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Report from the Bandwidth Music/Technology Conference


A late report on Bandwidth 2007, “The “Music | Technology Conference” held in San Francisco August 17-18.

I moderated “The DRM Panel”, retitled from “Mano-A-Mano: The DRM Panel”, as it seemed the panelists would largely be in agreement. This was the case. None of the panelists were tied to a hard-core anti-DRM position or a die-hard DRM defense. Most were involved in businesses that serve as intermediaries between labels and online distribution.

There was broad agreement that in music, there has been a seismic shift away from DRM, for entirely pragmatic reasons — DRM is a pain for consumers, so has driven some to filesharing, concentration on protection has meant that the industry has not built services that use technology to provide value to consumers, leaving the likes of MySpace and Apple to slowly fill the gap.

One interesting observation was that the decline in CD sales is creating an opening for those in the industry who have been clamoring for a different approach for years. The alternative would be more circling the wagons with DRM, but that has already been tried.

There are many smart, progressive people in the music industry — we’ve seen a number of them experimenting with using CC licensing as part of their strategy — but it was cool to hear that they may be finally gaining the upper hand. There has of course been a ton of “Music 2.0” innovation happening at the edges for years, but there’s no reason that shouldn’t kick into a higher gear with the involvement of and non-persecution by the majors.

We didn’t discuss this on the panel, but during the pre-panel preparation there seemed to be agreement that although DRM is on its way out for music, the movie industry would stick with DRM for a long time. My question, if there had been time, would have been “DRM didn’t work for the music industry, so why does the movie industry think its experience will be any different?” I’m still wondering about that.

CC Creative Director Eric Steuer was on a later panel called “Sue Me, Sue You, Sue Everybody!” in which there was a pretty strong consensus that suing fans is a pretty stupid strategy that also hasn’t worked out well for the industry. As previosuly mentioned, the really smart people are going beyond just not suing fans, but empowering fans with CC licenses.

The DRM Panel

Sue Me, Sue You, Sue Everybody!

Photos by Jason Schultz under CC Attribution-NonCommercial.

Posted 11 September 2007