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[By Robert Andrews] The music business will not make significant enough gains until it drops restrictive DRM, and it won’t be saved by the long tail either, according to two music industry bosses.
RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser used the MidemNet forum in Cannes to call on companies to develop rights standards that were interoperable and more open.
He said the business was “seeing some signs the industry is open to” … “giving consumers a way to purchase music with the flexibility that you can only get if you take the DRM off”.
“For purchases, move away from DRM,” he said, adding that the replacement of siloed digital rights management standards would be the first year that digital growth overtakes physical decline. Glaser said DRM should remain for customers who subscribe to a monthly download service and therefore don’t own the track.
Global sales of online music almost doubled to $2bn last year, according to research published by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry last week – but had still not reached enough to offset the decline in physical-format sales, what the IFPI called “the holy grail”.
Meanwhile, Universal Music Group’s eLabs president Larry Kenswil warned that the “long tail” -the subject of Wired editor Chris Anderson’s book illustrating how the net leverages small but everlasting value in archive material -was not enough to make up the shortfall.
“It’s an interesting catchphrase. Many more products will sell to a larger audience, that’s true,” he said. “But the question is – what is the offset of the most popular products selling less?
“It’s obvious that shelf space on the internet means people have access to things there wasn’t storage for before.
“But the long tail means that most of that will be listened to [only] once. So, even if you have 300,000 songs being listened to once, it doesn’t make up for the fall-off of the number one this year from what the number one was last year. No album sold 4m last year.”