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Vendors (and Artists): Beware of DRM

In an entry from around a year ago, I warned software vendors to be wary of becoming too closely associated with Digital Rights Management technologies, because when it inevitably ends up pissing off consumers they tend to be none too particular in who they blame for their irritation. Well, as it turns out, I should have warned the artists at the same time.

While reading an Amazon review for the new Kings of Leon (Southern fried Strokes is what some have called them) album – which I did end up purchasing on iTunes, incidentally – I came across this comment in a 1 of 5 star rating from one Jacob Wolman:

Sorry, Kings of Leon–I’m sure this is a spectacular album, but your label screwed us both.

Here’s another one from Eric Asetta:

Why do I need to sign an “agreement” to listen to a CD on my own computer? You can’t even skip through or fast forward through tracks because the CD only runs on its own designated player! Ridiculous. Don’t justify Sony’s actions by giving them your money; most bands barely see any revenue from album sales anyway. I wish I could return the thing and just use the cash for a ticket to a KOL show instead. Way to promote a young band, morons!

The point here is not to justify the vilification of artists for the labels choice (although to be fair, I have no idea if the band had input on this ill-considered decision), merely to recognize that it’s the reality. DRM tells customers in simple terms that they are not to be trusted and left to their own devices, they’re criminals. Regardless of the business, beginning a relationship with customers – fans, in this case – in that fashion seems to me to be an exceedingly poor idea. The perceived tactical gains that might be realized from a theoretical reduction in pirated content are likely to be more than offset by the damaged relationships with fans.

So the lesson for vendors is the same – be very, very wary of DRM in any form. But perhaps it’s the artists that really need the advice, lest some of them get reviews similar to what Kings of Leon did today.

Categories: Digital Rights Management.

  • http://calamityjake.livejournal.com Jake

    Jacob Wolman here.

    I hoped that my distinction was clear–I don't blame KOL for my frustration, and I do regret tagging them with a 1 out of 5 star review, because I highly doubt they had any choice about the DRM on their album. My point in giving that review was that the DRM is so constraining that the CD itself was fundamentally worthless to me, and I wanted to make sure that people considering buying it knew what they would be getting.

    This is one of the more egregious examples of an industry treating its customers like garbage and expecting them to take it sitting down, and I really really hope that that isn't what ends up happening, since I see it as a lose-lose in which everyone ends up worse off.

  • http://www.redmonk.com/sogrady sogrady

    seems fair, Jacob. i completely understand the sentiment, and had i bought the physical album and found i couldn't transfer it i probably would have reacted similarly. unfortunately, the record industry seems one unable to think creatively, and to treat their customers as adults.