How not to think about music, Part XVII

by Mathew on January 24, 2008 · 22 comments

Sometimes I read something and am rendered speechless — and not in a good way. I had that reaction this morning to a staggeringly dense opinion piece in PC Magazine by Lance Ulanoff, about the “dangers” of DRM-free music, and how this is not only going to cause the ruination of the entire content industry as we know it, but flies in the face of centuries worth of economics. We even get a charming little vignette of Lance talking to his young daughter about bartering, etc.

Lance, who is allegedly editor-in-chief of the PC Magazine network, says the digital content industry is “on the road to ruin,” and that with each step towards removing DRM controls and offering music for free, the music business is “digging itself in deeper.” Lance must be looking at the digging from the opposite side, because to me it sure looks like they are digging themselves out rather than in. Not our Lance though. He says that the digital economy is on the verge of collapse.

As Mike Masnick notes over at Techdirt, the economic “arguments” that Lance puts forward (and I’m using that term very loosely) are completely out to lunch. A lack of DRM controls isn’t making music lose its value — the effects of digitization and the economics of abundance are, as marginal costs of production fall to zero, or close enough to make little difference. Putting DRM controls on music isn’t going to somehow cause value to reappear by magic. Value has moved elsewhere.


This isn’t really relevant, but I can’t help myself: Lance’s article also uses the word “staunch” to mean an attempt to stop the bleeding (metaphorically) in the music industry. The word is “stanch.” Staunch means dependable.

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