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.

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Companies: warner music

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

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33 Comments
gorehound (profile) says:

Re: 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 !!!

Zakida Paul says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Spaceman Spiff (profile) says:

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!

Ed C. says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

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