Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Another nail in the coffin of music DRM

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  • Kyle Matthews,

    indie record selling 1000 copies brings in nz$17000 (wholesale to shops retails for $32 - 75% mark up to the store inc gst)
    (david kilgour's albums sell in
    CD pressing for 1000 copies $2-3000
    Mastering costs - $400- $1000
    Artwork $600 - $1000
    Recording $5000- 15000 (low end budget)
    posters, promo ???
    cut for band ???
    doesn't really leave much does it.

    Man, what century is this business model from? We're only a few years away from seeing major bands release all new music over the internet. Ten years from now putting new albums on CDs is going to be unusual, twenty years you'll struggle to find anything to play a CD on, in much the same way that most households can't play vinyl these days.

    I still buy CDs, I like the physical object. But the idea that bands still need to produce them to 'make it'? That's rapidly disappearing behind us.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    Man, what century is this business model from? We're only a few years away from seeing major bands release all new music over the internet.

    I'm willing to bet that in 20 years there will still be a physical format of some sort.

    What it will be is anyone's guess of course.

    Its 25 years since vinyl was given only a few years and its still hanging on.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    took me a while to get back and reply .... as I said I do crypto - I know from the math you can't do the easy DRM thing - you can make a sealed box and make it work - anything else will be broken or subverted - your plan with box numbers really comes down to 'sealed boxes with embedded secret crypto certificates' - otherwise I'll just hack my box to have the same number as yours and then I can play your music

    Vista's trusted boot chain and all the strife it's causing people (look at the guy who's story showed up this week - vista wanted to remove all the stuff he bought from Amazon because he added a new video monitor to his system) is an attempt to build one of the embedded boxes into a somewhat open system - the result is slow and annoying

    anything else means that the crypto is going to be broken (look at DVDs where the secrets are printed on the disk or whichever one of the HD formats that was broken last year where the "9F .... " key had to be embedded in the software player)

    it also means that EVERY system that will play music encrypted like this has to have one of these boxes - you're not going to give someone access to the magic keys unless you trust them not to give them up - you're not going to trust me because we use linux at home and since I'm a kernel hack I want to play on the machines that I own in just the places you don't trust me to look at

    and that's part of the problem - you (the music company) want to own and control part of the computer that I own - why should I trust you to always do the right thing? things like Sony's root kit, or the recent Sears stuff are examples of just how badly that can go once corporate entities start to think they own part of my computer

    Honestly we have a perfectly good system already - it's called the "legal system" - it makes it illegal to copy stuff that you haven't paid for and provides for penalties when you do - as I said before I've paid a lot of money for all the CDs I've bought over the years, I've never stolen or downloaded stuff i haven't paid for - ever - stop foisting this (eventually) unworkable DRM crap on me the customer who's paying you money and go off and prosecute the people who are ripping you off

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Patronage enabled a comparatively stagnant class-divided musical culture that moved at a snails-pace compared to the extremely eclectic and rapid development that has happened since the advent of recorded popular music in the 20th century.

    In the harsh future I envisage, there will still be recording, and good stuff will spread far faster than it could in the days of manuscript paper and horses.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    BTW the "copyright is the cornerstone of our civilisation" is IMHO bunk - as I tried to point out copyright for printed stuff only started when the printing press was invented, and for music when people started to publish it on paper - 300 years ago when a minstrel played the latest hits at the local tavern an APRA rep didn't show up and try to hit them up for fees - historically it's all pretty recent stuff - for music just a few generations - I don't see why it has to work the same way for ever.

    Having said that I think that copyrights for music does make sense - but the practical economics are changing - just like they changed when Mr Edison started recording

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    As I mentioned locking you in locks in BOTH ends of the music purchase - as this explains that may not even be a good thing for the music middle men .....

    maybe we'll see DRM go away not because it's too annoying for the user but because it's too annoying for the music industry ....

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    maybe we'll see DRM go away not because it's too annoying for the user but because it's too annoying for the music industry ....

    I think that's what you're seeing happen. DRM has been used as a lever in a way that not only has little to do with the consumer, it sometimes doesn't have much to do with the copyright owner.

    Interestingly, although the majors' current tactical shift is aimed at iTunes, I think it also hurts Microsoft, which has consciously sacrificed usability to pursue a DRM-based approach.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • robbery,

    Man, what century is this business model from?

    I still buy CDs, I like the physical object

    your century apparently.

    manufacturing a disc is only a small part of the possible equation.
    you can spend you money on any number of other things but guarantee most successful journeys won't be without cost.

    web design if you're design illiterate, online download companies, agreigators, mastering for mp3 (???),

    If you think making music and getting it to the public and noticed is for free then you've obviously never done it before.

    new zealand • Since May 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

  • robbery,

    <quote> maybe we'll see DRM go away not because it's too annoying for the user but because it's too annoying for the music industry ....

