Copy Protection Killing The Promotional Value Of Content

from the missing-the-point-in-a-big,-big-way dept

While people often accuse us of "promoting piracy," nothing could be further from the truth. As we've said repeatedly over the years, we don't condone piracy -- but think that businesses need to recognize that it's a part of the market place, and if that's the case, why not learn to use it to your advantage, rather than fight against it? It's actually pretty simple to do so. Rather than thinking about content as a good that is being taken for no revenue, think about the content as a promotional good that costs nothing to distribute. Suddenly, a bunch of new business models open up that allow you to embrace people sharing your content. To be honest, this isn't a particularly new or unique idea. Using "free" as a promotional tool has been around for years. It's why there are buy one, get one free offers. Or free drinks in casinos. It's why you get to watch broadcast TV for free. In other words, there are already a ton of business models that understand the fundamental idea that "free" isn't bad when used for promotions. It's definitely true in the music video market. Music videos promote musicians, helping to sell more CDs, concert tickets and merchandise. With a few video download stores popping up online, it looked for a while that some of the record labels were thinking about trying to charge for music videos, basically destroying their promotional value and missing the point on the value of promotional goods.

The folks over at YouTube are hoping to change that, by working with various record labels to go back to the roots of music videos as promotional material and putting up music videos for free on YouTube. However, it's not clear that everyone has figured this basic concept out just yet. Over the last few weeks, the band OK Go has build up something of a cult following for its video of the band on treadmills for the song "Here It Goes Again." It's been passed around via email, on blogs and I even saw it mentioned on some TV show. The video is available on the band's website and YouTube among other places. However, Tim Lee noticed that on the band's blog they ask people to go to VH1's site to vote for their video. There's just one problem: Tim is on a Mac, and the video on VH1's site won't play on his Mac, because it's incompatible with the Microsoft DRM that VH1 seems to be using for no good reason at all. As Tim explains, this is beyond pointless. It's actually harmful to the idea of using the video as promotion (as the band clearly wants). There's simply no reason to use copy protection technology here -- as it completely goes against the very point of music videos. However, with the industry continually beating the "DRM is necessary" drum, it's no surprise that VH1 would feel compelled to put DRM where it absolutely isn't needed.
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  1. icon
    Mike (profile), 17 Aug 2006 @ 10:57am

    Re: piracy promotion? HAH, That's funny

    You're not buying anything when you pirate music. If that were the case then this fictional scenario would work. However in the piracy game, it's get all you can for nothing.

    Um. You've totally missed the point. The point is to use the music to promote *something else*. If you followed some of the links you'd see there are a ton of examples:

    * Concerts
    * Merchandise
    * CDs (some people still like to have them)
    * Access to the band
    * Private concerts
    * Early access to tickets
    * Travel arrangements
    * Fan club access
    * etc. etc. etc.

    There are hundreds if not thousands of potential business modesl.

    The point is that if the market is viewing the music as a promotional good, why not embrace it and use it to your advantage.

    Just because YOU can't think of business models, doesn't mean others won't. And once that happens, if you're the only musician on the block still trying to sell your music, no one will bother, since so many other bands have figured out how to make money without doing so.

    So, while it's true that the examples did require you to buy stuff, there are plenty of examples of promotions where no purchase is required. In fact, I'd argue that television is exactly that. You aren't required to watch commercials, though the industry certainly hopes you will.

    These comparisons are ridiculous. Capitalism dictates that if you have something of value that you can sell it and make money. Be it a Monte Carlo, Milk Duds, or Music, you sell to make money.

    That's a really narrow definition of capitalism that suggests you might want to hit your econ textbooks again. Free market economics (the basis for capitalism) says that price will get driven to marginal cost in the long run. In other words, trying to sell music is a losing business. You're going to get priced out of the market eventually, because it doesn't make economic sense.

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