Yahoo Exec Shocks Music Execs With Obvious Idea: Ditch The DRM

from the this-isn't-rocket-science dept

Why is it that if you say something sensible to the recording industry, they’re supposedly shocked by the audacity of the suggestion? A Yahoo Music exec suggested today that the recording industry would be better off if it sold music online without copy protection. It’s not hard to make this argument, of course. Copy protection clearly limits what the end user can do with the song, making it less valuable. At the same time, licensing the copy protection and then maintaining the technology and dealing with user confusion and complaints can be costly. However, it doesn’t even sound like Dave Goldberg brought up these fairly basic concepts. Instead, he just pointed to eMusic, which has successfully been using this model for quite some time. And yet, according to the reporter, this “raised eyebrows” among other execs. Yes, how dare an executive point out a way to make your product better, more enjoyable for customers and at a cheaper cost to you — while pointing to empirical evidence that it works. What was he thinking? Update: Kent Newsome makes a great point on this discussion. If Yahoo believes so strongly in this, why don’t they make it happen?

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Comments on “Yahoo Exec Shocks Music Execs With Obvious Idea: Ditch The DRM”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

I tend to agree that the industry may be better without it. I currently don’t purchase any music online because I’m not sure if it will work on my various laptops/pc’s and ipod. I don’t want music that once I’ve moved it too many times amongst my OWN systems that it will stop working.

I guess they just need to look at the lost revenue due to some pirating vs. the lost revenue to maintaining DRM and everything related to it. Not everyone in the world is dishonest…

briantw says:

Re: Re: Re: No Subject Given

I agree.

I tried to purchase music online about 6 months ago. It arrived as DRM’d WMV’s, which wouldn’t work on my iPod. I ended up having to convert them to MP3’s myself. Screw that.

Then I tried to listen to said WMV’s on another machine a few months later, and Windows Media Player had to go online to download the licenses. Only I was on the road, so I wasn’t online. Screw that.

Tried buying music from other sources, such as iTunes, but they aren’t licensed to cater to my “geographical location.” Screw that.

Since then, I’ve found that the only decent place to get music that works once you have it is from reputable agents such as eMule. “I got it one piece at a time, and it did’t cost me a dime.”

Point being, I am quite prepared to pay for my music, Music Industry! But you want to sell me something that doesn’t work, that I don’t want. What I get from P2P is MORE VALUABLE than the DRM’d junk that you’re trying to forcefeed me.

Take a hint.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: No Subject Given

Either that, or CEOs are people who get to their position by having flexible standards, and being able to look you in the eye when they lie to you. In other words, most CEOs are lying thieves out to take care of themselves first.
Looks at own CEO. Yep.
These guys can’t imagine that given the opportunity, anyone would ever pay for anything if they weren’t bent over backwards and ramrodded. As that is their exact nature.

the unknown says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

some people just love to get ram-rodded…
looks at my homosexual friend. YEP, undeniably
looks at the mainstream market. YEP, and crying for more

As long as people are bending over, there will be a lot of ram-rodding going on and more rods to ram them with.

Conclusion – you’re all gay, screw you guys, i’m going home.

sean says:

Re: No Subject Given

I have no problem with DRM, I just think that the industry would be better served if the copyright was content based instead of based on the type of media. For example, if I buy a movie on VHS and then I buy a DVD player, I should be able to buy the same movie on DVD for the cost of the media only as I have paid for the content once already. I personally believe that this type of business model were followed by the entertainment industry (both movies and music) that it would benefit all parties.

ehrichweiss says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

“For example, if I buy a movie on VHS and then I buy a DVD player, I should be able to buy the same movie on DVD for the cost of the media only as I have paid for the content once already”

I think that’s a grey area. If you were happy with your VHS copy of Basic Instinct back in 1995(or whenever it came out), they don’t owe you a better quality copy with outtakes and extras now. However, it would be fair for them to make a VHS quality DVD(that’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one) with whatever was on the VHS version ONLY and give it to you for the price of the media.

