Yahoo Music to record execs: No more DRM, ever

Yahoo! Music's Ian Rogers gave an inspirational talk to some music execs with two messages: one, I won't build DRM anymore for you, because Yahoo customers hate it; and two, let's focus on all the ways that free-as-in-speech music can kick enormous amounts of ass.

I'm here to tell you today that I for one am no longer going to fall into this trap. If the licensing labels offer their content to Yahoo! put more barriers in front of the users, I'm not interested. Do what you feel you need to do for your business, I'll be polite, say thank you, and decline to sign. I won't let Yahoo! invest any more money in consumer inconvenience. I will tell Yahoo! to give the money they were going to give me to build awesome media applications to Yahoo! Mail or Answers or some other deserving endeavor. I personally don't have any more time to give and can't bear to see any more money spent on pathetic attempts for control instead of building consumer value. Life's too short. I want to delight consumers, not bum them out.

If, on the other hand, you've seen the light too, there's a very fun road ahead for us all. Lets get beyond talking about how you get the music and into building context: reasons and ways to experience the music. The opportunity is in the chasm between the way we experience the content and the incredible user-created context of the Web.

By way of illustration (and via exaggeration), in a manner of speaking iTunes is a spreadsheet that plays music. It's context-free. You just paid $10 for that album -- who plays drums? I dunno, WHY DON'T YOU GO TO THE WEB TO FIND OUT, BECAUSE THAT'S WHERE THE CONTEXT IS.

Link (via O'Reilly Radar)

23

  1. Thank you Ian for taking a stance against unreasonable DRM that interferes with a smooth user experience. It’s good to hear that someone at Yahoo is concerned about what the customer thinks and strives for a more open approach to experiencing music

  2. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. The music and movie industry aren’t losing money because people are pirating, they’re losing money because their movies and music suck.

    If they actually worked on quality rather than churning out Big Momma’s House 7, people would SEE MORE MOVIES and BUY MORE MUSIC.

    Is this THAT hard to understand?

  3. I was pretty excited when Amazon went DRM-free… then they hit back with those awful Terms of Service. Who cares about fair use anyway, right?

    I’m not falling for that trick again. Seeing is believing, and not a minute sooner. Yahoo had better do this right!

  4. I think it IS that hard to understand. They spent years and years working to turn everything they do into a formula. In the process, they pushed their in house artistic expertise to the side in favor of those versed in commerce.

    I also think those same people saw the dawn of downloading as an era where their importance as middlemen would be greatly diminished. It’s nothing more than businessmen fighting against increasing insignificance.

    On the other side of the coin, this has allowed smaller labels continued growth. I’d argue that labels like Merge and Matador are doing well because of their focus on artists.

  5. I think you’re right about the small labels getting big and that’s great because it’s virtually the only decent music coming out anymore.

    But it’s just amazing to me that after cassette tapes, VHS tapes, CD-Rs and DVD-Rs, the entertainment executives still don’t get that people will happily buy a product they think is worth their money even if you can get it fairly easily for free. This is why salad in a bag sells so well.

  6. I work for Yahoo. Here is the one thing you need to remember:

    SUPPORT IAN. He has a clue and so do I, whether or not there is a public image of anyone having a clue. We are you. Make sacrifices to support an alternative to Google, if only to support Ian. Otherwise you won’t have an Ian.

    Thanks. Google is wonderful and I use it, but we need more. You and I need Ian (who I don’t know) and you might even need me.

  7. “It’s context-free. You just paid $10 for that album — who plays drums? I dunno, WHY DON’T YOU GO TO THE WEB TO FIND OUT, BECAUSE THAT’S WHERE THE CONTEXT IS.”

    Any idea what he’s talking about here? This part of his rant didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

    “SUPPORT IAN. He has a clue and so do I, whether or not there is a public image of anyone having a clue. We are you. Make sacrifices to support an alternative to Google, if only to support Ian. Otherwise you won’t have an Ian.”

