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Music DRM in Critical Condition?

CowboyNeal posted more than 7 years ago | from the can't-happen-soon-enough dept.

Music 377

ianare writes "Universal Music Group, the largest music company on the planet, has announced that the company is going to sell DRM-free music. The test will see UMG offering a portion of its catalog — primarily its most popular content — sold without DRM between August 21 and January 31 of next year. The format will be MP3, and songs will sell for 99 each, with the bitrate to be determined by the stores in question. RealNetwork's Rhapsody service will offer 256kbps tracks, the company said in a separate statement. January 31 is likely more of a fire escape than an end date. If UMG doesn't like what they're seeing, they'll pull the plug. UMG says that it wants to watch how DRM-free music affects piracy rates."

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Silly (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20179705)

UMG says that it wants to watch how DRM-free music affects piracy rates.

Well they should look back over the last few decades then. They've been selling DRM-free digital music ever since CDs were invented.

Re:Silly (5, Funny)

swokm (1140623) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179743)

And apparently regretted it ever since.

GODDAMIT make it $0.01 and THEN maybe !! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20180257)

GODDAMIT make it $0.01 and THEN maybe I'll pay. Bits are free so why the FUCK should I have to pay for it ??

Re:GODDAMIT make it $0.01 and THEN maybe !! (3, Insightful)

ATMD (986401) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180297)

If you go into a hardware store and buy a hammer, you won't be paying the amount it cost to produce and ship it.

To continue to produce their product, any company has to make a profit. That is why your music can't be free.

Re:Silly (5, Insightful)

ResidntGeek (772730) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179971)

I'd think you were joking, since there are so obviously other factors to be taken into consideration over that time period, but you're at +5 insightful. So, I feel I must point out: over those same decades Internet and computer adoption went up just a wee bit. Probably throws off the analysis slightly.

Re:Silly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20180003)

over those same decades Internet and computer adoption went up just a wee bit.

Well yes, but that's got nothing to do with DRM now, has it? The selling of DRM-free computer files isn't going to let the genie out of the bag, the Internet did that.

It's not that silly, though (4, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180289)

It's not that new, though:

1. CD burners have existed for ages.

2. The possibility to just copy music to cassette or movies to VHS has existed for ages, and that existed even before CDs gained much adoption. Heck, in the 90's even half the portable stereos, and every self-respecting cassette deck, had room for _two_ cassettes at the same time and a button to copy from one to the other.

3. If you think people had to wait for the Internet to swap music or movies or programs, I dare say you don't remember high school that well.

4. Before mass Internet access, there were BBSs. Frankly, now that was a bigger pirate haven than the Internet... or than the Carribeans back in the 1600's ;)

5. Internet access isn't _that_ new and unlike everything before. Sure, only now it may have reached the grandmas or finally gotten very high speeds, but I don't think those were ever the biggest pirates anyway. If grandma wants to listen to folk songs from the 50's or for some good ol' fashioned symphonic music, she can get those for pence legally. Plus she already has her cassette and vinyl collection.

The biggest problems are teens who (A) are driven by peer pressure, and have to listen, watch, wear and say exactly what their peers appreciate. Even if he goes for the rebellious punk image, the average teenager won't actually be rebellious at all, he'll be a clone of whatever punk image is currently fashionable among his peers. And (B) face high prices for that image. And (C) don't have that much disposable income. So the pressure was always there to copy the latest fashionable album.

And those already had modems, virtually all universities had Interent as early as the early 90's, and most had access to a hi-fi where they could copy a cassette.

Plus, music companies have been complaining about Napster since the 90's, so at least at that point the world was already connected enough to make a difference, according to those music companies.

Now is the chance (1, Insightful)

Azuma Hazuki (955769) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179713)

Buy, buy, buy! I don't think DRM is in "critical condition" at all, but now is our chance to show these people that we *will* buy their product if they don't treat us all like criminals. We may be able to make a small but important piece of history here.

Re:Now is the chance (5, Insightful)

WK2 (1072560) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179777)

Isn't this the company that sued Sony in the 80's, and tried to make VCRs illegal? And, they are associated with the RIAA. I think it is too soon to start throwing money at any major record labels. The best solution would be to pirate exactly as much as you had been before.

TAKE THE RED PILL. (5, Insightful)

swokm (1140623) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179951)

This has probably been posted a million times on slashdot, but we must repeat it until at least every slashdot person understands:

THERE. IS. NO. RIAA.

Not as such. It is a like shell company so that the major music labels don't get their hands (or label names) dirty whilst suing dead people, stalking 8 year olds, and extorting grandmothers that have never even seen a computer.

Universal IS the RIAA.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_RIAA_member_l abels [wikipedia.org] may help. I seriously propose not buying in to the Sony, Warner, Universal, et al. game of hiding behind the word RIAA as if it is some, nebulous, vastly distantly related entity. It isn't. Substitute "major music label CEOs" for "RIAA". So for example this headline from Arstechnica:
Judge greenlights RIAA to dig into man's past, employers

Should actually read:
Judge greenlights Major Music Label CEOs to dig into man's past, employers

Those CEOs are people. They make the decisions. They are responsible. Normal people can get their heads around that and hold those people responsible for their actions, if they so choose. The RIAA is some faceless acronym, just another brick wall. As it is surely intended to be.

Re:TAKE THE RED PILL. (1)

legallyillegal (889865) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180195)

the RIAA exists just as much as your lawyer and/or union.

Re:TAKE THE RED PILL. (3, Insightful)

swokm (1140623) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180321)

the RIAA exists just as much as your lawyer and/or union.
OK. Yes it exists. But if I fund a legal team to continually harass people, and generally harm society, who should citizens complain to when they are fed up? A tape recorder at the law firm? Or me? Which would be more effective? Who is the source of the problem?

