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Paul McCartney Releases Album As DRM-Free Download 292

Medieval Cow writes "Sir Paul McCartney has a side project called The Fireman and he's just released their new album, Electric Arguments, as a digital download. Why this is of interest to this community is that he released it 100% DRM-free. You can purchase just the digital files, or if you purchase a physical CD or vinyl copy, you are also given access to the digital download. Not only that, but the download is available in 320-kbps MP3, Apple Lossless, or even FLAC format. If you're interested in trying before you buy, you can listen to the entire album in a Flash player on the main page of the site. It's so nice to see a big musician who gets it. Bravo, Sir Paul!"
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Paul McCartney Releases Album As DRM-Free Download

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  • by NinthAgendaDotCom ( 1401899 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @04:19AM (#26056833) Homepage
    ...usually like to release DRM-free, or even free, period (Radiohead, NIN. etc.). With certain exceptions *cough*Metallica*cough*.
    • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <> on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @04:22AM (#26056843) Homepage Journal

      Paul McCartney was one of the biggest proponents of that attempt to get retroactive copyright extension of sound recordings a few years back. Maybe he's changed his attitude towards copyright since then.. or maybe he's just interested in making a buck (or a bob) any way he can.

      • by JavaRob ( 28971 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @05:09AM (#26057075) Homepage Journal

        Paul McCartney was one of the biggest proponents of that attempt to get retroactive copyright extension of sound recordings a few years back. Maybe he's changed his attitude towards copyright since then.. or maybe he's just interested in making a buck (or a bob) any way he can.

        Yeah, I don't think he's doing it because he's suddenly anti-copyright.

        This is a particularly good time in the history of the recording industry to be one of the "good guys" who drops the DRM and gets press for doing it.

        Notice the huge free ad he just got on Slashdot?

        And think about it -- if you're choosing between paying for a Metallica vs. paying for this one, what goes through your head?
        * I hate that @#$%in' DRM...
        * Metallica! Those DRM-loving pricks. @#$% 'em, I'm just getting this one off the internets.
        * McCartney! He removed the DRM... Maybe I shouldn't rip him off.

        It's a marketing experiment. There'll probably be more freeloaders, since the people who *wanted* to get their music for free but couldn't figure it out will have an easier time of it. But if sales are boosted enough by the good press and goodwill, the experiment will have succeeded.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by g253 ( 855070 )
          You can listen to the last Metallica album in whole, on their website ( They also sell all their live shows as drm-free mp3...
        • >>>There'll probably be more freeloaders..... but if sales are boosted enough by the good press and goodwill, the experiment will have succeeded.

          Yes that's the flaw with this "try before you buy" model:

          (1) Under the old paradigm I had to buy the CD to discover I didn't like it. So record company gets + $12.
          (2) Under the new paradigm the record company has a loss of 0.1 cent (approximate cost of bandwidth I used). 0.1 cent may not sound like much but when multiplied by a few million non-purchasing

        • After all, most slashdotters are not anti-copyright. The industry position on DRM is based on confusing DRM with copyright and (ironically) compensating musicians.

          Acknowledging a sizable die hard "information wants to be free" contingent, I think the consensus position here is that artists should be able to make money with copyrighted but DRM free music, priced reasonably, and packaged for convenient purchase and use. True, that means the only the most efficient distributors make money, which is bad for so

    • by Spliffster ( 755587 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @07:14AM (#26057821) Homepage Journal

      Yesterday I have seen the first TV advert on German TV which said (in german obviously) somthing like: " pure MP3, no digital restrictions".

      AFAICT DRM was a topic for gamers but not the average music customer. The DRM topic has hit the mainstream Media now.


    • I think with the wide proliferation of portable music players since 2001, there's a big market for portable music files anyway. I think every musician is starting to realize that if they want to capture this market they have to find a way to make it easier to copy music to these portable music players.