Otherwise basically what you’re saying is if you bought a Ford Pinto back in 1973 and have been happy with it ever since, you should be able to take it back and demand a Ferrari Enzo for the price of a set of new tires and a car wash.

I’m not saying I’m for DRM, or against P2P, just that I see grey there and that we have to consider that or else the corporations aren’t gonna listen to us any more than we listen to them.

Precision Blogger (user link) says:

Re: No Subject Given

OKAY, Let’s take a moment and imagine what the world will be like if the music industry DOES collapse. We’ve had music for several thousand years without this industry, right? People will still perform for money, right? In fact people will still sell songs even though they can be copied, just as they sold music in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
In fact the artists and composers may have to sell their own music, and take most of the profits instead of a tiny cut. Profits will obviously be smaller than they are now for the occasional lucky band, but clearly some musicians will make a living, just as a few do now.

Of course there is this downside: no corporate executive will be to pick some airheads and turn them into musical millionaires…

Please, PROMISE me the music business will collapse!

– The Precision Blogger

Phil Wentworth (profile) says:


DRM is necessary only because the music industry is charging too much for a product that is downloaded. No media, no shipping, no store front…yet they are charging as though each cut were a (2 sided) 45 rpm record and each album an on-sale CD.

Low cost subscription models and a lower price purchase model would establish a workable revenue model that would not require DRM.

Music Purchaser says:

Re: No Subject Given

The music industry will not collapse due to anything. VHS survived, DVDs are surviving and CD’s (or any music) will continue to survive. Personally I think that DRM is just a minor inconvenience, but it’s worse for others. My solution is to use my first (of three) “rights” to burn music to a cd, then rip to mp3. Now I can do as I please with the music. I could download pirated music, but choose to purchase from online retailers. This is just another avenue to keep my rights as a legitimate customer.

Fucked-off Pro Musician says:

Re: Re: The record companies are bastards anyway

The record companies whine on that they’re protecting artists’ rights and that artists have to be paid.

I played in bands for years and had a couple of recording contracts. Funny – I never noticed the record companies looking after my interests. From rip-off clauses inserted into unreadable contracts to blatant non-payment of royalties to selling rights that WE THE BAND owned, not the record company, onto a publisher, they tried to screw us at every twist and turn.

So let them fuck themselves up further and hope that artists come out the other side able to sell directly to their audience without these corrupt middle-men creaming off the profit.

cyberpain says:

Re: No Subject Given

It’s all about greed. When I purchase a book I don’t have to worry about being prosecuted for letting my friend read it. It’s essentially the same thing. If I let 5 of my friends read it that is 5 books that doesn’t get sold because I allowed someone to borrow it. So what is the big dif. If you bought it you should be able to do with it what you want. If you don’t like it them maybe we should be renting everything.

KC says:

Re: Re: Greed

Yes, I agree that it is all about greed.
Book authors/publishers don’t complain about having less revenue when libraries stock their books (or maybe I’ve never heard the complaints).
I really think libraries should stock music CDs too, afterall, the “artists” all think that their lyrics are some sort of art or has some literary value, and we should be able to appreciate it just like a good book.

Steve says:


It’s about time the music industry catered to human nature… it’s the best way to make money and incent competition, with increased competition steadily raising the bar for new and advanced products/features/ideas. This is the principle of capitalism.

Talk to some financial analysts about modeling sales both with and conversely without copyright protection.

I agree that no copyright protection would definitely increase the spread of music and the overall volume, but think of it this theoretical way…

700,000 copies downloaded at $1
revenue = $700,000
illegal distribution = say 300,000 which is then $300,000 in lost revenue at $1 per download
total coverage = 1,000,000

400,000 copies downloaded at $1
revenue = $400,000
illegal distribution = say 600,000 which is then $600,000 in lost revenue at $1 per download
total coverage = 1,000,000

total coverage is 1,000,000 in both cases except in no copyright, the lost revenue likely translates to lost profit, and lost profit over time translates to slower progress of upgrading services and systems and features/ideas/etc.

