DRM, Freedom, Life

02007-02-09 | Music | 23 comments

Regarding this entry, Curt comments:
I agree with items 2 and 3 (especially item 3!!) but I kinda support DRM. I think an artist should have the right to be compensated for each purchase of a piece of their art. Sure, it’s easy enough for the more technical-minded to convert a DRM file into an unprotected mp3 but why make it easy for them?

Had breakfast with Jon this morning and we discussed DRM among other things.
I asked, how does DRM compare to racial profiling? I mean, isn’t DRM assuming that a person buying music will trade it, give it away, and someone else will steal it?

I think we clearly have two choices:
1. We can circle the wagons, tie down everything, install security cameras everywhere, put DRM on all music (for it to be effective it would have to be on every CD as well) and assume that every other human is out to get us and to take away what is ours…
2. We can teach that a musician’s livelihood depends on income from music sales and concerts. Hm, what a lot of musicians seem to forget is that for thousands of years musicians made a living from concerts and teaching. Less than a hundred years ago the medium of recorded music created the recording artist – some of whom are unable to perform anymore…

It comes down to what kind of world you want to live in. Do you want to put most of the money into weapons and the military (clearly the current choice) or do you want to allocate more money to education? In the first case we end up with very powerful “smart” weapons and a relatively un-educated people, in the second case we have a smart public that can find ways to defend itself. Or to speak in musician’s terms, do you want to think up more and more powerful DRM schemes (which costs money also) or do you want to create a love for musical expression in the public that makes DRM unnecessary. Me, maybe I am a romantic, a dreamer and idealist, but I want to educate people and foster a fertile ground for the arts. If a kid can’t afford to buy my album and a friend can give him a non-DRM copy of my music, I am all for it.

Curt continues:
I can’t answer that question… personally, I haven’t reached a level of success with my music to a point where I could afford to allow people (or want people to have) free access to my compositions. Call it greed, perhaps? Or maybe the financial reward is my measurement of success? I think it would be much easier to “let go” once I had the freedoms in life that come with a certain level of finacial security. I know of a few artists that I think could reap HUGE financial rewards for their music and they actually give it away – or donate all proceeds to charity (GNOMUSY, for one).

Do you really believe that success or financial reward creates freedom or happiness? I was just as happy in Santa Fe in the late eighties, living in a tiny studio apartment, working in a store during the day and performing my guitar music at night. Sure, when radio stations and record companies started calling in the Summer of 1989, it was exciting, but I was also weary of it. I didn’t want to lose my freedom and happiness. Whenever you place happiness or freedom outside yourself, outside the here and now, by saying if I only had a real studio, if I only had a better guitar, if I only had a recording contract, a powerful manager… – you cannot reach it. Don’t you see that the only person who places your freedom, success and happiness out of your reach is you?

You know what, I think success came with Nouveau Flamenco exactly because after years of wanting success I stopped caring about that. I just wanted to play guitar and make music. I recorded NF in a shitty studio on a crappy guitar and I was happy doing it.

I hope you can stop placing success, freedom and financial security outside your self and can enjoy creating music. I shall look forward to hearing the results of that.


  1. llindaskaye

    Ottmar, i enjoye your forum and philosophy…what is happiness and success…i finde this to be a constant “challenge” in my life also…thankyou for the reminder…i don’t believe money is evil in and of itself…as withe anythinge i believe it is how it is used…happy valentine’s…alwayes amore y paz, llindaskaye e.p. *******

  2. Mixalis

    Nouveau Flamenco is what attracted me to your music on my lunch break one afternoon in the spring or summer of 1991. I have been a loyal listener since that time and have purchased many cd’s and fortunate to see three Tampa shows ( Tampa theatre was extra special) .

    Thanks for making the last fifteen years so enjoyable. I so look forward to the future. A future without any limitations or restrictions.

    Be well

  3. Adam Solomon

    Thank you for this post, the end especially.

  4. Steve

    This is one of the most insightful blog entries I have read in a long time.


  5. marijose

    What a great post. I’ve heard the argument that money buys choices, but those choices are external and materialistic. Fun times, new gadgets, not having to work as much, etc. can bring temporary pleasure and comfort, but they are not permanent and thus cannot bring long-term happiness. I think there is great liberation in not spending time wishing things were different, or more exciting, or that we were more financially secure. It’s human nature to have up & down moods, but the question is whether we come back to a place where we accept our condition as it is.

