The trend in new web services offering fair deals for buying and downloading independent music continues to grow. CreateDigitalMusic.com reports that Fake Science are launching an indie music store tommorrow using the following model:
Take notice of that last part, no nasty DRM . You can listen to the Fake Scientists discuss the launch of their new digital music store, its birthing process and their hopes for the future on the Lab Report podcast #19 – "Don’t Know Nothin’ About Birthin’ No Babies"
This comes hot on the tails of other online companies that have recently launched similar DRM-free indie music operations and content distribution services.
CommonTunes is a DRM-free music store that helps independent musicians and bands sell their work over the Internet. Songs on CommonTunes are 99 cents. Albums, audiobooks and other compilations can be priced from $4.99 to $29.99. Videos and movies range in price from 99 cents to $49.99. Sellers receive 70% of the net profits from each sale.
Prodigem makes it easy for content producers to share and sell content using BitTorrent technology. Accounts for selling content start from as little as $1.
For some time Magnatune has pioneered a model which lets customers determine the price they pay for music, typically between $5 and $18 for an album. Podcasters are encouraged to use Magnatune music in their podcasts at no charge. The Magnatune moto is ‘we are not evil’.
DIY Music Marketing
If you’re a music maker you may be wondering how selling your music alongside the competition will benefit you. Seth Godin calls it The Proximity Effect, "Tuna sells best in the fish store, lying next to the other, lesser fish, on ice."
For DIY musicians, non-exclusive non-evil contracts with several independent companies means more distribution points where fans can discover the music. Of course it’s not the only way to go but viral marketing on the Internet has certainly become a viable option. Social networks have made it easy for people to share information amongst peers. MySpace.com has 35 million members, 550,000 artists and bands. It’s no surprise that MySpace has created a record label.
Following the recent success of Arctic Monkeys with their number 1 UK hit ‘I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor’, many more indie bands will be motivated to give it a try online themselves. The previously unsigned Arctic Monkeys used the Internet to freely spread their brand of music and ‘gorilla gigs’ which generated interest and a loyal following. It’s the social dimension of participation and being in-the-know that the fans connect with and trust. The Arctic Monkeys have now signed to the indie label Domino, the same label as Franz Ferdinand. You can watch live footage of the band and listen to the hit single at the BBC Collective site.
My list of Podsafe Music Resources provides links to independent music projects actively engaged in promoting copyleft and DRM-free music. If you’re interested in the bigger picture you may also find my list of Media Distribution resources useful. Both lists provide access to a diverse range of independent music services that can be used by musicians and music fans to explore new models of distribution.
The Dark Side of Digital Rights Management (DRM) Sony Rootkits
Significantly, Beatmixed mentions news of Sony installing Rootkits to enforce DRM. Thanks to Victor Stone for pointing me there. The DRM software installs from certain Sony BMG music CDs when played on a computer.
Rootkits are more commonly associated with hackers and the failure of Sony to clearly disclose the nature of their ‘hidden‘ intentions is causing confusion for music fans.
"A root kit is a set of tools used by an intruder after cracking a computer system. These tools can help the attacker maintain his or her access to the system and use it for malicious purposes." Wikipedia: Rootkit
To make matters worse rootkit installations are extremely difficult to detect and remove. Attempting to manually remove the Sony installation might result in an inaccessible CD drive letter.
This is a serious breach of trust for consumers and a practice condemned by influential movers in the media/Internet community. As such the story will not simply disappear and will no doubt prove costly for the companies involved. You can see the full reach of the Sony Corporation at Who Owns What: Sony Corporation, the group of music companies is particularly interesting.
The Sony Rootkit Discovery
The rootkit was discovered by Mark Russinovich, a computer security expert with Sysinternals, you can read his story for the details Sony, Rootkits and Digital Rights Management Gone Too Far.
F-secure have also been investigating the case and you can read all about it on the F-Secure blog.
So what can you do about it?
As a preventative measure you may want to steer clear of Sony BMG products but if you have already used Sony music CDs the situation is less clear. Re-installing your operating system will eliminate the problem. For rootkit information and software solutions try Security Watch: Root Kit 101 but heed the following warnings.
"Automatic uninstallation of the software is still not possible without additional tools, and removing it manually is difficult. If you want to remove the software from your computer, we still recommend that you contact Sony BMG using their web form and ask for permission to uninstall it."
Sony Rootkit Patch
In an effort to redress the discoveries Sony have released a Service Pack that will update the installed DRM software. However there is now concern over the Sony ‘fix’, see the following:
Freedom to Tinker: SonyBMG and First4Internet Release Mysterious Software Update
The Register: Sony to offer patch for ‘rootkit’ DRM says the fix removes cloaking, but not the ‘rootkit’.
Offering a patch that doesn’t remove the rootkit goes some way to showing what Sony think of their customers. If they don’t trust you, why should you trust them?
For now it’s advisable to keep a watchful eye on developments as the full implications unfold. Any available links to anti-DRM software will be put in my PC Help> list of security resources as I find them. If you find all the current usage restrictions confusing EFF have created a marketing "translation" The Customer Is Always Wrong: A User’s Guide to DRM in Online Music which cuts through the spin and also provides links to DRM-free music sources.
What are people saying?
For a summary of events and subsequent reactions I recommend reading the Molly Wood article for CNET called DRM this, Sony!
digg reaction to Sony ‘patch fix’ announcement
memeorandum tracking the latest buzz on this situation.
Slashdot community discussion on Sony DRM Rootkit.
DRMBlog is a news and editorial website devoted to the discussion of Digital Rights Management (DRM).
DRM News Blog affiliated to the above blog but focuses on the latest news stories.
Indie Music Meta-Search
Rootkit Info Search
Fake Science Lab Report podcast #18 "Clap Your Hands and Say Vomit Launch" – the Fake Scientists ruminate on whether an artist needs a label to be successful.
Trusted Computing a short animated movie free to share and licensed under a Creative Commons license.