Last week's "discussion" surrounding the merits of DRM was a rare glimpse into the heavy C-level posturing usually obstructed by the gold-plated doors of the digital music industry. The event was, of course, kicked off by none other than Steve Jobs in his open letter titled "Thoughts on Music" -- a thinly veiled attempt to redirect the litigious ire of Europe toward the "Big Four" record labels, and away from Apple's own iTunes Store and FairPlay DRM.
Responses were mixed as you'd expect. First, Sandisk -- the number 2 audio player maker in the US -- had the gall to blow kisses and bat their eyes in the direction of the Big Four even after publicly chastising their use of DRM just a few weeks prior. Then the RIAA demonstrated their utter befuddlement by welcoming Jobs' non-existent offer to license FairPlay. Most poetically, Warner Music CEO Edgar Bronfman chimed in to call Jobs' DRM fight "without logic" -- this, from the man who admits that he's "fairly certain" his own children have pirated music, while simultaneously shielding them from his very own RIAA henchmen who merrily and routinely sue other children and their parents for the same crime. More recently, Macrovision's CEO Fred Amoroso presented a pro-DRM argument so fudged it was difficult to tell whether or not he was joking.
But Monster Cable came out to back "Jobs' vision" with Dave Goldberg, (now former) head of Yahoo Music, again voicing his support for "removing DRM on music." More importantly, Goldberg cites "experiments" where it offered music without DRM with a noticeable boost in sales. Taking that bait, David Pakman, CEO of eMusic -- the number 2 online music retailer in the US -- says that music sales "would explode" without DRM holding the market back. Ah, so that's what EMI is up to.
[Read on for an analysis and discussion of DRM technologies.]