Not the legal team. If one member is disbarred, I'll just hire another. If I'm the RIAA, legal fees are a pittance to me. The probably aren't even a line item on my budget.

I take exception with the union example. I do not believe that the RIAA is a union of independent artists as they purport themselves to be by the standard English definitions of the worlds "independent" and "artists". As I understand it the RIAA is a legal attack dog for several top distribution giants, each of whom control the production of artists through contracts. These distribution labels have no other obligation or duty to the artists. So perhaps a union of giant labels? UGL?

Maybe I'm wrong, but the organization is so shady and secretive... let's take a look at their board of directors, shall we:

http://www.riaa.com/aboutus.php?content_selector=w ho_we_are_board [riaa.com]

Huh. You know, it is the weirdest thing. I don't recognize a single name on that list as a popular recording artist, just "EMI, Sony, BMG, etc." Golly, I wonder if Marilyn Manson or the Rammstein guys voted for these "union leaders". Ahh, I'm guessing no.

Re:TAKE THE RED PILL. (4, Funny)

cafard (666342) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180279)

CEOs are people

Spoiler!!!

Re:Now is the chance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20179897)

Do you think more people will buy their crap now? The recording industry is a dead animal, drm or not.

Now is the chance to give money to parasites (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20179927)

You buy if you want. As far as I'm concerned Universal can fuck off.

They're one of the worst. It is they who persuaded Microsoft to let them charge Zune users a Zune-tax. Let them lift that tax first.

They're still playing games. This time round, they are refusing to sell through the iTunes Store. This is an act of revenge. It's because Apple won't open their DRM to other distributors, because Apple doesn't want the hassle of maintaining this DRM (that it doesn't want in the first place and only has to use because companies like Universal insist on it) for every other distributor. IOW, Universal do want the DRM and are blaming Apple for not making it work for them across the whole industry - as if Apple, or anyone else, could.

YOU buy. YOU rush out and buy from these parasites. I shan't.

If I want to buy a download rather than a CD, I'll buy EMI at the iTunes Store or go to Magnatune or Linn records [linnrecords.com] . Universal can go boil its head.

Re:Now is the chance to give money to parasites (2, Funny)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180191)

I shan't
Verily?

Re:Now is the chance (2, Interesting)

Tuoqui (1091447) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180051)

Someone needs to tag this 'Itsatrap'.

Am I the only one who sees this as an opportunity for them to inject peoples names, IP addresses and other identifying information into the headers of the music? What they'll do with this information is troll Kazaa/Limewire looking for the songs from 'Joe Average' and then sue him because he gave a copy to a friend who gave it to a friend who gave it to a friend who put it on Kazaa/Limewire with the persons Name/IP junk on it only this time the RIAA will actually have hard evidence since they'll have injected the information onto the song before it was released so they'll know who's copy it was originally and go after them even if it was completely innocent sharing between common friends.

Re:Now is the chance (1)

daff2k (689551) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180251)

Is something like injecting additional information or tying a song to a name/IP address-combination even possible when the format in which they are selling the songs is MP3? Wouldn't it require a media player that knows about this heading or trailing garbage in the file in order to be able to play it? MP3 as such doesn't support stuff like that, so I am not sure how they would pull this off, technically.

No - do behave as usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20180309)

If they see no difference in piracy whether there is DRM or not, the conclusion is also that DRM does not curb piracy rates => might as well do without.

Another half-ass job (4, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179717)

If record companies want me to stop downloading music from P2P networks, they need to offer a better-quality product than that available for free. I can get all the 256kbps MP3s I want on P2P. The only way to make me even consider actually paying for a mere audio file (as opposed to a CD which has liner notes etc.) is to offer FLAC.

Re:Another half-ass job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20179739)

Same here. If I'm paying for music I want archival quality, i.e. CD quality or better.

Re:Another half-ass job (1)

AkumaReloaded (1139807) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179747)

Indeed lossles is the only way to go on this front. When I buy my music I want to hear some good quality. 15mb per song might be a bit of a problem bandwide wise for the companies, for the avarage user it should be ok. 99cents is to expensive anyways with no cover art or whatever it should be about 10 dollars for an album (10 songs times 99cents equals 9,99 dollar)

Math (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20180073)

99cents is to expensive anyways with no cover art or whatever it should be about 10 dollars for an album (10 songs times 99cents equals 9,99 dollar)
You wouldn't happen to work for Verizon [slashdot.org] by any chance would you?

Re:Math (1)

AkumaReloaded (1139807) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180231)

hehe, be glad I did not mean in Euro Cents, now that would be very pricy compared to measily us dollar cents :)

and no, luckly I dont work for Verizon (American Studies student in the Netherlands)

Re:Math (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20180299)

GPs point was that $0.99 * 10 = $9.9, not $9.99. Doesn't even matter if it's € or $.

Re:Another half-ass job (5, Interesting)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179769)

256kbps is good enough for me, though I'd really only buy if the price point was closer to 10 cents. Lots of reasons for this, though the main one is simply that I live in Asia, piracy is common. Like it or not, that's what they have to compete with. 10 cents per song is about double the profit margin over pirated CD's, though if I can reliably go to an online store from the comfort of my home, then that's where I'd rather be.

Re:Another half-ass job (0)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180095)

I'm not wholly ethically clean in this matter, because I'm in the "try before you buy" school. I'll download a song, and if I don't like it, I'll go buy it. Those songs that I don't like or don't listen to get cleaned off my laptop's HD every three months or so. I'm not condoning your behavior, I'm just not going to criticize you.

