On Music: DRM (or the lack thereof)

Well, looks like a letter from Steve Jobs is worth a a million consumers’ requests. In a landmark announcement today EMI and Apple have agreed to sell non-DRMed music through the iTunes store. This is literally a game-changing, paradigm-shifting, earth-shattering decision. Some details here and here.

In my last post on Music, I had said that I “hope that India might set a different yet successful example” by selling non DRM’ed music online. But now since it is too late to set an example, at least it can follow suit?

I had this post half written – I am so glad that I am rewriting about the DRM debate in the past tense.

Instead of delving into the topic myself, let me just point out some useful links. You can read the Wikipedia entry on DRM here , Nick Carr observes here how DRM is much less about copyright protection and much more a business strategy – also points out some early EMI attempts to sell DRM free music. Bravo EMI! Mike Arrington directs us to a story where a Music Tax was being recommended as an alternative to DRM. Ha! Though this might not be all that outrageous. In Korea subscription music is a successful business model.

A campaign in the 1980s against Home Taping as it amounted to copyright infringement here. Spoofs on the campaign logo should make for good T-Shirt material.
The original logo.

A Contentsutra article that says digital music in India has surpassed physical music sales. Digital music here refers to mobile music like ringtones which amount for a whopping 88% if the industry’s revenues. I find that VERY hard to digest.

My (Pondi’s Book of Business Ideas) solution to this issue was to have a flexible conditional DRM. The prime purpose of DRM is to stop illegal sharing. However, sharing is the most potent form of word-of-mouth marketing for the music business and by preventing sharing moderately popular and upcoming artists would lose a lot of their audience. Thus my solution was that when a song was new and not selling as much – it should be sold DRM free, and as it rises up the popularity charts, a DRM can be applied. Anyway, I am assuming that ab to na raha baans so no need to bajao the bansuri (Eggxactly)

Some articles on alternative music models trying to find a middle ground between copy protection, consumer rights and commerce are here, here and here. Amie’s Street was the most interesting among these where they sold DRM-free music for free! (Actually, as a song rose the popularity charts its price increased based on consumers recommendations – “RECs”)

I think music should always be Accessible (a music store can be found on every nook and corner in India and online music will be available wherever there is Internet access), Platform-independent (the CDs and cassettes I used to buy worked on all CD players/Cassette players. Digital music has the chance of taking that a step further – playable on music players, CD players and mobile phones) and Shareable (Music is so much more fun when you share it with your friends. I miss the mixed tape bonding days of my younger years. Living on borrowed music till you could save enough to buy the original CD full with album artwork and more.)

Also a round-up on what exists in India right now, at least what I could find.

Online Music Store(s)

Soundbuzz(Site does not open in Firefox.): Windows Media DRMed music. Hindi songs from Rs. 9 upwards. If you an Airtel broadband customer, you can buy music by logging into your Airtel account and it would be billed to you at the end of the month.

Social Networking Services

Saffron Connect (A site trying to be everything to everyone)

IndianPad.com Audio (Streaming music as well as downloads posted by members)

Music Downloads within a specific Genre

RSJ Online (Some real good stuff here)

Streaming Music

Split Magazine (Indian Rock and Independent Music)

Radioverve (Indian Rock and Independent Music)

MusicIndiaOnline (Bollywood, Indipop and Regional)


DesiHits (US based, Punju, Bollywood and Desi). Have VC backing as well.

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