    I think that's what you're seeing happen. DRM has been used as a lever in a way that not only has little to do with the consumer, it sometimes doesn't have much to do with the copyright owner.</quote>

    How does controlling the distribution of your work have little to do with the copyright owner?
    Apart from some dreamy notion of everyone's going to get out there and play live and earn a living that way control of the distribution of their material is the ONLY thing they've got going for them.

    They have to control their property or they'll essentially be making music for the love of it, or the love of giving it away at their expense, which many many (I'm looking at you mr judd) people are quite happy to see.
    And that's fine too I guess although you'll see very few second and third entries into an artists catalogue as the novelty of making music and starving will wear off pretty quickly. As an example It's worth noting that radiohead's best works were not their first album, and those albums cost a lot of money to make (good producers don't come cheap and top notch studios the same)
    I gave you some bottom of the barrel figures for studio costs but in the real world look to something like the figures quoted in the movie Once where the band recorded demos for £3000 for a weekend of studio time. This was for demos for a band playing live in the studio.

    And you can't record a band playing live very well on your 2 input m box.

    new zealand • Since May 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

  • robbery,

    maybe we'll see DRM go away not because it's too annoying for the user but because it's too annoying for the music industry ....

    it is annoying for all parties involved but no one has demonstrated a stable and repeatable model for reasonable income flow without controlling the duplication of your music.

    DRM may well be unworkable in its present state (and it is merely the fact that no one has come up with a user friendly version of it) but if it is unworkable that spells out pretty terrible things for the stability of making and recording music.
    and no one, not even 'play it live' mr david byrne has come up with a viable plan that does not involve getting back the control of copying your music.
    Hey I enjoy as much as anyone else getting all I can eat in free things but I can see further down the track how its going to impact on the people that create those things. just cos policing it is impossible doesn't mean its a good thing.

    new zealand • Since May 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    well many years ago (in the US and Oz) the radio stations thought they'd figured this out - they would sell people radio sets that only received 1 station - no tuning knob .... it didn't last - people like to control the things the own and choose to use them their own ways - I don't want a player for Sony with their crypto keys in it, another from Apple, another from Microsoft

    I do think the music biz has to change - there's an awefull lot of fat in it (how come I pay NZ$30 for a CD in Real Groovy in NZ and US$9 for the same CD in Rasputins in the US - the NZ$ is running at 1.25 the US$ - it ought to be close to NZ$11.25 it doesn't cost $19 to ship it from the US)

    These days you can make a great recording in your living room if you know how, and more and more people do - the recording engineer priesthood is going the way of the people who used to look after mainframes - and as a musician you are going to be competing against the guy down the road who does has close to 0 distribution cost (his customers pay for the half the cost of the downloads themselves) - he may not have your advertising budget but he doesn't have to pay for your recording company either, nor the stores nor the warehouses, pressing plants, etc etc - as I said the economics are changing

    What I do worry about is movies - you can't make them cheaply in your garage - they are different beasts - I think that M$'s DRM is more focused on this (and in fact this is the crypto end of the biz that I sort of work in) - really widespread piracy can gut the 2nd/3rd tier parts of this biz - the answer I think will eventually be more focus on getting money out of the theatrical releases and PPV/VOD (when the movie companies still have control of the bits) - we'll see more public theatres rather than fewer

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    BTW the "copyright is the cornerstone of our civilisation" is IMHO bunk - as I tried to point out copyright for printed stuff only started when the printing press was invented, and for music when people started to publish it on paper - 300 years ago when a minstrel played the latest hits at the local tavern an APRA rep didn't show up and try to hit them up for fees - historically it's all pretty recent stuff - for music just a few generations - I don't see why it has to work the same way for ever.

    My cornerstone of civilisation thingy was meant to imply our musical civilisation not mankind's rise per se and I think the statement stands. Without copyright (of both the composition and the hardware to reproduce) the wast wealth of song and composition we enjoy today would not exist. Foster, Berlin, Lennon-McCartney, Mozart, Ellington, Knox and everybody in between were able to write, survive and distribute because of copyright protection.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • robbery,

    These days you can make a great recording in your living room if you know how, and more and more people do - the recording engineer priesthood is going the way of the people who used to look after mainframes

    no its not, they're just not getting paid and we're getting sonically shittier and shitter recordings of the stuff we wish we'd get something reasonable sounding of.
    Yes they're making those recordings in living rooms all over nz but they're still using expensive equipment to get the better sounding ones and even the cheaper ones are still expensive.

    you don't often see a great recording done on 2 microphones (the input of a standard m box or low end machine, and certainly not from a novice musician. it takes years of playing and skill to produce the quality of performance that would allow a no overdubs fuck all processing recording to be made. cowboy junkies were the last band to pull that trick off I think and even then it was more of an experiment in style than actually a great record.