That said, the DRM free part is appealing to me, and increases the chance I will buy. Just as important is going to be the ease of use of the online store. If it's a bullshit UI, I'm less likely to buy. If it's a really really good UI, I'm not only more likely to buy, I'm more likely to spend time browsing their selection. This often happens to me on iTunes. I'll be browsing and I'll see a song that I just have to have right now. Since it's only a dollar, I'll buy it. I spend about $20/month on average for music, either on iTunes or rummaging thru the used CD bins at Amoeba or where ever. Some months it's more some less.

Re:Another half-ass job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20180267)

if I don't like it, I'll go buy it

Why would you buy it if you don't like it?

Re:Another half-ass job (3, Informative)

Solra Bizna (716281) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179773)

And if they do, you'll demand that they give you uncompressed 24-bit recordings as a justification for your continued piracy.

-:sigma.SB

Re:Another half-ass job (1)

strider44 (650833) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180207)

Oh get off your high horse. He's probably just sensitive to those sorts of things. The main reason why I tend to buy CDs over shopping at iTunes or a similar store is quality - I simply can't stand 128kbps recordings. They simply sound weak and fuzzy. Most other people are fine with it though, it's just that I'm very sensitive to quality of sound, maybe because I played instruments as a child and had musical training. But I almost always can't tell the difference between 256kbps MP3 and CD quality, so your argument breaks down a bit there.

I always get annoyed with many creative commons artists who only release their music in 128kbps without letting me buy full quality versions. I like to talk about buying Jonathan Coulton's CDs - one of the better purchases I've made simply because the quality difference is remarkable, and without a doubt could be heard by pretty much anyone, yet people still seem to like the weak inferior versions!

FLAC of the masters no less (4, Funny)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179841)

Better than CD quality damn you. Oh, and a pony, I want a pony!

Re:FLAC of the masters no less (4, Funny)

E++99 (880734) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179921)

Oh, they only WISH they could give me a pony. I'm perfectly capable of stealing ponies for free. If they want me to buy a CD, they'll have to clone a dinosaur for me.

Slashdot ponies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20180239)

WTF? What's with the pony craze on slashdot?

God damn, now I want one too!

Re:Another half-ass job (0, Flamebait)

Bazar (778572) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179977)

What a shining example of ethics you have there.
Why should i pay them when i can go out and "steal" it for free.

What a wonderful place the world would be with that mentality. Wish i could of applied it when i went to tech. Why should i pay course fees, when i can print out a diploma for $1

If they make music, and you want it, pay them what they want, or move on. It is not your right to make their hard work your own.
And its going off-topic anyway
The story is about DRM, which we hate because it limits or breaks what we can and should be able to do with legitimately purchased music/dvds/games
Its not about how we should be able to steal freely.

Re:Another half-ass job (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180235)

If they make music, and you want it, pay them what they want
Owning a license is not the same as "making music".

Universal does not "make music". The RIAA does not "make music". As far as I can tell, they only "make" money.

The dirty little secret is that the world no longer needs record labels. Universal has been obsolete for years. They are scared that as soon as everyone realizes that, they'll lose their nice little scam and have to work for a living.

Re:Another half-ass job (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180019)

Be sensible!

99cent isn't asking too much for a good song without limitations. I do accept the "right to exist" for the music industry, even after what they've done. And if 99cents is the only difference between legal and illegal (compared to "99cents and being allowed what they deem approprate" as it is now), I'll buy.

Re:Another half-ass job (4, Funny)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180127)

I do accept the "right to exist" for the music industry

Why?

Re:Another half-ass job (2, Insightful)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180137)

99cent isn't asking too much for a good song without limitations.

Yes it is.

In the open market, music is much cheaper than that. Many talented bands are giving their music away because they can't get distribution, while record companies charge that flat 99c per track for their overmarketed hype-driven pop. Meanwhile, pirates are setting a zero price point for the pop as well.

What's needed is an open market where music producers and music consumers can reach a negotiated price, the same way any other commodity is sold. DRM might have been a part of that had the music industry been prepared to play fair. They haven't, so there's still huge niche in there for someone who can come up with the right answer.

Re:Another half-ass job (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180293)

The laws of the free market also say something else: If someone cannot regenerate his cost by the sale of his product, he has to cease to produce. And content has in this context a very special property: It can be reproduced infinitly, without a loss of quality. So you have a theoretically unlimited supply, with a demand that's limited by definition. Even if every person on the planet wants the song, he only needs it once.

Unlimited supply, and that's another law of free market, in turn means by the nature of free market that what is in unlimited supply has no value (or at least not one you can measure in monetary units). Free market alone would dictate that you simply cannot sell music.

You'd have to give the music away for free, your revenue stream would be concerts which are by definition limited (you cannot play constantly everywhere), thus having value.

This could be a viable way for some bands, but not for all. Some groups have a very hard time performing live in a pleasing way, while making really good music on the other hand. Some electronic bands certainly fall into that group, where there is no "band" to speak of but rather a person who can operate a synth well. They could technically do the same Jarre did and create extremely elaborate shows that border on artwork, but how many can actually afford that? They'd almost certainly have to find an "optical artist" to create their performances. I doubt many indie synthers could afford that.

I think the whole matter is far more complicated than that. Music itself has no value unless we give it an arbitrary price. It's one of those goods where price actually dictates the sales. High price - few sales for more money, low price - many sales for little money. What's to be determined is just how high the price can be to get the most out of it. Like I said before, there is no variable cost per item, it's virtually zero.

Re:Another half-ass job (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20180061)

You're a cock of enormous proportions, and its a testament to deluded users of Slashdot that you get modded 'insightful'. Well, I guess the fact you are publicly rationalising your piracy is at least an implicit admission that you know you are doing something wrong, but...you're still an utter cock.

