Sony's little adventure into Rootkit installation may have even worse (for them, and possibly other labels) fallout: Second thoughts from the artists themselves. Van Zant's new album was ranked 882 on Amazon before the DRM scandal broke - now look at things:
Overnight, Get Right with the Man dropped to No. 1,392 on Amazon's music rankings. By Nov. 22 -- after the news made headlines and Sony was deep into damage control, pulling some 4.7 million copy-protected disks from the market -- Get Right with the Man was even further from Amazon's Top 40, plummeting to No. 25,802.
The Business Week article notes that most artists have been ok with DRM, as a way to prevent pirating. However, that kind of sales drop gets their attention - they are now seeing that the potential negatives are, in fact, pretty big. At the very least, I expect to see artists doing some due diligence with the labels over this kind of thing. More evidence of that:
"We're really upset about this," says Patrick Jordan, director of marketing for Red Light Management, which represents Trey Anastasio, former front man to jam band Phish. Anastasio's latest solo album, Shine, was released Nov. 1, just as news of Sony's rootkit was worming its way onto Internet blogs and listservs. "I'm expecting a decrease in sales," Jordan adds.
Indeed, Shine debuted with 15,000 sales its first week. But by week two, when the rootkit fiasco was in full swing, sales had plummeted to 7,000. Weekly numbers will be released Nov. 23, and Jordan is bracing for the worst. "It's been damaging, and certainly we're going to discuss that with the label," he says.
Another sign of the labels - like Sony - being way behind the curve - their failure to work with Apple:
As Sony BMG and other labels release more CDs with tracks that can't be dragged to iPods, artists are hearing from outraged fans. In response, some artists -- including Tim Foreman, guitarist for Switchfoot, whose Nothing Is Sound release was part of the Sony recall -- used a fan site to post instructions for disabling Sony content protections that prevent consumers from dragging tunes to their iPods.
It's one thing for fans to try and find a way around DRM schemes - when the artists start pointing out how to do it, it's a pretty clear sign of a disconnect.
The Sony debacle is, I think, simply the straw that broke the camel's back. The disconnect between artists, labels, and fans has been growing for a long time now - this event simply opened the floodgates and got people talking about that disconnect.