    I agree real groovy charge too much, retailers in nz always have. 75% mark up for taking the disc giving it to you and taking your money was always a little rich.
    that said very few mom and pop stores are owned by rich people, musicquarium, slow boat and galaxy are hardly rolling in the cash.

    new zealand • Since May 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

  • robbery,

    he may not have your advertising budget but he doesn't have to pay for your recording company either, nor the stores nor the warehouses, pressing plants, etc etc - as I said the economics are changing

    The economics are changing but its deceptive to say there are no costs.

    time is a cost. the time they're not out in the work force earning minimum wage to pay their rent is a cost,

    promotion is a major player in the equation. you can put up a my space page but unless you drive people to it you're playing to an empty hall. same problems different situation.
    The only difference this time is that technology has advance to a level where they have no control over their property. So its back to you paul to solve the problem, a viable 'crypto' solution the defuses mans instinct to steal what he can not get caught for.

    new zealand • Since May 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    These days you can make a great recording in your living room if you know how, and more and more people do - the recording engineer priesthood is going the way of the people

    Yes and no. Firstly you can record all you like in your bedroom but without a proper mastering and mixing environment we are a long way from your record not sounding like amateur shite, which is a huge unaddressed issue for the NZ industry. Secondly, take a look at the charts, at what is selling overwhelmingly it is still heavily produced pop, rock and r'n'b. Its fine to say you can make a recording in your living room but I bet anything Beyonce or Fergie's management are not seriously considering it. That said, their producers will bring in elements that are recorded on laptops but it will all be put together elsewhere at great expense.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    And lets point out the obvious..in 2007 90% of all albums sold were on CD. Even the most optimistic models I've seen only put digital at 50% by 2012.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Mozart? Mozart? Not sure what the state of copyright law was in the Austrian empire, but Mozart supported himself variously as a concert artist, a court composer, and from commissions. And his output ripped off other people's tunes and stories in a way that couldn't happen today. (What modern composer could do a theme and variations without licensing the theme?)

    Stephen Foster was famously poor precisely because he received bugger-all from the the copyrights to his songs; what little there was went mostly to his publishers.

    Berlin and Ellington achieved their success under a regime where copyright lasted for only 20 years.

    You also have to look at the counterfactual - would they have starved without copyright protection? What other artists might have arisen? And so on.

    I agree that some copyright protection has enabled a great flowering of creativity, and removal of all copyright protection would be bad. I'm not going to cry about the demise of DRM, however.

    Personally I favour strict legal enforcement of a limited set of rights (eg death + 70 years as it is in the US is ridiculous). But I don't think the sky is going to fall for the average musician, or the genius either. The people who have enjoyed outsized profits through a legal monopoly are the ones who are really going to suffer.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • robbery,

    You're assuming people should be able to make better than ten thousand dollars revenue on making a thousand digital copies of a gig of information. It ain't fair, mate, and law or not people aren't taking it.

    you're assuming the lower fee, and that those who take that path can sell all 1000 copies. only the top are managing that these days, mr kilgour being one. and his expenses include travel to america to record it with classy players. he's well in the loss.
    e also has a record company (arch hill) who need to pay for their rent, staff, distribution, ph fax and internet, insurance, power, and supply of sour worms.

    and I'm not nor will I ever be discussing the costs of the latest britney effort. I'm talking in local and relevant figures, britney doesn't matter cos she's an exception to the rule and the mistake so many make is focusing on the exceptions, the coke snorting record exec, fat cat major labels etc, they're not the bulk of the music generating people, and they're not the only ones hurt when you tear down the system that sustains them all. As I said, no ones come up with a viable alternative.

    new zealand • Since May 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

  • robbery,

    But I don't think the sky is going to fall for the average musician, or the genius either. The people who have enjoyed outsized profits through a legal monopoly are the ones who are really going to suffer.

