Wednesday Jan 24, 2007

How the RIAA Could Solve the Piracy Problem

Disclaimer: These views are mine, and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

Here's my two cents on how record labels could effectively combat piracy. Instead of suing kids and chasing the DRM delusion, they should offer music free for download in unrestricted formats. But...

Here's the twist: Thirty seconds into each recording, an unobtrusive but intelligible voice-over advertisement would say "purchase this song at so-and-so dot com." It would be mixed straight into the recording. Other than this, the song would run unaltered. If a listener wanted a download without an ad, she'd just go to the website and pay for an ad-free version.

How would this help record labels?

Fans are on the fence about piracy, but it proliferates because any ethical qualms fans have are trumped by two factors: 1) Infuriating behavior by the RIAA, and 2) the desire for free music. This strategy addresses these problems. When fence-sitting Joe wants a free song, he's more likely to grab a legal copy off the web from a friendly record label, if such things existed, than enter the dubious world of illegal music downloading. But either way, Joe's gonna get that song.

It boils down to this: The free music distribution channel is going to exist, regardless, so record labels might as well legitimize it and use it to drive sales.

How would this help fans and artists?

The benefit for musicians and fans is unrestricted discovery. You could load up your MP3 player, and over time buy what you like and delete the cruft. Social bookmarking systems based on freely downloadable or streamable content could build dynamic, individually-tailored podcasts, and create new ways for labels to discover, promote and distribute artists.

About

My name is Greg Reimer and I'm a web technologist for the Sun.COM web design team.

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