You've seen them on message boards, forums, blogs, IRC, and fucking MySpace, but a semi-respectable tech site interview is an unlikely place for an anti-DRM advocate. We've all read about the filthy hippies running Defective By Design, but those nerds didn't have anything to do with Pink Floyd or The Rolling Stones. Nor do they have a clear idea of what they're doing. So when The Register runs a Peter Jenner claiming that the major four music labels are "fucked," a few more people listen. That's good.
One of the primary reasons we're not seeing anything done about DRM is nobody knows about it. I mean yeah, you're here, but your mom and pa aren't coming by the site later to read about why DRM sucks my ass (although passing along the link is not discouraged). The Register isn't exactly Reader's Digest, but hopefully this opens a few more eyes to the dangers of this kind of control. There is no other industry I can think of that demands the consumer to give up so much freedom over the product. Can you imagine the outrage if every new couch was built to spontaneously combust if the company who built it went out of business? Or worse yet, what if Sony brand condoms infected the wearer with the bubonic plague just for a laugh. There would be riots.
Jenner speaks for those with a brain when he claims digital music pricing has been a scam where the consumer pays for manufacturing and distribution, when neither of those are done anymore. Ten years ago a 'single' required physical material and distribution by vehicle to get it to you. Now it's technically possible to finish the song in the studio and upload it to a server across the planet, without ever having to create packaging or pay for shipping. And you still pay one dollar a song. And the artist still only gets between 8 and 14 cents of that dollar, depending on their status with the label. If you're trying to support an up-and-coming act, you're currently better off burning a DRM-free copy of the album and mailing the artist a dollar. You're cutting out the greedy ass middle-man, and you don't have to worry about the CD infecting your computer with a virus.
The remainder of Jenner's interview is spent discussing his blanket-licensing model for countries to adopt, and it's a pretty sound idea. It's similar to the system we have here in Canada where we pay levies on blank media, but with Jenner's model there's no product involved, and everyone just pays a small monthly fee. This money is pooled and distributed according to artist market share, which will be tricky to figure out. The plan involves a lot less money for the labels, which partly backs his prediction of their doomed future. Another aspect of the plan (which I love) is to bring the musicians closer to the fans. By offering multiple recordings of hit songs, live cuts, and behind-the-scenes concert footage to fans, artists can tap those who would pay for such items. Everyone knows one person who owns everything The Radio-Head have ever sold, and this plan opens that level of fandom to all artists. I just hope it's not too late for K-Fed.