When Sony introduced Super Audio CD (SACD or SA-CD) in the early part of the 21st century, the media platform was rolled out with two main ingredients:
1) Superior sound quality in the form of DSD (Direct Stream Digital) sampling at 2.8MHz, 1-bit
2) Digital Rights Management (DRM) in the case of SACD was provided using digital watermarking where the disc’s physical pits are used to create a signature that prevents copying to another physical media
Now over a decade later, Sony announced their High Resolution Audio (HRA) platform that again embraces DSD mastered recordings but this time in the form of downloads.
These DSD downloads are already appearing from titles bearing some of the big names out there like Shelby Lynne, Norah Jones, Counting Crowes, Rickie Lee Jones, as well as classic and classical names including Muddy Waters, John Coltrane, Bille Holiday, Charles Mingus and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
There are many more from the Sony vaults and other vaults to follow.
Guess what’s missing from this High Fidelity (HRA, Hi-Rez) campaign?
DRM! Copy protection! It’s out the window!!
Of course the whole world has already gone through this a few times starting with Napster which was forced to shut down (kind of like our recent government) in July, 2001 as a contributor, not a perpetrator, of copyright infringement. It had been operating for a couple years as the shared storage for P2P music downloads (they didn’t call it a Cloud then). In 2001 they had around 25 million subscribers.
I have been online with free downloads as MP3s since 1995. I still have free downloads online. Napster has been closed, bankrupt, reemerged, then bought and sold to Rhapsody. Regardless, the music is still getting moved around into players and then people’s ears…
There have been many other companies and initiatives in this free distribution direction. Somehow Apple’s iTunes thinks there is a “safe” limit of around 5 or 6 “authorized” PCs/Macs to allow receipt and hosting of their downloads.
What I’m asking is, will anyone *always* download something that’s free and *never* download something that costs money?
So what is DRM to anyone? Music is shared. Music is bought. As Gillian Welch sings in her 2002 ‘Time (The Revelator)’ song: “Everything is free now”. She goes on to sing “That’s what they say…everything i ever done…gonna give it away…”
A record industry that has been obsessed with making it difficult if not impossible to copy a good recording is now being led by a company that embraces digital file downloads which are highly likely to live (be copied) in more than one location at one time.
Jane Siberry began offering her music online many years ago (already) based on the premise that the artist (and the Sheeba Records label in her case) should not be in a position to decide for the listener what the recording is worth. Rather the listener should decide what it’s worth! She still runs the web store that way. You can set the price. It’s up to you.
I sold CDs at shows that way for many years – you pay (or not pay) what you want. Self-service all the way. I was also opening some shows for Jane Siberry at that time.
What I found over the years, was that it never mattered what price I set or didn’t set on selling music. I sold about the same amounts no matter what it cost the buyer! My free downloads are not especially popular because they are free. They follow the same cycles as the stuff getting paid for. It’s more about the music…
Sure music is a business and an industry and everyone should get paid. But who is everyone? I think the recent official DRM ladder removal may be a precursor to the removal of some business layers that maybe shouldn’t be there or are at least are not necessary.
It may end up being an unintended consequence of pointing to the essence of “free”, which to me means “independent”.
Start your own label, see what happens…
“but i’m gonna do it anyway
even if it doesn’t pay….”
– gillian welch