Interesting Canadian Study: Removing Digital Rights Management Increases Sales by 10 Percent

I’ll be honest.  Like most people, I did some file-sharing in the Napster days. But at soon as proper legal downloads came along, I quit.  With legal alternatives being easy to obtain and fairly priced, I haven’t bothered with anything illegal is well over a decade.  

I was annoyed with digital rights management (DRM), though.  I still have some tracks in my iTunes library that I can’t fully use because they seem to be forever locked to any kind of sharing.  (Yes, yes, I know there are plenty of ways around this, but I just can’t be arsed for most of them.)

Preventing the sharing of downloads was precisely why DRM was added to all music; it was the sop given to the music industry. “If we make tracks available digitally,” the industry said,”we have to make sure that copies won’t flood the Interwebs, destroying sales! We must control piracy!”

It seemed like a sensible idea–at the time.  Eventually, though iTunes and everyone else removed DRM from their files.  And a funny thing happened.  Sales went up. More people got into digital music by buying tracks.  The market for digital expanded and piracy began to ebb.  It’s been a slow process, but piracy is dropping fast.

TorrentFreak looks at some new research conducted by Laurina Zhang at the Unversity of Toronto.

DRM was once praised as the ultimate tool to prevent music piracy, but new research shows that the opposite is true. Comparing album sales of four major labels before and after the removal of DRM reveals that digital music revenue increases by 10% when restrictions are removed.

The effect goes up to 30% for long tail content, while top-selling albums show no significant jump. The findings suggest that dropping technical restrictions can benefit both artists and the major labels.

Interesting, no?  Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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