Should The Music Industry Be Saved?

Apr 2nd, 2008 | By | Category: General

BusinessWeek’s Stephen Wildstrom is asking “Can Doug Merrill Save Music?”

Merrill is leaving a cushy CIO job at Google to be the President of Digital Business at EMI, one of the biggest music companies in the world.

BusinessWeek wonders:

Could the surprising departure of Google Chief Information Officer Douglas Merrill be the salvation of the music industry?

Merrill was hardly your typical corporate CIO. He seemed far more interested in the big philosophical issues of technology than the typical CIO concerns of data centers and network security. (Staci D. Kramer has a good interview with Merrill on

My hope is that Merrill will bring his quirky thinking to an industry that seems hopelessly mired in the work of escaping from its dead past. EMI has been the smallest and most desperate of the major players in a desperate industry and has been more willing to experiment with ideas like DRM-free downloads ahead of its stodgier competitors. But this is an industry that has to create a new business model almost from scratch. Maybe a very smart outsider with a wide-ranging and unconventional mind is just the person to do it.

But what is worth saving?

  • Is it worth saving the confusing morass legal rights that limit what you can do with music?
  • Is it worth saving copy protection?
  • Is it worth saving copyrights that extend past your lifetime?
  • Is it worth protecting an industry that focuses on relentlessly pushing the lowest common denominator in music at the expense of other music?
  • Is it worth saving never-ending lawsuits against file sharers?

The Internet offers music fans and musicians more ways to connect than ever in history. The cost of reproducing and distributing music has disappeared.

For many musicians, the old music industry just gets in the way.

The only way the old music industry knows how to make money with music is by limiting what you can do with it.

In this day and age, is that something worth saving?

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