Two days ago, I wrote about how record companies are looking to DRM to increase their profits through customer lock-in. Their theory is that if customers are prevented from making copies -- indeed, be forced to buy a copy of the same music for every playback device -- this will lead to higher profits (higher bonuses, higher share value).
The tactic described in my earlier blog entry is to guard your music collection and playback devices against infiltration of DRM techniques by Microsoft, Apple, music device manufacturers, and software companies whose anti-copying technology creates unintended harm.
Music comes from musicians. And a group of musicians doesn't like record companies. As an author of 80 books, I relate to their frustration. In the search for higher profits, book publishers squeeze authors to give up more money. Royalties on books are already pittiful (typically 5% of a book's cover price), with contracts stipulating all sorts of situations where that $1.50 (for a typical $30 book) is reduced by half or even to zero.
(Musicians have it worse than authors: record companies typically pay them the full price of the CD, minus expenses -- resulting in negative balances in too many cases. You are more likely to make money writing a book than recording a CD.)
Just as I don't sometimes like how a publisher packages and markets my books, musicians are not also not keen on record company tactics -- like paying radio stations to play songs of competing musicians more often.
Enter the Indie
The solution to DRM in music is similar to the solution against Microsoft's monoply: independently-made music. Just as I now have a catalog of 30 independenly-plublished e-books, musicians can by-pass the record industry, using the Internet to promote and sell their works. Like many self-published authors, there are dreadful examples of self-produced albumns. But we don't need millions of new muscians -- just a few handfuls of really good ones that raise to the top.
Record companies take heed: My kids prefer indie music over the pap that you promote. They and their friends take pride in not listening to the heavily-promoted muscians. Fifity years after the counter-culture of rock-n-roll, it has re-emerged -- much to the dismay of the record companies, because indies are not interested in copy protection.
For further reading: Jeff Leeds writes about The Net Is a Boon for Indie Labels at the New York Times.