Re:Another half-ass job (1)

spagetti_code (773137) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180227)

If record companies want me to stop downloading music from P2P networks, they need to offer a better-quality product than that available for free. I can get all the 256kbps MP3s I want on P2P. The only way to make me even consider actually paying for a mere audio file (as opposed to a CD which has liner notes etc.) is to offer FLAC.

So lets see... you want them to offer a better product than you can steal for free
before you will consider buying their product.
(yeah I know... it's technically not theft, it's copyright violation, but the point stands)

At least there is some value in the second point. I should be getting a discount for downloading
rather than forcing them to stamp DVD's, make a case, insert a liner blah blah, stock,
ship, etc. And that's not happening yet.

finally... (2, Insightful)

thej1nx (763573) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179721)

R.I.P RIAA!!!

Re:finally... (1)

MrTheBunny (728979) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180005)

In Soviet Russia, RIAA RIPS YOU! Oh wait...

No Pirates (4, Funny)

biocute (936687) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179723)

Everyone should make a mental note to not download anything illegal until end of Jan 2008, or at least don't get caught doing so.

Re:No Pirates (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20179767)

Everyone should make a mental note to not download anything illegal until end of Jan 2008, or at least don't get caught doing so.
Well, shoot. I was planning on getting caught somewhere in the Xmas timeframe, but I suppose I could put it off for a little bit longer....

nope (5, Insightful)

l3v1 (787564) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179727)

UMG says that it wants to watch how DRM-free music affects piracy rates.

Bollocks. I mean look up every "piracy" "statistics", they always talk about this and that much gazillions of good old bucks being lost because of piracy, yet no living human being has ever managed to give a reasonable and acceptable explanation about how those numbers make sense. Now they say they want to see how those numbers change if they sell non-drm-encumbered music ? Well, flip a coin, that'd make more sense to decide to continue or not. A better way would be to actually listen to what those pesky customers want.
 

Where are the stats from? (3, Insightful)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179749)

My thoughts exactly. To look at how it affects piracy rates, you need some way of measuring piracy. AFAIK they have nothing other than RSITDANTMUFG* numbers for what piracy levels may be. Come on, how can you ever hope to count downloads on the many P2P networks when the whole point of them is that they're decentralised?

* RSITDANTMUFG = Random Stab In The Dark At Number That Make Us Feel Good

Re:Where are the stats from? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20179785)

grow up retard. just because you don't have exact figures doesn't mean that piracy doesn't hurt sales. get a fucking clue.

Re:Where are the stats from? (1)

scuba0 (950343) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179901)

And that goes for you too, no one has ever proved (though tried) to connect illegal filesharing and loss of income. But they have succeeded in seeing that even though piracy, the music industry sells like never before.

Re:Where are the stats from? (5, Funny)

swokm (1140623) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179835)

My thoughts exactly. To look at how it affects piracy rates, you need some way of measuring piracy. AFAIK they have nothing other than RSITDANTMUFG* numbers for what piracy levels may be. Come on, how can you ever hope to count downloads on the many P2P networks when the whole point of them is that they're decentralised?
* RSITDANTMUFG = Random Stab In The Dark At Number That Make Us Feel Good
Normally I'd agree completely, but aren't you starting to get the feeling that the people that run these giant media conglomerates just have a huge cigarbox in the boardroom for their cash? As in:

Suit 1: (opens box) "Hey, there used to be more cash in here! I want more!"
Suit 2: "Oh noes! Why did the box stop making cash?!"
Suit 1: "Maybe someone TOOK OUR CASH!"
Suit 2: "Took... you mean, like... pirates?"
Suit 1: (gasp) "Pirates! Yes, must be pirates! We must kill the pirates!"
Janitor: "Hey, don't you guys actually make money from helping new artists distribute their music to a wider audience?"
Suit 1: "Huh? Who are you? Someone throw him out... Now, let's vote, who wants to kill pirates and so the box makes more cash?"
Suits 2,3: "Yay! More cash!"

Re:Where are the stats from? (5, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180189)

But surely that's the wrong figure. If sales double why does it matter if piracy triples?

Re:nope (2, Insightful)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179819)

Piracy stats are one thing when said in public, behind closed doors I'm sure the rhetoric is toned down a tad and they do actually have a good handle on the real story. Looks to me like they are doing what their customers are calling out for - DRM free music - we see this desire spelled out every other day on slashdot.

Re:nope (1)

kongit (758125) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180131)

Well the problem is that we do not know how they determine the amount of piracy and how that relates to the sales of their songs. If I knew this I would be happier.

Re:nope (1)

E++99 (880734) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179903)

Bollocks. I mean look up every "piracy" "statistics", they always talk about this and that much gazillions of good old bucks being lost because of piracy, yet no living human being has ever managed to give a reasonable and acceptable explanation about how those numbers make sense. Now they say they want to see how those numbers change if they sell non-drm-encumbered music ? Well, flip a coin, that'd make more sense to decide to continue or not. A better way would be to actually listen to what those pesky customers want.

What the customers what? The same that every customer whats, the perfect product at zero price. Unfortunately, someone has to get paid for making the product, so the customers can't have that in any sustainable system.

What these guys are doing is the only sensible way to test the claims on both sides about DRM. They've sold music with it for a while, and now they'll try 6 months without it, and see if their sales go up (because non-DRM files are more attractive to customers) or down (because non-DRM files spurs piracy, undermining sales). Sounds pretty rational to me.

