Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Howard Stringer channels ol' blue eyes

Yes, the rumors were correct: Sony BMG is going DRM free. Sorta.

Sony CEO Howard Stringer has decided to address two crucial industry trends - objections by consumers to DRM and fragmented competition to iTunes — by creating its own distribution system (for a fraction of its catalog) that sells phone cards for songs — through stores, not online. And only in North America, not Europe or Japan. Not surprisingly, the reaction ranges from incredulity to outright ridicule.

Some might say this is just the ongoing arrogance of a proprietary company past its prime. (OK, who would say that?) Memory Stick sorta worked, and Blu-Ray might too (at enormous costs). But the Sony’s solo DRM strategy failed and the MP3 players are heading that way — in the US, they can’t even match the Zune sales.

It seems to me that Stringer is channeling the late great Columbia (now Sony) recording artist, Frank Sinatra:†

Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.
Sinatra lasted almost 30 years after “My Way”. Stringer may keep his health for another 30 years, but at this rate he’ll be lucky to have his job three years from now.

† Yes I looked it up, and by 1969 Sinatra had jumped from Columbia and created his own label. The only other Columbia artist who came to mind was Bob Zimmerman, and none of his lyrics seemed to fit.

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