Time for a digital media reality check

Sandival over at CNET has written about the most recent digital music conference during which (in his words) “music executives lament the state of the industry.”  Kudos to Ted, who (hopefully) rattled some cages.  However, it rather obviously time for a serious reality check.  Perhaps we can review what the digital media “outsiders” have been screaming, while these “insiders” wailed and gnashed their teeth.

(1)    Music retail is slowly dying, and that fact is not going to change.  Inflation is now the single, most likely factor that could lead to music retail seeing revenues similar to before “the crash.”  So if you want, wait ten or fifteen years, and it will be like the year 2000 all over again.

(2)    The media consumer has changed, in both their portfolio of interests as well as expectations for those products/services that match those interests.  No amount of marketing, legal recourse, or sulking is going to change these facts.  You have no option other than matching these consumer interests and expectations.  Whining that you “deserve” better, or “should” be able to choose your business model is just that… whining.

(3)    DRM is a buzz killer for music, and may not be for film (yet).  The portability expectation built into consumers, combined with industry expectations for all sorts of different business models, cannot be appropriately matched by any DRM system, known or unknown (other than a closed one).  A copy-protected DVD does not also adapt to six business models.  Interoperable and multi-configurable DRM is a lie that has been sold to you by hucksters.  You paid for this lie in lost revenues.

(4) Opening up Fairplay will (most likely) have a negligible effect upon digital music retail.  If Apple opened up Failplay, at this point in time, its much more likely the market for portable players *might* open up a bit, bringing down margins and prices on music devices.  Margins in digital music retail already appear rather thin, held up only by creative schemes for amassing payments.  Consumers might go to more, different stores, but there would seem to be little real evidence that suggests they would buy noticeably more music.

(5) Music is uniquely advantaged in the modern marketplace.  Music fans are accustomed to sharing their passions with others.  We are surrounded by music, such that we can even recall our memories by way of this music.  Music can exist as both the object of our direct attention, as well as a subtle, aural wallpaper that provides context for our experience.

You all know where the new consumer can be found.  Meet them there, instead of spending all your energy convincing these consumers what they are doing is wrong, or “unmonetizable.”  Many of us may never again pay directly for music.  And yet we still could be paying for music.

You asked for a free market.  You got one.  Find the money.