Re:nope (2, Insightful)

swokm (1140623) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180103)

What these guys are doing is the only sensible way to test the claims on both sides about DRM.
Meh. Actually I think it was less time, but that really doesn't matter. Before the internet there were mixed tapes of CD or vinyl. Sneaker net is slower, but a million first generation cassette tapes of a CD still sounded just fine, and were just as legal/illegal as a million mp3s. Probably more damaging, really, as the music market was much smaller, and everyone thought making tapes for your friends was "awesome" (or perhaps "radical"). Anyone know how many 60 and 90 minute cassette tapes have been sold in history? I bet it's a lot. This has nothing to do with being sensible or "testing" anything.

Besides, do you remember back when distributing music was about... distributing MUSIC? Neither do I, I'm not old enough. Universal can sign and heavily promote a new Paris Hilton, Martha Stewart lovesong duet written by Michael Bolton for the next 5 months and they won't make a friggin dime. That would have nothing to do with "pirates", "ninjas", or anything else but incompetence of the management. But I'm pretty sure we'd hear it blamed on "piracy", aren't you?

If this is a "test" of anything it is how much BS the average consumer will choke down before puking.

Re:nope (1)

E++99 (880734) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180319)

Sure, a lot of people used to make copies of tapes, and tapes of CDs. But for the most part, it was just to make mixed tapes, or else put the CD on a tape so you could play it in your car. For one thing, if there's some music you really like, you want it to sound as good as possible, and a tape of a tape or a tape of a CD sounds noticeably worse than the original. And of course, making a copy of a copy of a copy, would be out of the question. For another thing, at least in my experience, instances where a friend already has the CD or tape of the music you want are by far the exception rather than the rule. Contrasted to now, where anything I want I can download for free instantly... there is no comparison whatsoever.

Re:nope (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180263)

Unfortunately, someone has to get paid for making the product
Think of the levels of assumptions that go into that statement: "Someone.Has.To.Get.Paid."

I wonder...

An empirical analysis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20180253)

Of piracy's affect on music sales

http://www.unc.edu/~cigar/strumpfoldpapers.htm [unc.edu]

Music companies have woken up to... (5, Insightful)

Alioth (221270) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179729)

Music companies have really just started waking up to why DRM is really bad, and it's nothing to do with their customers.

It has finally dawned on them that DRM - far from protecting them - will take control away from them and hand it to companies like Apple and Microsoft, who become the new gatekeepers since they own the DRM technologies that are popular. It's now dawned on the music companies that it won't be long before the likes of Apple and Microsoft get big enough in the music business to simply cut out the record companies and sign bands directly.

_That's_ why they are starting to drop DRM - they have finally come to the realisation that DRM is the trojan horse that will destroy them. Not piracy.

Re:Music companies have woken up to... (1)

swokm (1140623) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179755)

Music companies have really just started waking up to why DRM is really bad, and it's nothing to do with their customers.
. . .
_That's_ why they are starting to drop DRM - they have finally come to the realisation that DRM is the trojan horse that will destroy them. Not piracy.
FWIW I agree, but I'm sure Walmart & Co sweetened the deal with truckloads of sweet, nourishing cash.

Correct, it's classical intermediation (5, Interesting)

Flying pig (925874) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179811)

In fact, it's what "entrepreneur" means. That's a word whose original meaning is not so muchy lost as deliberately concealed. An entrepreneur is someone who tries to insert himself in a flow - of cash, a commodity or other resource - and then act as the gatekeeper, thus making money. Because it means "taker in the middle".

The recording industry themselves are entrepreneurs, and now they realise that the software companies are not just another mechanism to enforce their intermediation, but an attempt to introduce a new, and harder to evade, middleman.

All entrepreneurs seek to enforce their control, either legally or through other means (such as owning the channels of distribution, or by monopoly patents.)

Entrepreneurs have a part to play when a resource does not have a market, but they find it very hard to lie down and die when the market is established. We don't yet know who will win this battle for control over the electronic music market, but improved search engines and technology availability could disintermediate the market in a different way - e.g. by sites aggregating direct sales by many small bands, cooperatively owned.

Re:Correct, it's classical intermediation (3, Interesting)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179979)

In fact, it's what "entrepreneur" means. That's a word whose original meaning is not so muchy lost as deliberately concealed. An entrepreneur is someone who tries to insert himself in a flow - of cash, a commodity or other resource - and then act as the gatekeeper, thus making money. Because it means "taker in the middle".

No, that's not what entrepreneur means. It's derrived from the same french word enterprise in derrived from - entreprendre, to undertake.

See the Online etymology dictioanry [etymonline.com] .

what a joke (1)

tehwebguy (860335) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179731)

yet another "we gave it a shot and it didn't work" plan before it's even out the door.

i really hope no one actually uses real rhapsody anymore..

No Love for iTunes (5, Funny)

swokm (1140623) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179733)

That is hilarious. Universal refuses to sign a contract, and will do business with Apple strictly "at will".

Oh the irony! The music giant that doesn't believe it should have to sign a contract just to get distributed.

Gimme a break (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20179759)

Now Universal is telling me where to shop? I use the iTunes Store because it is fast, well organized and works well with my iPod, iPhone, etc. Now these fat record company execs want to force to go to other sources and figure out ways to get their product onto my software of choice. They can go pound sand. I can think of lots-o-artists I can purchase from other labels. What ever happened to serving your consumers wants and needs. Universal, who the hell do you think you are?

No iTunes, no deal. (4, Insightful)

toQDuj (806112) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179775)

It seems like they're about to distort their own stats, by leaving iTunes out of the deal, FTA:

"One reason would be that Universal doesn't like Apple. UMG is the largest music company on the planet, which helps explain why they are trying to ruffle Steve Jobs' feathers. At issue are contract lengths and just who gets to determine pricing. Universal would clearly like to have more control over pricing than Apple is comfortable with. The company has also said that it would like a cut of every iPod sold, similar to a deal they have with Microsoft for the Zune."

