Editor's Blog: Music, Memories & Management of a Digital Nature: Eugene Mulls the EMI-DRM Deal

Editor's Blog: Music, Memories & Management of a Digital Nature: Eugene Mulls the EMI-DRM Deal

 

For the first time in a long time I got the first time news of EMI’s recent decision to back off of, per the recent and possibly causally connected Jobsian request, their managing of digital rights for music, through RADIO, curiously enough. Sitting at the kitchen table with NPR churning in the background, there it was: EMI’s entire back catalog of music was being released into the wild blue yonder with nary a shackle. Gone are the cryptographic controls on access to your favorite Kevin Federline tunes. Yes. Now all the Marillion I could ever stand would be mine. Ditto, Victoria Beckham.

 

But after the expiration of early stage ebullience would we, us musicians I mean, be left with nothing but party streamers and a creeping sense that while something significant had just happened, something significantly wrong had just happened too? Well, what HAD just happened? In very simple terms when May 1st hits, when workers of the world are rising up as they do every May 1st, you’ll be able to celebrate the revolution, though it, in all likelihood will not be televised, with an iTunes purchase of a song, songs, or albums by your favorite artists with NO RESTRICTIONS placed on how you use what you’ve subsequently downloaded for the price of $1.29.

 

No restrictions. Wow. Yeah, it was really chafing my hide before when I couldn’t burn a disk myself and then pass it to a friend? Oh, wait. Nevermind. But the fear that we’d all start file sharing with our friends and that finally scuttling the great ship of state that is the music industry’s been overcome by some clear thinkers somewhere who have sussed out that maybe if you make it easy, quick, and of a certain quality (and the DRM-free stuff will be encoded at 256 kbps) that most of us who don’t want to steal, won’t steal and everything will be OK.

 

And I believed that until I found songs from my band's CDs being downloaded on some Eastern European site and while I did the quick calculations in my head it seemed that for Gwen Stefani, with economies of scale playing very much of a factor, everything would indeed be fine. But for my group who has never sold more than 20,000 copies of any single one of our releases, a high quality download to 5000 or so fans who might not be able to get or be able to pay for our music anyway, this represents a sizeable chunk of our revenue and maybe it IS different from buying one CD and lending it to your friends. I mean most of us don’t have 5000 friends, MYSpace notwithstanding.

 

So I did what any righteously panicked band guy does: call the guy who runs our label. Mark Thompson at Hydrahead Records. And I poured out my heart…if people with non-Apple mp3 players can now buy through iTunes, well this is good for us, but if for 30 cents more high quality copies can be stolen by our enemies in the east isn’t this something we should care about?!?!

 

“I couldn’t care less,” says Thompson. “I mean there’s a reason we’re selling more records, ACTUAL records, things you can hold in your hand, than we ever have. But I believe in true quality inspiring an appreciation for that quality and people paying for easily accessible music of bands they LIKE whether its online or not.”

 

Pause.

 

“That probably rules you guys out though.”

 

Ahhhh....Label: 1, Me: 0.

 

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Anonymous

I ahve the list of MP4 music of Victria Beckham, I think she is brilliant in the old band and rest about Kevin Fedraline, I dont like him much.

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Roger Heffner

This is a question I would like directed to Eugene Mulls:

Eugene-
A friend of mine, John McCormick, is a noteable performing artist of Irish and Celtic folk music. He made a name for himself in the 70's and early 80's and performs in the US and internationally on a regular basis (please check out his website at http://www.mccormickjohn.com/). He asked me to help him get set up with iTunes to sell his music, which attempted to do. Since John has many CD's in production, including a new realease, and owns the rights to all of them, I thought application would be a shoe-in. After waiting a month, I was told by Bruno Ybarra in the Marketing Dept. the first application got "lost" even though I had my confirmation it was submitted. He suggested I re-submit, which I did, and the second application was rejected. When I called Mr. Ybarra, he seemed annoyed I had figured out how to get through the maze of gatekeepers to reach him by phone. When I asked him why John had been rejected, he told me their screener (in some area of the rock department) carefully considered John, but decided he wasn't a "player" in the big scene and didn't really fit in any of the genre's they offered. When I attempted to have a conversation about this with him, he hung up on me and consequent emails I sent to him were bounced back.
I was surprised that Apple treated me so curtly without allowing me any recourse other than suggesting I use one of their "digital service providers" to deliver John's music to iTunes.
Do you have any thoughts/comments about this, Eugene, or any ideas of how I might proceed. I don't want to let go of this quite yet, since I feel John is most definately a viable artist to be featured on iTunes.
Thank you.
-Roger Heffner

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Frank

I couldn't tell which parts of that you were serious about and which parts were supposed to be taken as tongue in cheek. Are you upset about the move or not? If so, do you really think that more people will steal your music after this change?

My personal opinion is that the current DRM only prevents honest people from doing what they want with their music. The people that want to steal will steal whether there is a DRM-free version for sale or not. The iTunes store sells billions of songs that are protected and yet we don't really see a slowdown of file-sharing what does that tell you? It is soooo easy to copy the music from a CD and 90% - 95% of music is sold on CD.

Frank

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Eugene

well I hadn't decided....but after we went live with this like 10 more industry folks weighed in...from my neck of the woods and they said very much of what you said....and so, yes: now I am happy. suspicions allayed. until I get to Poland and see fans of my band driving Rolls Royces.

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Frank

Is your band available on iTunes?

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Eugene

yes

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Frank

What is the name of your band?

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Eugene

oxbow

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