Adam Dada: DRM-free and open music models make more sense for small bands

In the discussion around a recent Slashdot posting, serial entrepreneur Adam Dada makes an interesting case about why small bands are better off adopting open music models,


“As a very very small music producer (basically, I give bands money to record or tour, and I hope to recoup some of that investment in the future), I work very hard to get the bands I finance to repudiate not just DRM but copyright in general. Small bands have no real reason for either — recording music is just a marketing process to try to get people to come to your shows. Sure, without copyright, some big producer might steal your lyrics and music and have the newest pop boy band re-record it, but this too would just be a great marketing tactic — the Internet would jump all over it.

Small bands need to give their recorded music away freely online in order to get more people to come to their shows. My brother’s band Maps & Atlases [] just went on a 7 day tour to the East Coast and ended up in a tiny university town called East Stroudsburg, PA. Instead of showing up to no crowd, the venue was packed — a rarity for the town and venue. Why did this happen? Maps & Atlases released their EP for free online. They sold out of their first EP (2000 copies) during their 2006 tour, and they’re coming up fast on selling out their second pressing, even though the music is easily downloaded online. Why do fans pay for albums? They get face time with the band, they get autographs, and they know that buying the merch direct will keep the band writing and touring.

DRM is terrible for any band but the absolute largest, and even for them it is bad because the new fan base wants to have nothing to do with it. I look at it this way: DRM for the adult contemporary crowd just makes life harder for them, DRM for the teen crowd is easily bypassed. But it isn’t just DRM that makes things difficult, it is also the fact that copyright really throws fan distribution a curve — even the fans who openly distribute the music know it is “piracy” but they feel they’re helping the band.

I look at the Internet as one big radio station waiting to be harnessed by smaller musicians all over the world. Write music with one purpose: to attract fans to your live shows where you can make your income by continuing to work, rather than hoping to write one hit once and earn royalties for the rest of your life. Who here works a regular job and wishes that they could work a few months in exchange for years of income? Life doesn’t work that way — unless you work with the distribution cartels that are quickly watching their futures slip through their fingers. If you’re in a band, tell your fans to copy your music for their friends in hopes that those friends will become the new fans. Viral marketing is key to making a solid income in live music.”

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