So basically, they still want money. They'll try and fail to sell a substantial amount of DRM free music on rhapsody, call it a failure, publish the results and push congress more. just an 0.05 dollar prediction.

B.

Re:No iTunes, no deal. (1)

grrrl (110084) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179907)

The thing they don't get by leaving iTunesMS out of the deal is that you can still use iTunes (the program) once you have bought the DRM-free tracks (assuming they are mp3s or AAC) and load them on your pod and really, most people would be happy to do this.

Apple still has the best user experience in terms of storing, sorting and listening to your music. Sure it's more conveienient to buy songs in the iTunes program from the iTMS, but once extra step isn't going to kill iPods. I'm sure Apple would rather people still buy iPods than songs, though they will (rightyfully) acknowledge the overall experience of obtaining online msuic is going to suffer...

Re:No iTunes, no deal. (1)

swokm (1140623) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180009)

The thing they don't get by leaving iTunesMS out of the deal is that you can still use iTunes (the program) once you have bought the DRM-free tracks (assuming they are mp3s or AAC) and load them on your pod and really, most people would be happy to do this.
Oh I'm sure they get that. This was just a way to tell Steve Jobs that Universal gets to set the prices in Steve Jobs' store, not Steve. I mean, really, who does Apple think they are, the creators of a huge online digital music market? Puhleez! Oh and Universal will take a cut of that sweet iPod thing too. I'm sure Universal must have had something to do with it, because it has something to do with music. And we all know Universal owns all music ever to be created, right?

Re:No iTunes, no deal. (1)

toQDuj (806112) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180045)

Yes, Universal is sort of using the DRM-free music option as a bargaining chip.

"look Steve: here's what you said you were interested in, let's see you put actions to words and pay up for this "right"."

B.

Watch out for tracking software (4, Funny)

AkumaReloaded (1139807) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179791)

Watch the evil companies, dont trust them. They will put tracking software in those non drm songs. Once they are shared on a p2p net, they will track every ip adres and every user. The p2p community will be doomed. Mwhoehahaha.... oh wait I am on the good side of this, so I should be crying.

the price (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20179809)

What does it matter if it is DRM-free or not... The price is still too high... DRM-protection can always be removed. This will is only a cheep way to create poor arguments about why the multi-rich companies wants everybody to feel sorry fore them... Buhuu... noone wants too be fooled by our overprices anymore

99 each? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20179831)

Look, I'm sure the summary meant 99 cents each, but knowing you guys would have international readers all over the world, would it kill you to add a five-letter word just to clarify things?

Re:99 each? (2, Funny)

Hanners1979 (959741) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180161)

I dunno, I was pretty sure it meant 99 red balloons.

Re:99 each? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20180323)

Please dont use lines from songs you have licensed in public. Private use only from now on please. It costs people money to produce lyrics. Youre taking food out of their mouths.

Vote. (1)

VariableGHz (1099185) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179879)

For those who would have bought from them anyway, I can only hope that they purchase only the DRM free music tracks, thereby effectively voting with their wallets.

Vote.

Universal DRM-free on iTunes (5, Informative)

Rebelgecko (893016) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179899)

Surprisingly, Universal won't have DRM free music on iTunes [daringfireball.net]

Re:Universal DRM-free on iTunes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20179935)

I wonder... Apple really made it OK for EMI with the 'orderid' in the track (or something like that, so the track is DRM free, but traceable). What seems ok to me as consumer.
But are other parties going to do this? How will they check.

Universal should see piracy as a competitor, not as illigal. If you lower your prices, improve the quality, everybody will buy your good stuff. Just like DVD's... so many DVD's for just $5, why whould I even take trouble downloading it.

99 what? (n/t) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20179905)

(n/t)

drm-free (1)

maj1k (33968) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179909)

just watch, they'll stop selling drm-free tracks after finding one single copy on soulseek.

Re:drm-free (1)

fyoder (857358) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179997)

just watch, they'll stop selling drm-free tracks after finding one single copy on soulseek

Even if they have dishonorable intentions, they might be surprised by how well high quality, non-drm encumbered, songs sell. All these corporations care about is money, and if enough rolls in they won't do anything to impair the flow. And if it works well for them, all the other piggies will want to get their snouts in. It could spell the end of DRMed music files if it does indeed turn out to be the more profitable option.

Interesting Experiment (4, Interesting)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179915)

If I was the music company I'd place some kind of signature in my files and keep a watch on how many of them later appeared on common piracy sites. It would be interesting to see how many, or few, of them leaked out.

Re:Interesting Experiment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20180035)

In that case, your p2p software should include "scrubbers" that remove the signature. Trans-coding can often achieve this (inadvertently, it turns out), as can other forensic tools if you learn how to use them.

Re:Interesting Experiment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20180169)

I don't think they would find much of them on piracy sites because the songs would be already available there for some time anyway, so there is not much demand left. Those organized warez groups sometimes offer the songs before the CDs and legally available downloads even hit retail.

Won't affect iPod use (2, Insightful)

grrrl (110084) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179931)

So people will now just buy their music through these online stores other than iTMS, transfer the mp3 to iTunes and then onto their iPod.

It's not going to hurt Apple, it is gonig to hurt consumers. I doubt the user experience of the other stores will compare, though I don't have a problem with every store doing it's best and at least if they are mp3s it solves the 'wont load on my ipod' problem.

I think they will still do quite well, IF people ever hear of them and have a good experience when they DO try to buy something.