      Mind you, I'd like to see everyone on the commercial side gravitate towards using AAC-encoded files, since they tend to sound better than MP3-encoded files and the fact that most generation Apple iPods support

  • I'm impressed that he lets you try the album before you buy it, and that it's in flash. Of course, nobody would ever download the file and convert it to an mpeg because that wouldn't be honest.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JavaRob ( 28971 )

      I'm impressed that he lets you try the album before you buy it, and that it's in flash. Of course, nobody would ever download the file and convert it to an mpeg because that wouldn't be honest.

      Meh, some obviously will. But what's the quality on that MP3? And of course the obvious realization: you can bet a lot of people in the music industry watch these experiments very carefully.

      If more people just find a way to get the album without paying for it (because that's obviously easier without the DRM... though still not completely trivial for the average fan) ...then they will be forced back into DRM-based approaches.

      It's a money experiment. Dunno how they'll measure exactly... I suppose they can

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by maxume ( 22995 )

        The audio is a 128 kb/s mp3 audio stream packed inside of a flash video file.

        Mplayer will demux the stream and dump the audio to a file with no loss in quality (I imagine that most semi-functional video software will do this).

        So it isn't good enough for someone who is fussy, but it is plenty good enough for your typical music fan (who is going to be playing it back on $2 headphones, or their laptop or cellphone).

        • by Yvan256 ( 722131 )

          People listen to music on $2 headphones? What a bunch of morons. I paid around three times that for mine!

    • by g253 ( 855070 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @06:52AM (#26057629) Homepage
      When they released Death Magnetic, they put a flash player on their website so you can listen to the whole album to see if it's worth buying. You can still listen to it now : []

      I was very surprised at the time that nobody seemed to give a flying fuck, I thought it was a very interesting move, especially coming from Metallica... It was not even mentioned in online reviews ffs! I hardly saw any mention of that anywhere, and had to add it myself to the Wikipedia page (it was deleted instead of being expanded, natch).
      Really, I've no idea why, but nobody cared. At all. (Not even fans, before you say noone cares about Metallica period)

      This album sells extremely well, btw.
  • Already on mininova (Score:2, Informative)

    by Smuttley ( 126014 )

    In fact it's been there since the 20th November.

  • by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @04:30AM (#26056893) Homepage

    One point to make though is that Paul McCartney is the sort of guy who can afford to go DRM free, if this album is ripped, lobbed on bit-torrent and limewire then Macca is unlikely to be out on the streets through lost revenue. Its great that he has done it but the _fear_ of being ripped off is going to be less for one of the biggest selling artists of all time than it would be for the average band.

    Kudos indeed, but this isn't just a random artist choosing DRM this is the bloke from the Beatles who co-wrote the first hit for the Rolling Stones and the Frog Chorus.

    • by MoellerPlesset2 ( 1419023 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @04:38AM (#26056941)
      Yes, but McCartney is also an unusual artist by virtue of the fact that he owns the rights to a vast number of songs (something like 3,000) which he didn't write himself. Among others, Buddy Holly's back-catalog. So, seeing it from the viewpoint of a rather large rights-holder releasing songs DRM-free, the shoe is on the other foot.
    • by JavaRob ( 28971 )

      ...if this album is ripped, lobbed on bit-torrent and limewire then Macca is unlikely to be out on the streets through lost revenue.

      It's another test, in the eyes of the music industry & other artists. Naturally they're all watching to see how this goes.

      And obviously everyone knows he's filthy rich, and doesn't need their money... so you won't have people buying the album (vs. snagging elsewhere for free) simply because they feel he needs the money. That could be a factor for less well-known artists.

      So, yeah, let's see how the test goes. For all the people who argue that *this* is the more profitable way to release an album -- t

      • I honestly can't see how DRM has any material effect on album profit either way, because:

        1) DRM is absolutely no barrier to it hitting P2P within seconds of its release.
        2) For every raving Freeeeeeeeeeeedom loving nerd who withholds their money in outraged pique, there's ten thousand purchasing goobers who couldn't even spell DRM if you gifted them the D and R and hummed "Mmmmm" at them.

