Kulash on DRM

by on October 24, 2006 · 12 comments

I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t see this New York Times op-ed until today. It’s written by Damian Kulash, the lead singer of OK Go, one of my favorite bands. And it’s on one of my pet topics:

The truth is that the more a record gets listened to, the more successful it is. This is not our megalomania, it’s Marketing 101: The more times a song gets played, the more of a chance it has to catch the ear of someone new. It doesn’t do us much good if people buy our records and promptly shelve them. We need people to fall in love with our songs and listen to them over and over. A record that you can’t transfer to your iPod is a record that you’re less likely to listen to, less likely to get obsessed with and less likely to tell your friends about.

Luckily my band’s recently released album, “Oh No,” escaped copy control, but only narrowly. When our album came out, our label’s parent company, EMI, was testing protective software and thought that we were a good candidate for it. Record executives reasoned that, because we appeal to college students who have the high-bandwidth connections necessary for accessing peer-to-peer networks, we’re the kind of band that gets traded instead of bought.

That may be true, but we are also the sort of band that hasn’t yet gotten the full attention of MTV and major commercial radio stations, so those college students are our only window onto the world. They are our best chance for success, and we desperately need them to be listening to us, talking about us, coming to our shows and, yes, trading us.

To be clear, I certainly don’t encourage people to pirate our music. I have poured my life into my band and, after two major-label records, our accountants can tell you that we’re not real rock stars yet. But before a million people can buy our record, a million people have to hear our music and like it enough to go looking for it. That won’t happen without lots of people playing us for their friends, which in turn won’t happen without a fair amount of file sharing.

As it happened, for a variety of reasons, our label didn’t put copy-protection software on our album. What a shame, though, that so many bands aren’t as fortunate.

Don’t listen to me. Listen to the up-and-coming rock star.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    Sounds like the guy needs a new promoter.

    Tim, we talked before about you wanting to eliminate software patents, repeal the DMCA, overturn content labels, etc etc. These perspectives don’t reflect the kind of practicality needed in business and industry commentary.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    I dunno, OK Go’s promotional strategy seems to be doing pretty well.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    Sounds like the guy needs a new promoter.

    Tim, we talked before about you wanting to eliminate software patents, repeal the DMCA, overturn content labels, etc etc. These perspectives don’t reflect the kind of practicality needed in business and industry commentary.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    Why does the OK Go artists think that others are unfortunate b/c they have DRM on their music. Is he just talking about struggling artists, or all artists.

    One point about the artist’s comments. He talks about wanting to build a following, and that this would be facillitated through (legal) file sharing. What happens after he builds that fanfare. He may choose DRM then when he no longer needs to distribute his music at the lowest cost possible and with the least restrictions in order to attract masses of new listeners.

    I don’t think DRM is a good in itself. Artists should be able to offer their songs free of DRM, perhaps even price them higher when doing so. But consider DRM as an option, like I do, and think about it benefits artists (not just consumers).

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    I dunno, OK Go’s promotional strategy seems to be doing pretty well.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    Why does the OK Go artists think that others are unfortunate b/c they have DRM on their music. Is he just talking about struggling artists, or all artists.

    One point about the artist’s comments. He talks about wanting to build a following, and that this would be facillitated through (legal) file sharing. What happens after he builds that fanfare. He may choose DRM then when he no longer needs to distribute his music at the lowest cost possible and with the least restrictions in order to attract masses of new listeners.

    I don’t think DRM is a good in itself. Artists should be able to offer their songs free of DRM, perhaps even price them higher when doing so. But consider DRM as an option, like I do, and think about it benefits artists (not just consumers).

  • http://shianux.jiyuuu.org Han

    Noel:

    Actually you mean to say that artists should be free to do whatever they want with their own music, INCLUDING offer their songs free of any encumbrances OR encumbered with DRM.

  • http://shianux.jiyuuu.org Han

    Noel:

    Actually you mean to say that artists should be free to do whatever they want with their own music, INCLUDING offer their songs free of any encumbrances OR encumbered with DRM.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    Yes, Marlon Brando, I mean, Han.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    Yes, Marlon Brando, I mean, Han.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    Recall that CSS, the quite new and popular band from Brazil, included a blank CD-R with their first album, so you could burn a copy for your friend.

    The you burn a copy and spread their popularity, and you might also displace a purchase of one of their competitor’s albums. So there does exist a market based motivation here, too.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Recall that CSS, the quite new and popular band from Brazil, included a blank CD-R with their first album, so you could burn a copy for your friend.

    The you burn a copy and spread their popularity, and you might also displace a purchase of one of their competitor’s albums. So there does exist a market based motivation here, too.

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