DRM... In YRO? (-1, Redundant)

SamP2 (1097897) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179939)

Guys...

Controversial != Your Rights Online

Controversial && Unpopular still != Your Rights Online

Even Controversial && Unpopular && Stupid != Your Rights Online

I hate DRM as much as the next person, but seriously, it's not like you own the constitutional right to DRM-free music.

Can we keep YRO really reserved for issues of RIGHTS, rather than saturate it with anything that happens to be a controversial subject.

Re:DRM... In YRO? (1)

JoshHeitzman (1122379) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180041)

Copyright laws include fair use rights. If companies want the protection of copyright laws and should not try to prevent the exercise of fair rights use with DRM. If they instead want to use purely technological means to protect their content, then they shouldn't be making use of copyright laws and government courts while trying to also prevent the exercise of the fair use rights included in those same laws.

Re:DRM... In YRO? (1)

RegularFry (137639) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180057)

DRM impacts my natural right to control hardware that I own. Besides, where else would you put it?

Time to vote with your Wallets Folks (1)

Eskarel (565631) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179963)

Everyone on slashdot has been whinging about DRM for years now. UMG is offering to sell you music without DRM, so buy it. Sales are what they want to see, not piracy rates, but whether it increases sales. The presume that DRM saves them money, and if sales don't change then they'll keep it, if they sell 30-40% more without DRM they'll keep not using it.

We should cheer for Steve Jobs.. (5, Interesting)

Rexdude (747457) | more than 7 years ago | (#20179987)

6 months back, he himself spoke against [apple.com] the negative effects of DRM and how Apple was implementing DRM only to comply with the wishes of the recording industry. Now fear of an Apple monopoly on DRM has finally forced Universal (for starters) to think about selling unencumbered music. So we have him to thank for scaring the recording companies into removing DRM! (hoping that they eventually will)

This can't be a real 'test'.. (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180015)

or check if piracy goes down. If they leave out the largest [with about 80%+ of the online market] online retailer of songs, the only way this could only have a significant effect if another online retailer suddenly became the market leader because of this. They might then be able to register the sub 1% decrease in "illegal" downloads.

I can only see a move like this as a way to see if people who purchase music will move off iTunes to get DRM-free songs, at any price. If successful, they get to backdoor their variable-pricing plan under the guise of giving out DRM-free music and they can try to use it to pressure iTunes into a variable pricing scheme.

Because a song you heard is good via marketing is worth more than a good song...

First step, done (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180053)

I've always said, if there's a music store that sells good music without limitations, that's the place where I'll buy. Ok. The limitation part is gone. Now, let's talk about "good music"...

I predict there will be little if any change. We will certainly not see more piracy. Simple reason: DRM has not and will not stop someone from copying, so whoever wanted to copy already did and probably will continue to do so. An increase, because there is no DRM, makes no sense.

We might see more songs sold, though, since some people (like me) will turn to buying music online when there is no restriction on it anymore that limits my use in various devices of my choice. Goods I cannot use in the way I deem necessary have no value to me. If I cannot use it in my car CD player or on my MP3 player, the item is not what I want, and what I do not want I do not buy. This, though, the music without restriction, is what I want. So I will buy now when (and here's the catch) I find music that I would like to listen to. Sorry, but I don't buy the latest American Idol hypecrap just because I can media shift it.

Re:First step, done (1)

swokm (1140623) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180233)

...We might see more songs sold, though, since some people (like me) will turn to buying music online when there is no restriction on it anymore that limits my use in various devices of my choice...
Excellent points, IMHO. But as for the statement above: wouldn't the net sales be the same? Assuming that you currently buy on CD what you would prefer to buy digitally? You aren't NOT buying music just because someone else hasn't ripped it for you, surely?

I don't really understand why it so offends the Major Music Labels that consumers want to buy CDs for the same $9.99 that they currently sell for, except give the labels back money for the cost of shipping, inventory, and packaging (it's not like the labels pay for ripping or bandwidth either)! Oooh, sounds terrible -- more profit margin for the executives... awww. Or they could, I don't know, give the artist a better cut... BWAHAHAHA! Just kidding, guys.

As the smart fellow said above (defining 'entrepreneur') this is all about tightening the grip of control. Not regaining lost ground, but having more control than they have ever had before. So far, it is working great for them.

Re:First step, done (2, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180317)

I do actually think sales can increase. Reason: Convenience.

To buy a CD, you have to go to the store (or even drive there), push through the hundreds of other people, search for that CD, wait in line at the checkout. That and more is gone when you buy online.

Additionally, I could see another benefit. You could tie a music portal into the whole deal, where customers could listen to your new releases and buy immediately. Impulse buying can be quite powerful in a business that primarily targets the emotions of the customer, like this does. If someone listens to a tune, thinks it sounds nice, and heck, just 99 cents, what's the loss (especially if he can burn and copy at leisure), he'll buy. If he can first sleep over it 'til the next day when the store opens and in the meantime he hears it 10 times on the radio, he might not want to buy it anymore.

I could see sales increase. If this is played right and meant honestly. Whether it is we'll soon see. If the labels start their own music portals for their music and promote it heavily, they mean it seriously. If not, this is just another attempt to prove that DRM is necessary to protect their revenue, or at least prove that abstaining from DRM doesn't make people buy.

The end of TPM chips? (2, Interesting)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180109)

Does the current trend towards less DRM means the end of motherboards with built-in TPM chips in the future?

DRM,Pricing,packaging; legal inferior to pirated (4, Interesting)

viking2000 (954894) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180177)

$.99 is just wrong. I have mp3 music on a dvd. At 5MB/song, I can fit 9.6GB/5MB ~=2000 songs. I would be happy to pay $25 for disks like this, but no way I pay alomst $2k for a disk.

