Feeds

iTunes sales 'collapsing'

Digital flatline looks ominous for music labels

Boost IT visibility and business value

It may be slightly premature to declare the DRM-era dead. But the signs are that it may be entering its final days.

Forrester and Nielsen's figures merely confirm that what the industry is losing in falling CD sales, it isn't gaining in DRM downloads.

Forrester Bernoff's attributes some blame on the technological restrictions - iTunes' DRM songs only play on Apple's iPod player.

At the In The City music convention held in Manchester in October, Columbia UK boss Mike Smith predicted music would be DRM-free within 12 months. Sony BMG UK, which owns Columbia, has declined to elaborate on the comments - which were not widely reported at the time. Perhaps more significantly, recent personnel changes at Universal Music, the 800lb gorilla, also suggest a more pragmatic strategy.

So if not DRM, then what?

In the UK, the major labels, represented by the British Phonographic Institute (BPI), have joined discussions on a blanket license for digital downloads in the UK. Discussions are taking place under the Chatham House rule. Although much of the infrastructure for a blanket license has yet to fall into place - the counting mechanisms and collection agencies have yet to be agreed upon - the UK makes a potentially promising experiment for a digital music blanket model.

UK consumers can take up free broadband offers from Sky and Orange, among others. This potentially removes one of the key objections to a flat fee - the fact that it's a compulsory payment for broadband users. It's increasingly feasible that a blanket license would be absorbed by UK consumers at little or no extra charge - simply becoming part of a competitive monthly tariff, only allowing the consumer to share music freely, and not be sued for copyright violations.

And while Andrew Gowers, whose Treasury report on intellectual property was published last week, passed on giving the blanket license moves his specific endorsement - he said it was too early to judge - he certainly helped the cause in one important way. Gowers advocated the establishment of a database of copyright material. Such a database is essential to managing how the pot of money raised through a blanket license is eventually distributed.

Two years ago blanket license advocate Jim Griffin predicted that 99 cents per song was "both too high and too low".

"It's too low to pay for the burden of a developing artist, and it's too high to fill an iPod," he predicted; while the approach wouldn't catch on with the public, it would cause significant harm to the industry.

It's significant that so many music stakeholders are now discussing Jim's long-favoured approach - a bundle - rather than placing any more faith in a route that relies on technological counter-measures.

Peter Jenner, Billy Bragg's manager, recently reflected here on business models that would arise after a blanket license. It's well worth a read. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
Amazon says Hachette should lower ebook prices, pay authors more
Oh yeah ... and a 30% cut for Amazon to seal the deal
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
Chips are down at Broadcom: Thousands of workers laid off
Cellphone baseband device biz shuttered
Feel free to BONK on the TUBE, says Transport for London
Plus: Almost NOBODY uses pay-by-bonk on buses - Visa
Twitch rich as Google flicks $1bn hitch switch, claims snitch
Gameplay streaming biz and search king refuse to deny fresh gobble rumors
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.