bad business to listen to the consumer and the artist.

    They know better than both when it comes to half-assed measures to control the distribution of "their" media.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Michael, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 6:47am

    Re:

    The same can be said of the movie and video game industries, what with their region-locking schemes.

    DRM and region-locking are both solutions to problems that don't exist.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 6:47am

    Re: Re:

    think u missed the :)

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Michael, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 6:48am

    Re:

    The same can be said for both the movie and video game industries, what with their region-locking protection schemes.

    Both DRM and region-locking are solutions to problems that don't exist.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Michael, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 6:50am

    Re:

    Sorry for the double-post. The first time I clicked on 'submit' it stalled, so I reloaded and typed again.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 7:01am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Apologies, we see so many anonymous trolls on here, I jumped to the conclusion you were one.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 7:06am

    Re: Re:

    The 'problem' in this case being too many potential customers? Can't think of any other possible 'problems' DRM and region-locking actually solve.

     

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  17.  
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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 7:15am

    eBooks and DRM

    As long as an eBook is DRM-encumbered, it is just leased to you - you don't own it! I don't care what lipstick they put on that pig, but if you can't move it, sell it, or lend it without interaction with the publisher or eBook provider, then you don't own it, and when their servers crash, you will likely be left with nothing but unreadable bits taking up space on your storage systems at worst, or unable to do anything but read it on the currently installed system, so when that crashes, you are SOL!

     

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  18.  
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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 7:19am

    Oops

    I posted that last comment on the wrong article... Doh! Sorry about that chief! Moderator (whoever you are), you can remove these two comments at your leisure. I reposted on the correct article. Thanks.

    -Spiff

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    justok (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 7:24am

    Re:

    You're being unkind to reptiles.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    The eejit (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 7:26am

    Re: Re:

    This is one fo the few areas where Valve need to actgually improve their pricing/levels of content, but can't (due mostly to legal issues, such as German violence laws or Australian content laws).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward of Esteemed Trolling (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 7:30am

    You eva read a Contract ?

    "" Yup, he would deny his fans his work, on the basis of a disagreement over DRM. I can see how that advances the art :)


    Implying the Record Label has to release anything
     
     
     

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    Lowestofthekeys (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 7:37am

    Re: Re: Re:

    There is one things they solve, or rather "temporarily remove insecurity" and that's the paranoia these companies have over losing control.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    MrWilson, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 7:52am

    Re:

    "RIAA: Wasting the time and money of artists and consumers."

    FTFY

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Ed C., Sep 24th, 2012 @ 8:11am

    Re: Oops

    Comments never get deleted here. The DRM comment was very much on topic anyway. It applies to ebooks just as well as music. Unlike movies, everyone expects music and books to be portable, and the smaller file size makes it more than practical. However, the technology for making digital music portable was simpler to implement, so it became more practical sooner. Of course, the consumer clash came sooner as well.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 8:13am

    Re:

    and your point is? Positive or negative, there is really no way to tell what you are thinking. If serious elaborate. If trolling fine job.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    gorehound (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 9:13am

    Re: You eva read a Contract ?

    I have read many contracts and have been playing in Bands since 1972.That being said I have always Refused any Interest in Going Big Label.I have hated these Labels as far back as the Mid-Later 1970's .I support small Label INDIE Press.
    Any Artist who now Signs With a MAFIAA Label is a complete and utter fool.
    In the old Pre-Internet Days it was a lot easier to fool Artists into thinking this is a Good Move.Not now because Artists can do a lot more and really have no need of these Dinosaur Labels.
    You Artists who presently sign with the Big Boys get just what you deserve.
    In My Eyes You Are A Traitorous Scum !
    Fuck the MAFIAA !!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Overcast (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 9:38am

    I bought a KMFDM Digital CD without DRM just this week.

    And another the week before and another...

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 9:49am

    Change needs to happen not just from the consumer side, but from the musician side as well.

    When bands realize they can compete without labels, that's when change may finally happen. The myth is that labels have for better distribution that better known musicians "need".

    The acient licensing, distribution and royalty collection systems all serve to keep the current label system in demand. This is where policy needs to streamline the system rather than empower it through bad trade acts.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 9:59am

    Well, duh. Isn't it obvious they'd make more money from an album they didn't sell?

    The studios and record companies and publishing companies seem to love scorched Earth policies and are fond of pyrrhic victories. "We'd rather not sell it at all than give up the smallest modicum of control."

    I bet they're a lot of fun in the sack.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 10:11am

    Re: Re:

    DRM and region-locking is a purely economic question. If you can keep the markets down to a rich segment and a poor segment + you can control what enters what market, you can potentially sell cheaper in the poor area and more expensive in the rich area.
    Having a huge market with all segments is a total nightmare for this kind of business model since the stratification in what people are prepared to pay is larger. They believe they are loosing money on this breakdown of segmentation which is correct if they abused the segregation before.

    These players despise normal market mechanics unless they are rigged in their favour. DRM and region-locking are small pieces in rigging the markets. They are not solutions to anything.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 11:20am

    I like Byrne and I'm glad to hear him take that stand. But if negotiations were underway -and they refused- why did he continue to negotiate and didn't take his album elsewhere? Why didn't he self-release like so many others are doing?

    I think there is a myth that labels over distribution that larger bands need, but I think that's been proven it's a myth and not reality. I think he released his last album with Eno online and self published that.

    This statement from Byrne opens up a lot more questions about the industry and what needs to happen. I'd like to hear more from him.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    R.H. (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 5:46pm

    Re: eBooks and DRM

    This is why I remove the DRM from every e-book I buy. Well...this and the fact that I actually want to be able to read it on all the devices I have using the reader program of my choice.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Adrian A Diaz, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 3:44pm

    mp3, ogg, wav aif formats

    downloading, sharing and listening a mp3 file is fair, as long as you don make commercial benefit about the file.
    for example reselling it.
    copyrights are no a

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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