        There may be an effect on overall earnings, in that giving it away might build goodwill for concert and moichandising

    • by LS ( 57954 )

      You make a good point, and it's all about risk. Anyone who is wealthy can easily release music without DRM, but so do many very small unknown bands. The ones who would be surprising to see release DRM are the ones in the middle - on the verge of success or moderately popular. They may not get a lot of revenue but are somewhat comfortable. If a middle of the road band (monetarily) starts releasing DRM-free music, that would be news.


    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by codeButcher ( 223668 )

      Janis Ian [] claimed quite the opposite in an article [] from all the way back in 2002: It's the "biggest selling artists", if anyone, who are to be concerned about sharing - the "average" band/artist hardly receives money from their label but gets a lot more exposure (and thus income) from shared music.

      Then again, that is more-or-less also the argument behind the existence of the Baen Free Library [] in the first place, where this article is hosted. Go check it out if you like SF.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @04:31AM (#26056905)

    Let's count the number of posts that occur before the first complaint about "no ogg vorbis".

    • by Shikaku ( 1129753 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @04:42AM (#26056971)

      That would be 4.

    • Problem is, Ogg Vorbis is not a format you can play on the familiar brands of portable music players out there (Apple, Creative, Microsoft, Samsung and Sony). You could modify a player to do it, but that's something the vast majority of users are not wanting to do.

      I do think we will start seeing a movement towards more AAC-encoded files, given 1) Apple owns the majority share of portable music player usage and sales and 2) most of the newer non-Apple players are now starting to support non-DRM'd AAC-encoded

      • I play Ogg Vorbis on my Samsung all the time thanks to RockBox []. Why let the crappy software your music player comes with determine what you can or cannot do?

        And as for complaining about not having Ogg: if you cannot convert from FLAC to Ogg, you should go straight to Nerd Jail, do not pass GOTO, do not collect 200 zorkmids.

        • I play Ogg Vorbis on my Samsung all the time thanks to RockBox [].

          While that sounds like a good idea I'm not sure if most end users want to upgrade their firmware to do this--it's potentially dangerous and could result in a non-functional player if you don't upgrade properly. :-(

          Remember, we want to keep things as simple as possible, and doing third-party upgrades can sometimes cause more problems than necessary.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by GRW ( 63655 )
        My Cowon iAudio 7 plays Ogg Vorbis and FLAC just fine.
  • How righteous of him. Surely next album to be released is Abbey Road.

    Or not. Because he doesn't own the rights -Mike probably does. Or because even since 1969 it still is a cash cow.
  • No news here (Score:2, Interesting)

    And Radiohead did it a year ago. If anything, it's disappointed it hasn't caught on than anything else.
  • by karstux ( 681641 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @04:52AM (#26057003) Homepage

    Anyone know good sources of legal free downloadable music? There's a lot of it out there, but sometimes hard to find. Here's what I've stumbled upon recently.

    • by RDW ( 41497 )

      CASH music has a nice setup. Creative Commons music (complete tracks, and some mix stems to play with), with open source site code: []

      Mostly of interest to me for solo stuff by Kristin Hersh (of Throwing Muses), but there are now half a dozen other artists to check out.

    • Overclocked Remix [] for all your videogame remix needs.

      Triple J archives [], and new music [] for mp3 downloads, plus plenty more streaming goodness available on the site.

  • Finally! (Score:2, Funny)

    by tryfan ( 235825 )

    A McCartney album that's actually worth the money!

  • Perhaps FCC Commissioner Taylor Tate [] will make it her personal project to ban his DRM-free album as unfair competition?

  • Liquid Sound Design (Score:2, Informative)

    by six025 ( 714064 )

    This is good news, even if it's another major artist, rather than the whole record industry!

    The producer that is the other half of the project - Martin Glover a.k.a. Youth is well known in music production circles. []

    His side projects Dragonfly Records and Liquid Sound Design lean towards the more psychedelic aspects of trance and dub. The liquid dub styles promoted through Liquid Sound Design in particular are releases that are well worth a listen and feature some re

  • he didn't use flash for the preview... It's a defacto DRM for those who don't have the plugin (yes there still are!) :-( Appart this it's a nice move, regardless if I ever buy it :-)
    • by mmu_man ( 107529 )
      Seems the video clips on the website are also in flash :-(
    • Well, seeing as you can get the flash plugin for Windows, Mac and Linux really it's not all that bad, there will be very few who cannot access it.