    Wow. There’s Yahoo! in a nutshell — “make sacrifices.” Dude, make a compelling product — and asking users to “make sacrifices” ain’t it.

  8. “Wow. There’s Yahoo! in a nutshell — “make sacrifices.” Dude, make a compelling product — and asking users to “make sacrifices” ain’t it.”

    Come on. I don’t make the products, I’m not PR, I’m just an anonymous geek. Yahoo Music is a compelling product to me – no sacrifices required, I already use it.

  9. Strong words from a smart man; it’s unfortunate that since Yahoo! Music isn’t compatible with Macs, I have no way to use his product… and since Yahoo! Music isn’t compatible with iPods or with indie distributors like TuneCore, I wouldn’t want to anyway. Once Yahoo! stops its really crappy corporate practices and makes its products usable, I’d be happy to use them. Until then, hopefully Ian’s ideas will spur people on with products I CAN use.

  10. To #7: The context-free rant, as i understand it, means the following: When you buy a physical CD, there’s something called (surprise) BOOKLET. In it you can find from lyrics to all kind of information (i.e.: who was the drummer?)

    When you buy something in iTunes, for example (and I’ve bought there), you don’t have any of that information. You have to fire up your browser and search for it on the Internet.

    It’s not only something bad for the customers, but for the graphic design industry (and for the arts too, in a way). Personally I love to open new CDs and to browse through the booklets, reading the lyrics, appreciating the design hours put into it… I mean: The first Demons & Wizards album has a truly OUTSTANDING booklet. If you buy it through iTunes or Amazon, you’ve lost it. Really.

    Another question: Why some of the art on iTunes is so badly scanned, with blank borders and so on? Haven’t they the original art?

  11. > To #7: The context-free rant

    I like the band Hard-Fi. Who plays drums in Hard-Fi? Steve Kemp. Used to be a pest controller. How do I know? Web search. “The web is where the context is.”

  12. We know where the problem comes from. And as a consumer I chose to buy recycled CDs rather than deal with DRM.

  13. …About FCKNG time someone stood up to the MafRIAA and the WiMPAAs and told them where to shove their DRM scam! (cr)Apple needs to do the same with iTunes, and Gates needs to grow his balls back – remember those, Bill? The ones you had when you used to steal bulldozers? – and tell the Hollyweird mobsters that he’s not going to bend over and spread for their protection racket any longer. The sooner every single bit of DRM code is stripped out of every single OS and application, the sooner consumers will be happier with actually *buying* music and movies again.

    …It’s exactly as a previous poster put it:

    The music and movie industry aren’t losing money because people are pirating, they’re losing money because their movies and music suck. If they actually worked on quality rather than churning out Big Momma’s House 7, people would SEE MORE MOVIES and BUY MORE MUSIC.

  14. “When you buy a physical CD, there’s something called (surprise) BOOKLET. In it you can find from lyrics to all kind of information (i.e.: who was the drummer?)”

    They have that info in every CD booklet you’ve had, huh? And not having a physical booklet is a problem Yahoo Music is solving… how?

    “Why some of the art on iTunes is so badly scanned, with blank borders and so on? Haven’t they the original art?”

    No, they don’t have the original art for a 1972 jazz album.

    “This is why salad in a bag sells so well.”

    I think that in that analogy, salad-in-a-bag is a DRM track from iTunes. It comes with a number of limitations (freshness, type of greens available in that form, taste) which most users won’t run into because they use it in a very limited way (pour ranch over it).

  15. Yahoo! Music is broken.

    Their LaunchCast “radio” service is not supported on Mac OS.

    iTunes has a very decent selection of “radio” streams.

    Comcast has a very decent selection of music streams via my cable box and television. No computer needed.

    Rogue Amoeba’s “RadioShift” application will hook you up to a ton of streaming stations via Mac OS

    Live365 likewise has a ton of free streams. Non-platform specific. Just a recent browser.

