After Sony decided to throw in the towel last week and put their music up on Amazon without DRM it seems like a lot of people have decided it might be a good idea to start thinking about what a world looks like where you sell things to people that aren’t placed under lock and key.
I’ve seen a few articles over the last week that are beginning to discuss the issue, but the single best thing I’ve read is this transcription of a speech that was given at a conference that’s given every year in Aspen by the CAA by Ian Rogers, the head of Yahoo! Music.
It’s insightful, forward thinking, and has more than a few good ideas. More than that, it’s designed to speak to a different audience than the converted army of open source junkies who usually read this stuff. It’s a cogent argument about why changing the model is going to be a good model for business going forward.
- There is more opportunity in leveraging the scale of the Web than trying to create scarcity. We’ve all been engaged in many attempts at creating scarcity in digital music and none of them have worked. Meanwhile, others have been leveraging the scale of the Web with great success. We should learn from this pattern and apply our energy appropriately.
- We will do this together by creating a loosely-coupled value chain including users as value creators. The value chain is not owned by a single entity (LimeWire, Apple, or Universal). There are many participants in a healthy ecosystem. Furthermore, users are no longer just consumers, they’re active participants adding value and any successful solution will leverage this user-contributed value.
- We need to work together to create the Media Web. Here I’ll step off into nerd-ness for a minute, but I’ll try to tie it to a concrete example so you see what it is I’m getting at clearly.
While the music industry may currently see itself as the greatest victim of the Internet it’s starting to be clear that their role as the canary in the coal mine may mean that they come out of this stronger and better suited for the next generation than other industries that are just starting to feel the sting.
And that success is already happening, although they don’t want to admit it. Look at how licensed music has invaded the video game market over the few years. Licensing popular songs is an integral part of movies, television, and even commercials more now than ever before. It may not be the same business it was, but it is something.
What’s most exciting about this presentation is that it argues that the industry should be in the lead for opening up standards, not dragging behind. And now that the panic is starting to subside maybe there’s some room for good ideas on how to push formats forward in a way that will allow media to become a more integrated part of the web experience.
Think back two years ago, the Web worked fine on your PC, your Mac, even your cell phone to some degree, but as soon as you wanted to watch a video you were faced with the “which proprietary technology owns your ass?” question. Quicktime? Real? Windows Media Player? What happened was “The Web” stopped and proprietary technologies took over. Flash has made this feel a little less painful but now the entire online video industry is in the hands of one technology company (Adobe), being delivered the features they see fit on their timeline? That’s never a good thing. And who is challenging their monopoly with a technology called Silverlight? Microsoft? Doh. This is not exactly a recipe for openness.
We need the same force that created The Web to create The Media Web. What was that force? Open standards solving universal user needs and enabling a level publishing platform. While this may seem outside of your job description, let me first give you a sense of the kind of standards I’m talking about, and then a specific example that will likely hit pretty close to home.
It’s well worth reading the whole thing, and it’s forcing me to go back and rethink some of the ideas I was planning on putting up here in the next few weeks. They’ll still get up here, they just may be a little different.