Clearly this is just one possible situation, but it seems like things would go logically something like that.

Sr1 says:

Re: No Subject Given

the current recording industry configuration should collapse. and it will. when you have rap music that is produced cheaply and crudely dominating the airways, with the likes of thugs and criminals running the biz, it should be destroyed. which some of them through their antics are doing very well on their own. oh, and let me not forget the record companies execs. who will do anything for a quick and easy dollar despite the social toll its taking on youth and society.

Concerned person says:

Re: Re: I feel da MuziK (wot?)

Can Techdirt write software that will scan for people who write messages like this… I am insulted as a human being when bilge like what our good friend “Termell Sledge” wrote assaults my eyes. Saying that I would be interested to know what school the person was educated at so we can report it to the government.

the unknown says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I feel da MuziK (wot?)

i lyka how iz me main man expurssing eemself. it give’em us a wee bit a taste in readin’, innit?

Screw WMV.
I buy my music online, but as i feed from a niche market (music tailored specifically for the dance-floor) i haven’t come accross any DRM or what-not issues. If I were to, well then, screw that too!

Although there is a real issue of independent/small labels getting dicked by P2P, indies do survive albeit precariously. Take the example of a distributor I know, they have filed bankruptcy for the 2nd time in just about 2 years. P2P in large part is to blame, as well as CDJ technology. The upside is that the market is moving much faster and competition is much tougher. You guessed it, quality is much better too, and the market is much more diverse. Can’t say the same for the huge dinosaur labels.

I hail the changes us independents have had to adapt to. We are nearing a democratization of music, stimulus is sharper, competition tougher, quality better, satisfaction deeper. Less money, yeah, but on the bright side, more fame.

Some facts : 10-15 years ago I would have been payed 2000-3000 monetary units a track, now it’s more like 300-500 monetary units. I guess I can put a hold on my desired excessive life-style. In the end it’s not so bad, cause i’m in it for passion, not money. P2P has helped for the first, but for the latter, not so much. So what? Money surely doesn’t make me happier than knowing someone is dancing to my track in australia.

Even if i’m personally affected by P2P, I wouldn’t put a halt to it. The only thing to do is simply get your values straightened out. I tell all my P2P using friends that they are crooks and they agree. Will it change their habits? No it won’t, but they do feel guilty because they see how it affects me. Also they’ll never get the kickass tracks that I have because it remains really underground, meaning not even on the P2P networks. That’s satisfaction enough.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is, buy the music. Try not to P2P it, but if you have to, then do it. Thanks to that, people know my name on other continents, kudos. I’ll have a better chance of selling my material, thanks, now buy it please or else their won’t be anymore coming out of my “studio” for lack of funds. Notice the quotes on studio, i don’t have money for a proper studio, i work/live in a tiny room, in spartan conditions, but i have never been happier in all my life.

Now to the big guys: would you stop making such a fuss about it?! You know damn well it has brought more bucks to you by 1) free publicity/awareness on your products, 2) wiping out the small competitors. Greed is your only motivation, it’s crystal clear.

So in the end, screw DRM ! Anyways I know how to work around DRM, it’s quite simple, it just takes a little time and easy to get technology.

Share the love and buy good music. Turn towards a niche market, it’s much better anyways. Seriously, 1 to 3 bling units a track isn’t excessive for owning a track, but it sure is too much to pay for “renting” it. Dumb-ass walnut-brained dinosaurs!

John says:

Re: No Subject Given

> Must you guys write EVERY post sarcastically? It gets old.

I actually like it. But I just looked and there are actually very few sarcastic posts. So i guess the answer is no, they don’t have to write every post sarcastically and actually looking at the site proves that’s the case.

Was it too difficult for you to check? Oh, sorry, that was sarcasm.

Dav says:

No Subject Given

I download from its better then the rip off that is Itunes and the rest of it.

Ilke everyone else im all for paying for muusic provided it is of good quility and without copy protection. I also like it to be significantly less money then a CD otherwise i may as well couch up another ?2 and get the artwork and none of the associated crap that comes with DRMs.

