DRM and the new Springsteen

posted by Mike on June 20th, 2006

Well, I wish I was Mr Gates
(Pay me my money down)
They’d haul my money in in crates
(Pay me my money down)

So it broke elsewhere awhile ago, and on BoingBoing today, that Bruce Springsteen’s new Pete Seeger tribute album has some sort of nasty digital restrictions management on it, and that the DRM kept people from listening to it on computers, some CD players, and ripping it to iPods.

I’ve been listening to it on two Windows machines, my housemate’s CD player, my iPod, and, as I write this, under Ubuntu, without any trouble. So the story struck me as bogus.

But Amazon customers, among others, have been having trouble playing it on their devices, so I took a closer look at my disc.

This is not a copy I bought in a store—it’s a promo disc I snagged a couple weeks ago. And it isn’t a CD on one side and DVD on the other, like the ones in stores, but CD-only. And it presumably follows the standard CD format, as it has the “Compact Disc Digital Audio” logo on it.

So I guess I should treasure this disc. This free, promotional, audio-only copy provides someone like me with much more value than a store-bought, ultra-DRMed, maybe-it’ll-play-maybe-it-won’t “Dual Disc” would.

If I were going to pick up a copy as a present, I’d check the used bins at my local record store for a promo version, rather than order the real thing and risk disppointing my friend. Pretty weird.

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10 Comments Leave a comment.

  1. On June 20, 2006 at 18:59 Adam (Southern California) said:

    You’re saying you want to be able to play a CD you bought on your computer? You’re stealing music!

  2. On June 20, 2006 at 19:18 Mike (Worcester) said:

    I can accept that someone wants to sell me a CD that has no value.

    I’m just surprised that the *only* version of this Springsteen album that has value to me—that I can play on my devices—is not the version I can buy, but the version I can get for free!

  3. On June 20, 2006 at 20:03 Adam (Southern California) said:

    It is pretty nuts, isn’t it?

    I have an LP from the early ’80s whose inner sleeve is some record-company graphic showing an audiocassette with crossbones (mocking the skull & crossbones) and the warning:

    HOME TAPING IS KILLING MUSIC

    AND IT’S ILLEGAL

    Of course, both statements were demonstrably false.

  4. On June 20, 2006 at 21:40 Mike (Worcester) said:

    Have you seen Downhill Battle’s t-shirt?

    “Home Taping Is Killing The Music Industry: And It’s Fun”

  5. On June 22, 2006 at 08:42 Matthew Brown said:

    After the revolution (e.g. when music production and distribution is completely freed of financial considerations)you won’t want to buy Springsteen’s recordings anyway. Has any of you ever read Adam Smith? Springsteen — and all the people who make his recordings possible — are TRYING TO MAKE A LIVING. Thus the DRM encoding. If you don’t like it, do what I do and buy your music from a source that doesn’t feature music with DRM encoding, like emusic.com. Granted, they don’t feature Springsteen’s work, but WHY WOULD I WANT TO SUPPORT SOMEONE WHO COLLABORATES WITH THE MAN, ANYWAY?

  6. On June 22, 2006 at 12:02 Adam (Southern California) said:

    I don’t make my purchases in a vacuum, but I do try to make my music choices based on whether or not I like the music, not whether or not I admire the artist’s political and personal stances. That’s not to say I’m going to rush out and buy a Prussian Blue album or anything, but trying to make a living as a musician involves dealing with all sorts of sleazy characters. I might prefer that they stick to the highest ethical standards, but I’d rather just buy albums I like than be forced to become a moral clearinghouse for musicians.

    That said, I’ve never been a fan of Springsteen’s music, but I know Benedetti has liked him for years.

  7. On June 22, 2006 at 12:47 Matt Brown said:

    Well, my comment was meant to be taken as irony. There will be no “after the revolution” IMHO. OF COURSE the music business is run for profit; therefore it draws its share of sleazebags (the drugs and the sex might help in that regard, too). My point made more directly: If you download music (or other copyrighted material) to your computer without paying for it, then you are helping to remove the motivation for most of the people who are putting stuff out in the first place. If something is open-source, fine; but most music on the market is distributed for profit. If you want free music, fine. I suggest learning to play an instrument.

  8. On June 22, 2006 at 13:16 Mike (Worcester) said:

    Matt: Your point is very valid. I hope I don’t sound like I want Springsteen to give away his music. What I want is for Springsteen to sell me his music in a format I can listen to. I listen to new music on computers and an mp3 player. It doesn’t seem like Springsteen will sell me a copy of the new album that I can listen to–though his label is willing to give me a usable promo copy for free!

    Not sure if Springsteen is gaining much by using harsh DRM here. People pirating music for money aren’t discouraged by such half-assed measures. I don’t use file-sharing networks much, so maybe the DRM has kept the new album off them. Somehow I doubt it.

    I’d buy a copy of this album for my little brother for his birthday, except it’s a coin toss whether the non-standard, DRMed commercial version will play on a given player.

  9. On June 22, 2006 at 17:06 Adam (Southern California) said:

    Matt – sorry for not recognizing the sarcasm.

    Mike – I think you hit the nail on the head there… serious music piraters aren’t stopped by little things like DRM; such things exist only to make life difficult for the casual music fan. It seems idiotic that it took so much time and so much legal wrangling to even get to the point where a halfway-reasonable legal music-downloading site like iTunes even existed. Whatever happened to trying to make money by giving people what they want, rather than trying to keep your industry afloat by harassing and thwarting your customer base?

  10. On July 11, 2006 at 07:59 matthew brown said:

    Try e-music.com — they sell music without DRM by subscription. I like it — and they gave me a free 512 MB nano player for signing up!

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