The BBC reports today that a buncha record executives are less than enthusiastic about DRM.
The report says:
Among all record labels 48% of all executives thought ending DRM would boost download sales - though this was 58% at the larger labels. Outside the record labels 73% of those questioned thought dropping DRM would be a boost for the whole market.
Among all those questioned, 70% believed that the future of downloadable music lay in making tracks play on as many different players as possible. But 40% believed it would take concerted government or consumer action to bring this about
Two simple paragraphs that speak volumes.
First off, it's apparent that smaller labels aren't enthusiastic about DRM. Many larger label executives don't care much for DRM either. So ... why DRM then?
IT'S THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN
The very large labels who make a majority of their money off acts of temporal popularity are terrified that downloading will drain their sales. They are likely right. People's buying patterns for music will likely gravitate to music that the specifically want to add to their own archives. Very similar to how we'll buy and recycle a newspaper, but we'll keep a book for a long time.
DRM is the only effective measure of dealing with this problem the record companies can envision - because ideally it creates a pay-per-use model for music.
WHY EVERYONE HATES DRM
Large labels have managed to utterly vilify themselves with DRM. It has made them look even more money grubbing than they already appeared. One can look back to Pink Floyd's "Have a Cigar" to see this stereotype has been around for a long time. Dig a little further and you find the roots of the record company traveling through the south and stealing recordings of blues artists.
But things are bigger here in the future. DRM is a nasty drug for the record industry. When they get wired on it, they sue old women, people without computers, anyone the computer tells them to. And they won't ... back ... down.
DRM is also hard to administer. It sounds easy, but from start to finish it is a nightmare for record companies. They have to negotiate with technology companies, lobby government officials, withstand interviews about it with the press, hire huge legal teams to sue people, and then deal with the fallout of suing 12 year old kids.
They fought hard to get the Digital Millennium Copyright Act passed, which gave them the rope to hang themselves with. With the DCMA, the notion of fair use was expertly restricted. This let entertainment industry legal teams to get punch drunk with potential lawsuits.
Again, that had delicious negative PR attached to it.
WHY THE INDUSTRY CAN'T JUST CHUCK DRM
Everyone, even those that won't admit it, in the entertainment industry knows that DRM is ultimately harmful to their business. But they've invested a tremendous amount of political and fiscal capital into making DRM and the DCMA happen. The DRM-heroin that seemed like a good idea a few years ago has proven to be a monkey firmly attached to their backs.
For a different, but complimentary systemic view of DRM, check out Joscha Bach's DRM discussion on Teleread.
Blogged at my house in Seattle with Live Writer