Hoo (user link) says:

Re: it's all history anwyay...

We have a small record label. We’ve been giving away some or all of our tracks (depending on the artist) as mp3s since 1998. We also sell the albums on cd directly from the website.

We do this because
1. Its very difficult to get airplay so this is the only way to be heard.
2. We don’t think mp3s are very good quality (@128kps)
3. We hope that poor people will download and rich will buy

Though we average between 3000 and 5000 downloads a month and we occassionally get a review ( and they are ok: ‘5/5 if there is one album we can whole heartedly recommend this issue, it’s this one.’, ‘ ghostly, ominous, beautiful and kind of other-worldly…moments of legend’.) we don’t sell many – in fact our best year was 2005 when we sold 12 cds.

It doesn’t cost us anything really so we’re not that bothered but it is a puzzle why we don’t sell more – is the music bad or the website layout bad or just that most people think mp3s are good?

Boo says:

Re: Re: it's all history anwyay...

cant comment on your site or the music, but it’s a fact that people don’t understand that mp3’s are not cd quality – and most people can’t tell a quality recording form an mp3 to listen to (sometimes i wish i couldnt, especially these days with many radio stations broadcasting mp3s).

it wrecks my head – i have nothing against compressed formats… the have their place, but mp3 is a very old and not very good codec. why not use aac or better yet ogg?

Michael says:

Re: Re: it's all history anwyay...


I can’t say for sure, and there are probably a million reasons that only a seasoned economist could pin-point, but I will say that most people DO think that 128-bit mp3’s are good enough. Not audiophiles, or even most tech-inclined, but normal everyday consumers… it’s gold to them. They only start to cringe when they hear streamed radio at the lowest quality setting.

the unknown says:

Re: Re: it's all history anwyay...

responses to Hoo concerning floppyrecords :

– mp3s at 128kbps are good enough for the lay-person. I buy/mix with 330kbps mp3, can’t complain on quality, i have an option to purchase 16bit wav but it costs 1 extra EUR probably to cover bandwidth costs. I do it on the rare, extremely rare occasion i want to sample a kick drum.
– your website is fine, who cares what it looks like as long as it works. Remember, you can’t rely on websites alone to get your business going, backtrack to 2000-2002, the debunking of the internet and the stock plunges.
– “We hope that poor people will download and rich will buy” This, I’m afraid, would qualify as wishfull thinking.
– With 3000-5000 downloads a month, I see a steady market for live performances.
– Is the music bad ? NO, but… On a technical perspective, first impression is that it could benefit from better engineering. Granted it is 128kbps, but one can still make a safe assumption. Airy/ambient music will not stick, and will be sent straight to the background and be forgotten. Something needs to hook the listenner to generate ongoing interest and build demand. I browsed quickly, but nothing really did that for me, except of course for the vocal tracks which have more potential. Tighter parts too would help. Many tunes lack solidity and sound like a really well mic-ed jam session rather than a bona fide studio endeavor. Once again, better engineering, and much more discrimination for recorded parts.

Remember too that critique is easy, the art is difficult. So take what you want from the previous comments and ditch the rest.

Devil's Advocate (user link) says:

DRM = Dead Retail Market

I have an iPod and refuse to buy music from iTunes just because I’m paranoid about the DRM. If they didn’t have any DRM, I wouldn’t hesitate to drop a few bucks a week on songs I liked, if only they had the smaller artists who don’t want/can’t use DRM anyways.
Companies spend thousands, perhaps even millions, developing DRM systems, only to have a 16 year old crack it with a hex editor and write a simple program for it.
It’s for this reason that automobiles are able to go faster than the speed limit! Car companies could put 65mph governors on, but people would find a way to remove them and the automobile industry would only be shooting themselves in the foot at the added cost and loss of sales! It would really devalue that (performance car of your choice) that you’ve been saving up to buy!