    Real and Windows Media Player can do the same thing, and video, too. As can VLC and Miro, all via Mac OS

    Check out the websites of your favorite stations. Odds are, there’s a Real or WMA or streaming MP3 or QuickTime link. Again, non-OS specific.

    But not Yahoo! Music. Oh, well…

    (AOL Voice Guy) “Goodbye!” (/AOL Voice Guy) to Yahoo! Music, as far as I’m concerned.

  16. Hmm, RIAA members are intermediaries. The Internet disintermediates, so they’re understandably unhappy. Unhappy people with resources are a problem.

  17. I like the iTunes/spreadsheet comparison. Never thought about it quite in that way. But I’ve had the same thoughts on content/context myself. I find myself checking the web for band members/lyrics all the time when I’m listening to a song.

    I think it’s almost hilariously absurd that the RIAA is threatening to sue lyrics websites for ‘infringement’ now. Like everything else, why on earth would they try to encumber the experience of enjoying the (music) product, yet again? If I bought the song on-line, why wouldn’t they want me to delve deeper into the meat of it and appreciate it that much more? Answer: fricking money. I’m sure they’re trying to figure out a way to SELL me the lyrics as an ‘extra’ product. All of the sudden something that was traditionally just a normal part of the experience is turned around as a ‘bonus’. Thanks stupid, greedy a-holes.

    This Ian guy is a true revolutionary. His argument is so eloquent and sensible. Too bad Yahoo’s probably gonna fire him now…

  18. Yea for Ian!!! I’m glad someone has a clue about all this and is finally explaining it to the folks who can actually DO something about it.

  19. I love my Mac. I love my iPhone, and the two iPods I had before it. However, how exactly is Yahoo! Music supposed to make its offering compatible with iTunes?

    iTunes is a closed system to some degree. We all know that Jobs and company love keeping their toys to themselves. Wanna’ put songs on your iPod? Gotta use iTunes. Wanna put songs in iTunes? Either download from Apple’s own store or bring them in yourselves. But there’s no option to connect to another service and have it automatically add to your iTunes or iPod/iPhone.

    I agree that Yahoo! Music’s player should be more platform/program agnostic. I used it all the time in the past, but when I switched to Firefox as my browser, I just fell out of the habit.

    Ian’s speech sounds good. And y’know – maybe I *will* try using Yahoo! as my search for awhile. It can’t hurt…

  20. Keep in mind that Yahoo! is a company of companies. Yahoo! Music exists very much independently of Yahoo! Mail, Search, Shopping, etc. If you want to show your support for what Ian’s proposing, by all means use Yahoo! Music and write letters of support.

    My beef with Yahoo! comes from a few months past when I got an email from them telling me that my account had been permanently suspended across all Yahoo! services. They gave me no reason for this suspension, but I instantly lost all access to my mail, finances, web hosting for my clients, DNS services, Flickr photos, etc. I appealed, called, wrote, talked to managers and supervisors… nothing. To this day I have no idea why my account was killed. I can only assume a glitch in the system, but for a glitch at Yahoo! to have this much destructive power without recourse is just …. unfair.

  21. #14, greens in a bag come in a far greater variety than what’s loose on the shelf, at least around here. I can get herbs and fresh “spring greens” in the middle of the cold, dark winter. Mmmmm.

    iTunes doesn’t taste like a baby greens and herb salad with pine nuts, roaster garlic, and a light olive oil/vinegar dressing to me.

    Damn I’m hungry.

  22. Music+DRM=Headache.

    I think Radiohead had the right idea. Pay-what-you want is the wave of the future. It actually encourages people to buy albums again, because one of the reasons people buy CDs less is because they are freakin’ EXPENSIVE.

    Then there’s the whole thing where if people want to do something (i.e. share/copy music) they WILL do it. You can’t stop a determined programmer.

    Just my two cents.

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