Monday, May 16, 2005


Whenever technology presents the major labels with an attempt to make some quick cash, their reaction is always the same: a long series of meetings to decide how they can ensure they get enough DRM into the mix to ensure they can make supernormal profits, by which time it's too late, too late. The latest initiative crushed by them is the often-touted CD burning booth: offering the chance to activate the whole back catalogue and snare people who have neither the time nor the desire to go online and buy music from the internet stores. Only the big labels are putting such restrictions on the music that it's proving difficult to see where it could make a profit (the fact the costs quoted for putting in a booth - up to USD35,000 for what is basically a PC with a CD burner - doesn't help):

As it turns out, each major label is licensing music for kiosks with its own set of strings attached.

For example, Universal Music Group wants kiosks to use only special blank CDs sold by General Electric that, depending on who you ask, cost two to five times as much as normal blank CDs.

And EMI Music wants the cover art printed on paper to be installed as the front sleeve of the jewelbox. Another major is said to have limitations on when and how much music can be made available for in-store burning.

"Each content company has its own set of rules, which when explained makes sense. But when you put them all together, it's a mess" -- and an expensive one, Mike Dreese says. The CEO of Brighton, Mass.-based Newbury Comics is a member of the CD-burning task force of the National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers.

The companies could be flogging hundreds of thousands of copies of albums it could never persuade a store to stock right now. Not megabucks, but a tidy profit. Once again, though, they're choosing to piss away opportunity.

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