    I know people who have come from very modest means and now have multiple homes, fancy cars, take frequent vacations, etc. They are the same people they were but with the extra stuff. This Spanish proverb comes to mind: aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda…a monkey dressed in silk is still a monkey.

  6. ottmar

    marijose – I love that saying and will get much use out of it!

  7. vic

    I think you are right on and in this world wether its music or what ever you do it greate to just create and let go of the push or I have to make it hapen. Its somthing you said in one of your shows last year that has really stuck with me “Just Play” Thanks

  8. marijose

    Go right ahead, as far as I know it’s not DRM protected. :) Credit goes to the 18th century Spanish poet Tomás de Iriarte.

  9. Curt

    I feel it only fitting that I respond. I never said that I felt that financial success would create my happiness! I said that I felt it would provide certain freedoms… to me, personally. Meaning that if I had 100 of something I could most certainly give 1 or even 10 of them away without blinking an eye. But to be practical, much more than that could certainly affect my livelihood and would be bad business. And the ugly truth is that it is a business.

    And I think that is really what DRM is about – protecting the rights of the artist. Nothing more and nothing less. You mentioned that if a kid doesn’t have the money to buy your album so he gets a free copy from his friend. Let’s say that this happens again and again and ultimately end up with 20 copies out there with only one of them returning any compensation to you. How can this trend keep food on your table? To me, this is a violation of your rights. Your right to be compensated for your work.

    I take pride in the fact that I paid for each and every Ottmar album I have in my collection and I take pride in the fact that if a friend offers to make a copy of a CD for me that I refuse and buy the CD myself. I truly don’t see the negative effect of this. Perhaps my philosophy is the love for music you speak of that could make DRM unnecessary, but the sad truth is that there are more people that will take something for nothing than there are that will pay for it.

    Take this out of the artist domain and imagine a factory worker trying to take care of a family on what little salary he earns. Then one day he learns that he must work for a month without pay (for the sake of discussion this could be the equivalent of having 1000 CDs illegally copied). His boss still reaps the reward of the man’s work and the man suffers. I don’t see any positive effect from this.

    Having said all of THAT, I was almost saddened to read your last comment… “I hope you can stop placing success, freedom and financial security outside your self and can enjoy creating music.” This is almost an attack on my morals and had nothing to do with this discussion of DRM and is WAY off the mark. My passion for creating music and the pride I take in my work does not have anything to DO with an expectation of ever making a DIME on it. In fact, I don’t expect to. But if, by the grace of God, that people do take interest in my work it sure would be nice to make a living from that! Isn’t that what we all dream of – making a living from something that we simply LOVE to do?

    What a great topic!

  10. ottmar

    Well, Curt, I think we will just have to agree to disagree. I hear where you are coming from, but I just don’t see it the same way as you. I certainly thank you for buying the albums, and if you do meet someone who cannot afford them, feel free to gift one to them. : )

  11. rjoan

    your words ring true. just give it away. that requirement is in place no matter what happens. so i agree with ottmar. values, priorities, vision, mission, just be a good person and relax……. and don’t make so many problems or life will be just boiler plate………

    rjoan halifax

  12. Curt

    Truce? :)

    I want to see your side of things. And I know that in my current opinion I am in fact in the extreme minority – especially among musicians!

    I go study DRM evils a bit more now. And when I come back on the other side of the fence, I am not too proud to admit ignorance here!

  13. Jill

    In the beginning (back to cassette tapes) I always bought the artist’s collections and frowned on those for copying (stealing in my opinion). About two years ago something clicked. Music is simply to be shared. I love to expose my friends, my kids and all their friends to music they would very unlikely be exposed to. I get great joy from their joy of listening and sharing with their friends. I am grateful for this to be reciprocated.

    As a musician, of course I would like to sell the 1000 CD’s I ordered. (Mostly to get all these boxes out of here.) But I understand that the CD’s themselves will not bring me financial reward.

    The more ears reached…the more hearts touched.

  14. Carol

    Work ethic and integrity, Curt. I can see that is a whole lot of what you’re saying. What’s fair and what’s not. I wouldn’t ever download music or accept a pirated CD, and I guess I would be disappointed if I knew a friend did. If it’s legal, do it, if it’s immoral or illegal, don’t It’s hurting someone. Honesty reaches the whole of ones’s life doesn’t it!
    Am I on the wrong track here?

