updated 01:15 pm EST, Wed November 21, 2007
UK Retailers Against DRM
The insistence by major music labels on digital rights management (DRM) for online stores is having a damaging ripple effect on retail music shops as well, says the head of Britain's Entertainment Retailers Association, Kim Bayley. The executive notes that while physical stores still see high profile releases and seasonal increases, the hesitation by buyers leery of either restricted direct downloads or higher-priced CDs is neutering the effect. The holiday rush is coming later this year while even a record-setting album this month has failed to offset an 11 percent drop in CD sales this year, official UK charts say.
The ERA director refers to an unnamed study as evidence that customers are well aware of DRM and that four out of five will opt for an unguarded version of the same song whenever given the chance. Many of these potential customers turn to bootleg copies from peer-to-peer services when anxious about the formats of protected stores. This has "stifled" the growth of digital music sales and failed to make legal online music sales an alternative to piracy, Bayley says.
Music labels are still too cautious, she adds. While labels like EMI and Universal have offered some or all of their catalogs in unprotected formats, most still regard non-DRM songs as an experiment and show "resistance" to selling files in standard AAC or MP3 formats despite evidence that past practices have discouraged buyers. Only 150 million songs have been sold online in the UK over the past three years, roughly equating to a single song purchased per resident each year. To Bayley, this proves that listeners are largely unwilling to transfer their old CD buying habits to the Internet as long as copy protection is a burden.
"At the moment, [copy protection] just puts consumers off," she says.