I notice also that in markets that sells pirated music they come as MP3 on CD's and contain over 100 songs for $1. The lagal CDs next to them costs $10, and contains 10 songs.

The legal product is certainly inferior. Unless the music industry can deliver a superior product, they can not win this.

Too little, too late (5, Insightful)

Whuffo (1043790) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180187)

It's not DRM that's on life support, it's Universal (and the rest of the "music industry"). Their sales and profits have been declining for a few years - now they're getting worried. They can see the end of the gravy train staring them in the face and there's no relief in sight.

They're still holding tightly to their fantasy about P2P downloaders costing them millions and billions - but they have noticed that their introduction of DRM technologies has received an almost totally negative response from their former customers. So they'll back off on this a little and "see if the piracy rate goes up". That's not what they'll be looking at at all, that's just some spin for the media. What they're looking for is some kind of upward bump to their profits; when they added DRM their income went down - so let's remove the DRM and see if our income goes back up.

What they still can't see through their pride is that DRM doesn't reduce piracy in any meaningful way; all it does is cause inconvenience to their paying customers. It's driven more than a few customers away; buy one CD that won't play in your player and it's quite natural to avoid any CDs from that company in the future. What they also can't see is that those lost customers won't be coming back just because of some mealy-mouthed PR statement about removing DRM from some music for a short period - they've been fooled once already.

"Piracy" (copyright infringement) is an interesting thing - it only happens with items that can be duplicated and sold at a price substantially below the price of the original product. If the record companies sold CDs for 69 cents each then the "pirates" wouldn't bother with music CDs. The record companies would never willingly reveal their cost of production - but you can safely assume that it's much less than a dollar. When they over-price the finished product at 20 dollars they create their own piracy problem.

Will they ever see this simple truth? "Pirates" are a fact of life; eliminate one or a dozen and a hundred more will take their place. As long as there's easy money to be made then people will be lined up to get their share. There is nothing that the music companies, their lobbying lapdogs, the government, the courts, or anyone else can do to prevent it. As long as the product is priced far in excess of its production cost, there's going to be a "piracy" problem.

Even the folks who just "want to get it for free" would become paying customers if the price was RIGHT. But the music industry keeps turning out formula junk with one or two good tunes per CD and then asking 20 bucks for it - and then they wonder why people aren't buying it. This is the root cause of their decline - expecting top dollar for bargain basement material.

But they weren't satisfied with shooting themselves in that foot - they decided to start up their "legal" extortion racket and run people over the coals for thousands of dollars - for downloading a song that has a market value of less than a dollar. They even decided to sue some dead people, children, disabled seniors, etc. just to make sure that they offended everyone. This bone-headed plan is pure public relations poison - but they just can't stop. This turns a bunch more customers into former customers and the sales drop off even faster.

Having shot themselves in both feet, they turned to their kneecaps with DRM and rootkits. While it's tempting, I won't belabor the point about what a bad idea this was. Now they suggest that they'll remove the DRM from a subset of their catalog - provisionally, for a short period of time. It almost sounds as if they believe they're dealing from a position of strength.

What a bunch of closed-minded fools. Their doom is upon them and they act as if they're in control of the situation...

I've said it before... (5, Insightful)

MostAwesomeDude (980382) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180193)

...and I'll say it until I stop getting modded Insightful/Informative/Funny for it. Piracy is an economic indicator that you are not letting the market balance itself. Specifically, piracy is caused by artificially fixing prices too high. People refuse to buy the good since it is too expensive, but still demand the good, so they steal/copy it in order to obtain it. The only way to discourage piracy is to lower your price to the point that people would rather buy "the real deal" than a cheap knockoff. Perhaps if CDs were not pegged at $20 each, and were sold at the more reasonable $5 each, the public would find it more preferable to go to the music store instead of the torrent search engine.

Uh? (4, Insightful)

OpenSourced (323149) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180213)

UMG says that it wants to watch how DRM-free music affects piracy rates.

Whats piracy rates to them? They should look at their sales, nothing else. If they sell three times as much, but the piracy rate (whatever is that, anyway) multiply by ten, why should they care? Should they suppose that they are losing that sales, even if the sales data tells them that they would never have done a but a third of them in the DRM-way? That would be really short-sight... oops, music-industry executives you said?. Then forget it all, short-sightedness is a part of the required CV there, to all external appearances.

DRM vs. Consumer (1)

Mathness (145187) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180221)

I hope they will see the benefits to the consumer. For instance compare this popular song in DRM mode (AKA control freaks):

If DRM had a name what would it be?
And would you call it to his face?
If you were faced with him in all his glory
what would you ask if you had just one question?

Yeah, Yeah, DRM is great
Yeah, Yeah, DRM is good
Yeah Yeah yeah yeah yeah
To the traditional version for consumers:

If God had a name what would it be?
And would you call it to his face?
If you were faced with him in all his glory
what would you ask if you had just one question?

Yeah, Yeah, God is great
Yeah, Yeah, God is good
Yeah Yeah yeah yeah yeah
I think we can agree which version is better. :)

My apologies to Alanis Morissette.

I like Bleep (1)

orbitalia (470425) | more than 7 years ago | (#20180271)

Bleep [bleep.com] seems to have got the mix right, they have FLAC and MP3, the prices are good, and just happens to fit my music tastes (Indie UK music, ala Aphex twin, UNKLE, Squarepusher, Autechre etc etc. Nice web design with free inline demos of the tracks.

(I am nothing to do with bleep I just like their spin on selling music so I recommend them where I can.).
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