The entertainment industry has been slow to embrace the internet, and it’s fair to say that it still hasn’t got its head around a business model that enables consumers to purchase music and films at a reasonable price, online, and without heavy-handed restrictions on use.
itunes was (is) only successful because it’s easy to use. For people with one computer, one iphone or ipod, and an itunes account, it’s the easiest way in the world to purchase music and film downloads online. However, if you have more than one computer, and/or more than one playback device, the DRM imposed upon itunes downloads restricts your use and enjoyment of your purchase measurably. The alternatives are to use Amazon, play.com, or another DRM-free download outlet, or simply use a P2P “illegal” download service. Frequently, due to the technology behind P2P / torrent downloads, it’s also the quickest way to get hold of digital media. This is patently absurd. I can think of no other product where the “free” version is easier to get hold of and easier to use than any paid-for option.
Note: I’m not endorsing illegal downloading, simply stating that if it’s as easy, or easier, than paid-for downloads, people are going to do it. Make paid-for downloads more attractive by removing DRM, introducing an easy, more universal, very fast method of purchase and download, and look at other ways of adding value (bonus content, concert tickets, graphics and other media), and people will pay for them.
The music and film industry simply don’t understand the new business models, or are not willing to change their own. Instead, they foist anti-piracy adverts onto rental and purchased DVDs (Why?! I’ve just paid for it after all.), they add DRM to their own products, making them more difficult to use (the king of “anti-features”), they hunt down file-sharers and threaten them with court cases, and they insist on sticking by their mantra that one illegal download equals one lost sale (if you were let loose in a sweet shop and told it was all free, you’d grab more than if you were paying for the stuff, right?).
Of course, it’s not all bad. The people that are using P2P and torrent technology to acquire digital media today are the business and entertainment industry executives of the future, and they will understand this technology and these business models better than anyone in the industry at the moment. Maybe we’ll soon see a fresh wave of new businesses, new record labels, new legal download outlets, and an industry that sees its customers as valued clients, rather than a thorn in its side.