  • I vaguely remember that he was one to the people consistently pushing for extensions to copyright length here in the UK.

    Note how here in the UK copyright is now Life + 70 years ...

    In my opinion, his choice for DRM free formats is a natural followup to the same considerations that lead Recording Companies to go ahead and support the new Amazon music store which sells DRM free music in MP3 format: they were scared shitless that Apple was becoming the Microsoft of the Digital Music Distribution world and thus

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by pimpimpim ( 811140 )
      Probably he realized that he'd loose most of any profit made at the next divorce anyway.
    • "I vaguely remember that he was one to the people consistently pushing for extensions to copyright length here in the UK." Copyright extensions for recordings, not all copyrights. "Note how here in the UK copyright is now Life + 70 years ..." Recordings have a 50 year copyright. The life+70 bit comes from the Berne Convention, to which the UK is a signatory, but the Berne Convention doesn't cover recorded works, so their copyright period is set by individual countries.
    • "payed for the rest of his life for his 6 months of light work in 1966"

      Sorry to reply if you are trolling, but I think you'll find from any reliable biography that he and the rest of the group actually did a lot more than what you so dismissively describe as "light work" before, in, and after, 1966.

  • Paul McCartney has an estimated worth of $1.6 Billion so it's not as if he's going to be affected by people pirating it so is far better placed than up and coming groups to be able to afford to take the hit.

    $1.6 Billion in the bank allows you to be able to afford to have altruistic ideas.

    However, the vast majority of musicians aren't in such a position so need the sales.

  • Flac rocks (Score:4, Interesting)

    by onceuponatime ( 821046 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @05:52AM (#26057277)
    The only reason I didn't download other drm free ones in the past was the lack of flac or ogg. Flac is best of course, as it's just like buying the album for real. Using one price for the globe is also cool. I never expected it to come from Paul McCartney though considering comments from him in the past. I've never downloaded an album illegally in my life, but then I've never bought an album via a download either till now when finally someone makes flac available. To be honest though, I'm mainly doing it out of principle to support good sense finally. I'd like to see Madonna's albums like this, I wouldn't have to all the way to the shops :-)
  • So he has a butt load of money. The fact is that he took the step and a lot of artists have been inspired by his music so perhaps they will be inspired by this move and follow his example. Does it really matter if he needs the money or not? Oh and it doesn't matter if you like his current work or The Beatles his name is very well known in the music industry. If more big name artists take steps like this then things just might start to change.
  • by Herve5 ( 879674 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @06:40AM (#26057559)
    When you have been famous for years, to the extend just your name is known to almost everybody, abandoning the classical publishers not only ie easy: it gives you MORE advertisement (e. g. a paper hree on /.)

    OTOH, when you are a completely unknown new band, then you must be courageous. I for one will be happy when there'll be a post here listing the last ten courageous little groups trying [] .

    And in case you were among the happy few knowing Magnatune, let's mention a foreign, minuscule one for classics mainly: Zig-Zag []
  • A) Even post divorce he has a personal fortune of some GBP800m so he can afford to put out DRM free music
    B) Pretty much anything he's done since about 1972 has been crap (sorry, but really guys...)
    C) Except the Frog one
  • Big freaking deal. We are back to 1982 - digital music without copy prevention - plus the internet. This is where we would have been over a decade ago if the MPAA hadn't taken the DRM detour.

    I guess the guy deserves some credit for not participating in the DRM clusterfuck, but he's still a decade behind where the industry would be if all the cocaine snorting suits running the business weren't a bunch of colossal idiots more intent on putting the internet genie back in the bottle instead of getting their p

  • they are printing a vinyl and sending it ?
  • But selling music downloads 'DRM free' is not new. I haven't bought any physical CD's for a year or so. Nowdays I buy music from Amazon, they have a section for MP3 downloads (tracks and albums). Generally the albums are priced less than the CD counterparts, and you don't have to pay for shipping. (You also save a trip to the vets office)

    These mp3's are DRM free, I can just copy them to SD cards and put that in my mp3 playwr.

