As I hammer home (over) regularly, I don’t agree with the use of DRM on download-to-keep media. After all, you have downloaded it to keep and shouldn’t have to go through a large amount of hassle to be able to use it in a manner the content owners disapprove of, such as having it on two computers at once (shock! horror!). I can see DRM having uses in other fields and pricing models, however.
One of these where I feel DRM has a large potential is in a “rental” pricing model. This is not the screwed up “subscription” model available currently. An example may help. For example, allow you to try out an album for a few weeks for a reasonable fee, such as a pound or two, which would be taken off the full buy-to-keep price if you decide to keep them. Price them cheaply enough that I will try a band on the off chance they are good and see profits rack up.
A second killer application I see is movie rentals. For me, watching a film is often a spur of the moment decision. It is a decision often taken on a cold, rainy night, that is, one on which I would rather stay curled up on the sofa than venture outside to the DVD rental shop. If I could select a film on my TV, make a cup of tea and have it ready to watch — well, it’s a no brainer really.
For a similar system to the above, I would be willing to both pay and suffer DRM (though I would think twice, if it meant I was forced onto a single platform). Chuck in, say, three days of watching — in case other things pull my attention away — and you’ve got yourself a great product. It has many of the upsides of the rental store (no helpful staff, however, alas) and a value to offer over and above the traditional distribution channel.
The preceding statement hits the nub of the problem: digital downloads offer no value over a physical product. If anything there are significant disadvantages: you are more restricted (try taking your download to a friend’s house), they are no cheaper and are more ethereal. Offer something only a digital format can, and people will be far more willing to take the plunge.