  15. Andrew

    It’s so hard to see clearly on this DRM issue. One one hand, I would be hurt if someone decided to copy my music instead of pay for it – one CD sale could buy me a meal. On the other hand, I would be almost flattered if someone liked my music so much they would copy it for a friend. Chances are, if I knew they liked it that much I would give them the CD myself.
    I’ve had bands send me recordings of thier own music to learn parts and couldn’t listen to it on my computer because of some DRM imposed on the track by thier computer – utter nonsense! This is not protecting the artist, it is hindering them!

    I wonder, though, about this…
    “I recorded NF in a shitty studio on a crappy guitar and I was happy doing it.”

    Not happy enough to continure in the same mode, though? Perhaps happy in terms of acceptance, but not so happy as to turn down the chance to upgrade conditions when possible? I feel happy in my little home studio, but I dream of being happy-ER somewhere else!

  16. Anna

    Pirating is illigal, everyone knows that.

    To DRM or NOT to DRM is upto the artist.

    I remember reading years ago that for example if CD costs $20, by the time everyone in the chain gets paid all the artist gets is $1.

  17. Curt

    But that writing could be in pencil. This is only an experiement.

    I continue to weigh both sides in my mind…

  18. Anna

    Curt, Steve Jobs suggested it, now EMI are thinking about it.

    If EMI take that road, then all the other major recording companies will follow.
    Ottmar, I might be wrong on this. My understanding is that the artists pays for the use of DRM and so does the recording company. If that is the case then the artist gets less from the sales of the CD or DVD.

  19. Shawn

    I’m always late to the party…but the DRM thing is a big deal for me as a music consumer.

    I’ve been on both sides of the law at times. My friends and I have been making mixes for each other for years, starting with party tapes back in the 80s. So, yeah, technically I’ve been breaking the law by copying songs and passing them along to people who haven’t paid for them. Maybe that means there are artists out there who were deprived of a bag of chips because they weren’t paid for one of their songs.

    On the other hand, it might also mean that artist ate a steak because three people heard that song, thought ‘wow’, and then bought the album.

    I can only speak from my own experience, so let me relate a number from my iPod. Since I bought Boris (my iPod) one year ago, I’ve downloaded 747 songs from the iTunes Music Store. Of those, 12 were free offerings. So, I bought 735 tracks in the last year from that one source. At least half of those were artists I already knew who came out with new albums, or had albums available that I hadn’t previously purchased. That still leaves a lot of new artist material.

    Take a couple of those artists, Jack Johnson and Talib Kweli, as examples. I first heard Johnson on a friend’s blog. She was a huge fan and had a song of his streaming and some links to a couple of his songs. They were great. I later found some concert recordings online and downloaded them – they were also great. It wasn’t until I had downloaded and listened to his stuff that I decided I really liked his music. So, I went back and bought three of his albums online.

    Kweli I first heard on a soundtrack. Then looked for some more of his stuff online and downloaded it. It was great and led me to buy one of his albums and one by a protege of his.

    These are purchases that would likely never have occurred without access to the music DRM free. In fact, I would go further and say they are purchases that would likely not occurred if the artists had been loudly in favor of DRM.

    Over the last couple of years I’ve grown weary of being treated like a criminal at every turn in modern society. Video cameras in the stores are telling me that merchants don’t trust me, the FBI warnings attached to every movie I watch tell me that Hollywood doesn’t trust me, and DRM attached to music I buy to support artists I like is telling me that those very artists don’t trust me. That’s disheartening.

    So, to bring my long-winded rantings to an end…let me just say that I have discovered a new solution in eMusic.com. They allow me to purchase music and receive it in DRM-free MP3 format. If that’s the wave of the future, I may be able to get excited about music again in a way that I haven’t for several years.

    Anyway, DRM or don’t DRM…ultimately it doesn’t solve the real problem of large-scale piracy, but it does sort of torque a lot of individual buyers. It’s really a decision of whether to get every dime from sales and risk having less sales, or loosening one’s grip on every dime in the hope that more sales will come of it.


  20. Anna

    Ottmar, this is published in todays paper (our biggest newspaper)


    “An announcement loosening the ties on DRM could come as early as today at the 3GSM mobile technology expo in Barcelona, the source said. The announcement may be linked to a report last Friday in The Wall Street Journal that EMI was talking to iTunes’ competitors about selling its entire digital music catalogue in MP3 format without copy protection.

    DRM is used by the music industry to control music piracy by preventing music files being copied. But the side effect is to tie music buyers to particular hardware or software.” this is a small extract from this story.”

  21. Bevardis



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