    There is a lot of talk here on slashdot about other digital formats (FLAC , OGG) bu

  • I am guessing "no", but I'll ask just in case.

  • by davide marney ( 231845 ) <> on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @08:49AM (#26058535) Journal

    Just purchased the MP3 version. It is, as claimed, mpga 320K, DRM-free. In addition to the tracks, you get cover artwork and liner notes as jpgs.

    The range of purchase options is very interesting. $8.99 for MP3 files and artwork, $12.99 for a CD, $29.99 for a direct metal mastered double vinyl record, and $79.99 for a DVD containing 24bit 96Khz tracks, and a second DVD containing multi-track session files for a selection of the album tracks.

    The purchasing experience was flawless: create an account, give a credit card (with optional choice of saving the number or not; I chose not), get a zipfile of the downloads. Not a wasted keystroke or mouse click.

    This really is the way I want to purchase my music. Two big thumbs up from the consumer angle. Lots of choices, low prices, immediate downloads, supports the artists.

    The perfect shopping experience.

    • The site seems to be using some sort of Flash animation to process the payments and it's not on an SSL / HTTPS URL. At least, not in the usual sense. It says data is sent using SSL in the Flash animation itself, but there's no padlock in the browser, etc.. so no guarantee it really is using SSL.

      (For what it's worth, I ran netstat to check it is using SSL, and it appears to be. But does Joe Public know that when they're told to look out for the padlock icon?)

    • In addition to the tracks, you get cover artwork and liner notes as jpgs.

      Only jpgs? Not good enough! I want full-resolution TIFFs (or better yet, PNGs) of all the artwork. I can't stand the smoothing and edge noise that appears when images get converted to jpg. It makes my eyes bleed.
  • by nmg196 ( 184961 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @09:30AM (#26058957)

    Am I missing something? I've bought dozens of DRM free albums over the years. Nothing on Amazon MP3 or has DRM as far as I'm aware, so how is this news? At first I thought the album was also FREE (price wise), but it's not - you have to pay for it, so I don't get why this is a story??

  • He's still releasing albums?! I thought by now he'd be reduced to playing at the local Waffle House for the free coffee refills.


  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @11:03AM (#26060201)

    We're the good guys, right? DRM is evil (true that), and we offer alternatives. But the fact is that before DRM came along, piracy of music on the internet was rampant. People (good and bad) didn't give it much thought since it was just so easy to copy. We now say "give it to us without DRM, and we'd gladly pay a reasonable price." But for most people, this is a lie. If it weren't for DRM, they would have no concept of the value of the thing they're copying. They would not have "paid a reasonable price" because they would just have downloaded it for free. Only when they were threatened by having that taken away did they think about opening their wallets.

    The RIAA and DRM have been an important corrective event in our society. Because of them, we have become more aware that the producers of this content have a right to protect their investment. Whether you're an artist publishing a song or a coder licensing under GPL, respecting copyright is important for our economy, our access to artistic works, and our freedom.

    We still have an uphill battle against the RIAA and their efforts to lock down every little bit of content and take away our right to listen to the content we paid for on any device we wish, let friends listen, etc. When the dust settles, a happy compromise will be reached where sharing with a friend (who will probably turn around and buy the whole album as a result) is reasonable fair use, while the same is not true for posting the copyrighted work on a P2P sharing network, completely taking away the livelihood of the artist who created the work.

    My favorite band is They Might Be Giants. Not all of their stuff is fantastic, though, so I have sought ways to listen before buying. But in the end, I have legally bought and paid for every one of their albums. Maybe that's mostly because I'm a fanatic, but I also see it as a statement of respect to people whom I want to produce more of the same kind of brilliant stuff.

"Yeah, but you're taking the universe out of context."