Off Topic: Music, DRM and Tanking CD Sales

I took my 9 year old daughter to her first concert last night.  The band was Lifehouse, a relatively newish, great alternative rock band. 


I had seen them last summer as an opening act for the Goo Goo Dolls.  I hadn’t heard of Lifehouse before but was very impressed with their "big" sound.  After that concert I bought two of their CDs.  Yeah I’m one of those guys who still buys CDs because I despise DRM and I don’t want to buy compressed/encoded (lossy) music.  I’d rather do the compression and encoding myself.  Plus I’ll always have access to the raw, uncompressed music for future re-encoding in better formats. 

Regarding DRM, I despise it because it isn’t user friendly.  It tends to be tied to a particular device instead of a person.  Devices come and go and the pushups you have to go through to deactivate one device and activate another get to be a right pain in the rear.  This is one of the reasons I stopped using  I got tired of the whole deactivation/activation dance every year.  Yeah, I go through new devices that often.

One very unfortunate downside to the ease with which music can be copied is piracy.  I’m both a musician and a software developer so the notion of protecting intellectual property and copyrighted material hits close to home.  After the concert, my daughter and I got to meet the band members who were signing autographs.  What a great bunch of guys!  They were all down to earth and very nice.  I even got a picture of my daughter with Jason Wade – the lead singer.  She was thrilled.  🙂

I told them that I had seen them a year ago opening for the Goo Goo Dolls whom they were touring with.  I asked if that helped boost CD sales because touring with GGD had to expose them to a wider audience.  The reply shouldn’t have surprised me but there is nothing like hearing it come right from the horse’s mouth.  Their guitarist said that CD sales across the industry have tanked.  The only way they’re making money these days is by touring, touring and more touring.  That’s a shame.  I have no idea how to solve this problem but it starts with folks internalizing that copying copyrighted music without paying for it is stealing.  That’s certainly what I’ll be teaching my kids.

Give Lifehouse a listen, they have some really good tunes and if you like what you hear, buy it.  We need to support the arts, right?  My favorite songs?  Well most folks will recognize Hanging by a Moment but my favorite is First Time followed closely by Who We Are and Bridges

BTW for you PowerShellers, check out this album cover:

The bald headed guy, who is Lifehouse’s drummer, looks an awful lot like PowerShell’s language designer – Bruce Payette.  Check out this picture of Bruce on Amazon. I wonder if someone is leading a double life.  🙂  OK now back to our regularly scheduled PowerShell programming.

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3 Responses to Off Topic: Music, DRM and Tanking CD Sales

  1. Hal says:

    I can\’t help but asking, Keith; did the topic of digital downloads come up?  The assumption that those outside of the industry like me would assume is that iTunes/Amazon sales go up as Wal-Mart/Best Buy sales go down.  And you have to look at it in several ways because singles are probably king again (another assumption) because it is so easy to grab the one or two songs you like.  So single sales may be up while total revenues are down because the lesser-liked songs aren\’t selling and CDs as a whole are not selling because "kids these days"…I miss album rock, but you can\’t stand still while the world moves on…

  2. Neon says:

    If the record industry doesn\’t manage to solve the problem within the next five years, they really are finished. The CD as an audio format is effectively dead from a commercial point of view. I would be willing to bet that in 10 years time, sales of vinyl will outstrip the sales of CDs. DRM only hastened the CD\’s death and is now sabotaging online music services as well. Ditto for the record industry\’s idea that suing its own customers is an effective business model.
    I think the solution is a DRM free all-you-can-eat subscription-based service where music is treated more as a utility (like gas/electricity/cable TV) rather than a one-off premium price product like a CD. You pay your 20 bucks a month or whatever, and the royalties are divided among the artists you listen to. Of course it will mean less profits for the record industry because people won\’t be willing to pay as much for a virtual product as a physical one and people will be able to cherry pick the best songs from an artist and ignore the filler (much like the singles-driven music market of the 1950s). But less profits is still better than none at all. It will also mean less control and manipulation by the record companies. They won\’t be able to foist on us as many generic artists in the mould of Britney Spears as they would like to. It will be a more consumer driven market which would be better from the artists point of view as well.
    I think it could work out in the end if the record companies set aside their greed and fear of change by offering convenience and value for money. After all, people still buy bottled water despite the fact that water is a free resource available just about anywhere.

  3. Keith says:

    Hi Hal.  I didn\’t get a chance to speak very long with the band since there were quite a few folks waiting in line for autographs.  It would be interesting to hear there take on it.  I suspect it doesn\’t come close to making up for the sagging CD sales.  And yeah, the old model just doesn\’t seem to work in a world were music files are so easy to copy.  I think the music industry screwed up by not getting ahead of this trend and offering individual song downloads for a reasonable price.  I also how much bands actually get out of a relationship with a major recording studio these days.  With digital recording tools, you can put together a recording studio for a lot less money than it took say 10 years ago.  Makes me wonder if bands wouldn\’t be better off recording and marketing their songs to the big download sites without the help of a big label.  Regarding the Britney Spears issue, yeah I could defintely do without that sort of over-hyping.  OTOH I hate to see what I think are really good artists languishing while lots of people enjoy their sweat equity but not enough of them willing to pay for it (even at a reasonable price). 

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