The New York Times just ran an article on the huge decline in CD sales, and the resulting trouble at the big music labels. This is nothing new; what’s amazing is how, with the exception of EMI, most of them continue to do nothing.
In the article, Jeff Leeds reported that some music executives are saying that dropping copy-restriction software, also known as digital-rights management, would stoke business at iTunes’ competitors and generate a surge in sales. Others predict it would have little impact, though — drum roll please — they add that the labels squandered years on failed attempts to restrict digital music instead of converting more fans into paying consumers.
“They were so slow to react, and let things get totally out of hand,” said Russ Crupnick, a senior entertainment industry analyst at NPD, in the article. “They just missed the boat.”
Few people remember them, but there were early online music stores aside from Apple. They were truly horrendous – you basically couldn’t do anything except listen to the music on the computer you bought it on, the selection was very thin, and you had to pay a monthly fee and buy tracks with some of them. By the time they started to get closer to Apple’s model, it was already too late. And it remains a crapshoot to buy tracks from other music stores and get them to play reliably on most MP3 players and cellphones. (Some combinations work well, but you need to do research first.)