Matt says:

Re: DRM = Dead Retail Market

I believe I read an artice or comment here a while back about a band that was living off of donations from fans, while providing there music for download. Actually, this may have been mentioned a few times. So recently, I discovered a band that I liked, and while I already had the CD (downloaded), I figured I’d throw down a few bucks. So, I found the site, and looked everywhere, but there’s no way to do that. So I guess they don’t get any money. I have no problem paying for any music, but I do like the downloads. It gives me a chance to listen to a lot more music that I know I would never just go out and buy. I might after I’ve decided that I liked it, but how will I ever know?

Jerry White (user link) says:

Re: Re: DRM = Dead Retail Market

I’m so sick of the fucking music industry trying to mis-leed us into thinking they are losing buckets of money on this issue. I have been a music lover forever and have through the course of my life spent a pretty penny on both legal music and on bootleg copies of music. I used to have just as much music or more than the DJ’s I was friends with. When I was younger I had every album I owned stolen from me so I had to start to rebuild the collection. It’s been 20 years since this happened and I had over 10,000 songs in my collection from a digital stand point. Hurricane Katrina has taken all my music from me again which this time theoretically was covered by my insurance. According to DMA I should have to purchase these all again? And according to my insurance company I only have $40,000 in contents on my policy. We have added our contents and it’s at $56,000 now and we are only half way done. Something isn’t right here because this was the maximum allowed on the policy. More to come later!!!

Jlong says:

Re: DRM = Dead Retail Market

I think we should follow the chinese market model. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking communism here, only music industry. In China most artists & labels don’t even sell CD’s they simple give them away. The bootleg market is so prevalent in china that selling them was not profitable anyway as within several hours of release bootleg copies would be available for purchase. So now they give them away as advertising for the artist and as a way to generate interest in concerts, autograph sessions and whatever else the artists are willing to do to generate revenue. Basically what the labels have become are marketers only. They sign artists, develop the act, and market the artists as products and make their money off of other revenue streams. The American music industry from the artists to the big labels need to quit whining and start making and distributing music in a manner that would actually make people want to listen and purchase.

Anonymous Coward says:

No Subject Given

Honestly, I could care less about DRM as it doesn’t affect me at all. if I want a CD, I can borrow it from a friend and rip it, or I could just download from bittorrent or one of the P2P networks. either way, Im not getting forced into buying some overpriced, DRM’d piece of shit.
its funny, that DRM does absolutley nothing to curb filesharing, as people who fileshare dont buy DRM’d music in the first place. All it does is put restrictions on people who do actually pay for there music.

Rudge says:

No Subject Given

I think DRM is imposed this was precisely because it is restrictive, awkward and limiting. The internet and Napster was a nightmare for the music industry and the thing they really want is to make people buy CDs again and go back to the old way of doing things. Keeps the Music Industry happy, the retail outlets happy and everyone is all smiles again.
I have given up with downloading music because of the DRM problems, I just pony up for the CD, its predictable and becomes the ?master copy? I can rip it to hell into any format I need and use it anywhere I want – with no restrictions.
I think it?s a shame they went overboard with DRM, they are killing a huge market for themselves. More and more people are pissed off with these unreasonable restrictions downloading music, (which really makes no sense because they sell the Music on CD with no restrictions at all.!). Clearly DRM is designed to ?punish? people for the convenience of obtaining the music online.

Stupid Fuck says:


Its funny, I can get any song I want on eMule or Limewire that has more value for free, then pay for a song and has less value.

Also I can find many rare songs for free.

What benefit does one get for paying?
1. feeds RIAA
2. can’t copy
3. has restrictions on what player to play.
4. song is tracked
5. costs $1 per song

What benefit does one get for not paying?
1. its free
2. does not feed criminal RIAA
3. can copy
4. no restrictions on players
5. can give away
6. no hasstle with DRM
7. is not tracked
8. no loss if song sux
9. usually can get very rare songs instantly

Its a clear choice what people want.

Why can’t musicians just sell concert tickets and T-shirts directly..

Songs are going to get cracked and copied no matter what.

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