HITS Daily Double
“Can we just shoot DRM once and for all?”
—-Dave Ulmer, Motorola


Our Man in S.F. Mark Pearson Summarizes the Doings
Digital NARM kicked off today with a seminar on “The Digital Landscape” moderated by L.A. TimesJon Healy. The panel consisted of Amazon’s Bill Carr, eMusic’s David Pakman, Napster’s Brad Duea, IODA’s Kevin Arnold, IrisBryn Boughton and Orchard’s Greg Scholl.

The subjects include a discussion of subscription models and the newer free ad-based sites, but quickly moved to pricing. Pakman offered that music is under attack from other entertainment product that are also falling in price, with models like imeem giving content away for free. Scholl added that the 99-cent model is too high and wanted his distributed product to be at a lower rate, “though we are going to stay away from selling it for nothing.”

With talking about price in these kinds of panels against federal law, it didn’t take long before a NARM lawyer took the stage to inform the audience “no on here is suggesting what the price points for the industry should be. They are talking about ‘value’ to the customer.” Nice save.

Napster’s Duea argued in favor of the subscription model and disagreed with Healy that it cannibalized sales. “The consumer just wants things to be easier,” he said. Carr concurred, commenting: “Consumers want to be in control. If we don’t make it easy, they’ll just turn us off.” Talking of the free models, IODA’s Arnold allowed that these are “interesting and daunting times, but it’s too early tell if the ad-based model will work.”

The “long tail” also got bashed, with Duea saying that it was “something that sold a lot of books” but hasn’t yet turned into any kind of profit center. Duea also stated the digital mantra at these forums: “Getting rid of DRM is of utmost importance.” Someone else chimed in under their breath: “I can’t believe that we’re still having this discussion.” Pakman put it more succinctly, offering, for an emerging artist, “obscurity is more threatening than piracy.”

"The Mobile Movement" was the subject of the next seminar, hosted by Sony BMG’s Adam Mirabella. The panel included Napster’s Matt Edel, eMusic’s Rob Wetstone, Nokia’s Trevor Madigan, Motorola’s Dave Ulmer and 9 Squared/Zed’s Ted Suh.

Though things have advanced over the last year, it’s apparent that getting mobile up and running stateside is still in its infancy. Ulmer stated the obvious by adding: “Ringtones don’t mean phone companies are in the music business,” and instead of having phones that also have some MP3 capabilities, we need to make MP3 players that are also phones.

Suh, the largest supplier of ringtones, mastertones, etc., in America made it clear that he had to expand his offerings. Ringtone sales are flat, and the industry is going to have to place their bets some other places.

Adell said that an early foray into the mobile business with AT&T was encouraging. “They only provided it on one of their phones, but it was still incredibly successful.” Adding, that in a very short time they will be rolling it out to most of their customers on their existing phones. “They will just wake up in about four weeks and instantly have access.” He also talked about mobile biz not being a long tail model. Instead he believes it’s almost completely hit-driven.

Ultimately, the current clumsy interfaces will have to be solved with a consensus believing that whoever is first to make their browser easier to use will win the day. Ulmer also asked the obvious and pervasive question: “Can we just shoot DRM once and for all?”