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The Music Industry is a Sinking Ship

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The “Weekly Rant” column was featured in the PC Mechanic Newsletter since 2005. Topics relate to some aspect of technology, which include opinions on hardware, software, new technology, technology companies, and computing standards.

Because of a couple court cases the music industry has lost over the past few months, their staunch, unyielding support of the DRM model, and their way of treating customers as criminals rather than people they want to do business with, somehow, I don’t see them lasting much longer if they don’t start changing and adapting to today’s world.  The world has changed since the first commercial music CD arrived into the market.  Bands no longer need corporate support to get their music out to people.  Millions of people are online today sharing information.  So, put this all together and what do you have?

Musicians can put up webpages, MySpace accounts, blogs, independent music site profiles, and more.  For a fee of a few dollars (or even for free) they can share their music with the world, either giving away their music for free, or charging less than a dollar per song.  Whatever they charge goes directly to the artist, rather than to line the pockets of the music industry.  It is these things that have made the music industry an obsolete entity.

The music industry is fighting to keep their heads above water, and in order to do that, then need to adapt quickly rather than adhering to practices customers don’t like.  Churning out manufactured music en masse and flooding media outlets with it is something like could be found in the movie “They Live”.  On top of that, they want to retain all possible control over what they produce with DRM technology, effectively restricting media in any way possible, such as limiting the number of times it is played, shared, copied, burned and so forth.  This is why people don’t like it.  Just take a look at Microsoft’s Zune MP3 player.  Once you stop paying for a music subscription, all the music you’ve downloaded will be deleted.

When most people purchase something, they expect to be able to do whatever they want with it.  DRM prevents that, and people are becoming aware that DRM isn’t something they are taking a liking to.

The music industry is blaming piracy for their plummeting sales.  There have been studies back and forth on how piracy does/doesn’t affect the music industry.  The fact is, they don’t like not being in control; they don’t like not being the go-to middleman for music distribution.

There have been many services over the years that have gone under because of the advent of the Internet, eCommerce, and the ease of which people can set up websites online stores.  But then again, for every obsolete service/organization that goes under because of not keeping up with the times, new services and organizations are created.  Over the past few years, digital music stores have snowballed in popularity because of the low price tag, immediate gratification.  Stores without DRM (albeit few) have been doing significantly better after people learn about the frustrations of dealing with DRM music files.  I expect that most stores in the next year or two will drop DRM altogether.

Meanwhile, the music industry is trying to use every bit of legal leverage in the court system and DCMA to get what they want, and retain–what was at one time–their pride and joy.  To do so, every customer they do business with is treated as a potential pirate.  And that, is no way to run a business.

(Originally published in the pcmech.com newsletter)