The Sony Effect

One of the most important aspects of the ongoing Sony rootkit story has been its impact on musicians.  As I noted in a previous post, Business Week has demonstrated how the controversy has had an unmistakable negative impact on music sales for artists with the DRM-infected CDs.  A new Business Week story continues with the theme, noting that the controversy may not make a huge dent in Sony' s global revenues (which totaled US$63 billion in revenue last year), but that thousands are boycotting all Sony products (in addition to six class action lawsuits in the U.S. alone).

Consider what that means – not only are the artists behind the 52 affected CDs likely to be hurt, but the use of DRM is hurting all Sony artists.  Indeed, I would argue that they are hurting all artists, regardless of their label.  For example, Canada' s Barenaked Ladies recently released a USB stick of music.  The release is both innovative and responsive, yet BL and their label, Nettwerk Records, have found themselves forced to respond to concerns about DRM.  Steven Page of the BL posted an assurance on one chat site that the USB stick did not contain DRM, followed by further comments from Nettwerk Records to the same effect.  In fact, the Nettwerk Records executive sought to promote its releases by noting that "they are all about offering DRM-free alternatives."

It is great to see Canadian artists moving in this direction (and check out Jane Siberry' s new "self-determined pricing" for music downloads).  It is proof that contrary to the claims of CRIA and the major labels claims, DRM is not about offering more consumer choice nor about protecting the interests of the artists.  Indeed, the opposite is true – artists are rebelling against copy-controls that tar the entire industry with the same negative brush.  When copyright reform returns to the legislative agenda in Canada, parliamentarians should be sure to hear from more than just CRIA and the labels responsible for this debacle.  They need to hear from consumers who are in need of protection from DRM and from leading Canadian artists such as BL and Siberry, who are clearly charting another path that rejects DRM and anti-circumvention legislation.


  1. Stewart C. Russell says:

    Nettwerk had a bad experience with DRM
    The label initially released The Be Good Tanya’s second album (Chinatown). EMI decided to add ‘copy control’ to it, which didn’t work in many players. There’s a free exchange available —
    A Nettwerk executive assured me that they had lost so many sales that they wouldn’t try DRM again.

  2. Donald Jessop says:

    Yes, it is hurting the artists
    I was in the record store the other day looking for Christmas presents. I thought my daughters would like the debut release of Melissa O’Neil, the Canadian Idol winner. I picked it up, noticed that it had the Suncomm copy protection on it and immediately put it back.

    At a time when the record industry says that they are hurting, the recent Sony debacle has only strengthened my resolve to avoid/shun products that have DRM software embedded on them. I own my computer and I don’t want Sony or any other music label putting software on my machine that I don’t want.

    Sorry Melissa, but the dollars went to someone else instead.