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.