    There you go focusing on the exceptions again, the hollywood version of the music industry.
    and I'm assuming you're not a musical genius let alone an average one.

    if you want to have a go at outsized profits then how bout you be fair about it and hit property developers, oil companies, the war industry, real estate agents, big business in general, cabinet ministers, the guy at the corner dairy who tried to charge me $1.40 for a chocolate coating to my 2 scoop tiptop boysenberry cone (its ok, I didn't pay it, just handed it bck to him and said no thanks).
    There are many many more industries that make more outlandish profits than the music one. you just know a little about the music one cos they keep making vacuous movies about the glamour of it all, and a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

    new zealand • Since May 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    well whenever I visit my musician friend's home I see him using some small box with a hard drive and a CD burner in it - he records into it and overdubs to his heart's content (well actually he complains about running out of disk space and some 64 channel limitation or something) - he even carried it to Mali and recorded stuff playing with people there - mixed some of it on the plane on the way home

    The first stuff he made was crap, now he's turning out what to me (probably untutored) ear sounds as good as anything I've heard elsewhere

    It's also turned him for just being a musician into also being a composer - he's written 100+ songs since he bought it

    That sort of stuff that used to be recording studio you had to spend 1000s of dollars to use now sits in his living room perched on top of the stereo. Sure sometimes he has to do retakes because the neighbour's dog is barking but his production costs for great sounding music is an order of magnitude less

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    BTW one thing I think that may go away is the industry made mega-star - Britney isn't going to happen (but Hannah Montana or the Monkees might because of the TV tie-in) - instead we're going to see lots of great little bands - fewer big stadium tours, more pubs/raves/etc

    Personally I don't think this will be a bad thing - musicians with dreams of making millions might feel otherwise

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • robbery,

    but his production costs for great sounding music is an order of magnitude less

    absolutely, but its still not nothing. and it grows in order of magnitude when you add more musicians playing together. then you need a mixing desk and multiple input sound cars. still not what it used to cost to do all this stuff but still not free.

    now factor in his time at an hourly rate in creating said works like you would in any other field of work and you can calculate what he needs to charge for said recordings in order to do it as a vocation.
    otherwise it'll have to happen when he's not to knackered from doing his day job to be creative.
    Ever wondered why NZ doesn't have a slew of local music royalty churning out crafted works every 2 years like every other country.
    The dreaded day job is a creative killer.

    10 years between bats albums, verlaines just managed another and Mr downes is an exception to the rule. his day job is teaching music so he can still keep his mind somewhat on topic, headless chickens, ???? Carter is smarter, where's everyone else?

    now apply the nz day job syndrome to the world. you've got a radiohead album every 10 years, some might say thats a good thing.

    new zealand • Since May 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

  • robbery,

    - fewer big stadium tours,

    fine by me, I hate sharing my music with more than a couple of hundred,

    I don't think that we're going to see an increase in gig going though, the kids have got other thing on their minds, (playstation, supped up cars and herbal highs) and the elderly take offense at the volume.

    its a difficult balance but you can see why people would rather stay at home than spend 4 hours standing in the most run down bars in town being assaulted by unskilled sounds. (roughan is hardly unskilled but he is obviously out of touch with the wants of the audience)

    new zealand • Since May 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    But that's where many of the bands you just quoted came from - part time musicians playing in noisy run-down pubs - I lived in Dunedin in the late 70s to mid 80's - I remember where those bands started playing - I even remember Chris Knox in a booze barn (maybe the Gardens?) watching some led zep wannabe proclaim "even I can do better than this" - The Enemy and Toy Love were IMHO 100 times better live at the Cook than anything that was ever recorded.

    In the day every pub that wanted to get people under 30 in had to have live music - but bands only played 3 nights a week, not enough to make a living - unless you went on the road and did the nation-wide pub circuit - and no one could do that for too long without burning out

    remember that much of that wonderfull spurt in the NZ music industry was supposedly created by the acquisition of a single 4-track tape and avoiding the existing music industry - hardware primitive in comparison to what my friend carries around the world

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • robbery,

    But that's where many of the bands you just quoted came from - part time

    you're talking about new zealand.
    no one in nz has ever made a good living from music alone, and those 4 track bands didn't get rich and definitely not strictly from their music. Knox has a day job as a writer for various publications which no doubt makes him more than her ever made from his music, and he would make most of that income not from live performance but from royalties from using it to sell bread in adverts.

    my comments refer to the bigger world picture in music which will have a proportional result on music production here. DRM and piracy are a global issue well before it affects nz.

    my initial comment that it is not DRM that is inherently bad (ie an attempt to control the reproduction of digital media) but the innefective and cumbersome way it has been implemented thus far.

    Championing and promoting the erronious view that a free for all in digital media is good for everyone and hurts only the 'bad' major label coke heads who have too much money is misguided and at worse irresponsible.

    new zealand • Since May 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

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