Last week while so many of us in the online community worried about SOPA destroying the internet as we know it, we received some very strong evidence that argues you don't need to use DRM files to make money selling your content. Comedian Louis CK released his latest special through his website in a DRM-free format for $5. Many told him that most people would merely torrent the file and he would lose money. But Louis made an appeal to people's conscience on his website and emphasized the reasonable price of his special. It looks like it worked. After 4 days he had already made back the money he spent making the special and had turned a nice profit. After 12 days he has made over a million dollars on the project and he will probably make a good deal more, as the video is still available on his website. He has made two statements about his experiment and he plans to release all his material this way in the future. It is cheaper for the fans (a $5 download vs. a $20 DVD) and because he has cut out some middlemen he gets to keep a lot more of his money, so much that he is giving a good deal of it to charity. But don't feel you need to support him purely out of altruism. The special is also very funny.
It has also come to my attention that J.K Rowling will release all the Harry Potter ebooks online in DRM-free formats. I find it hard to criticize the business savvy of the only billionaire author ever. If she feels she can make money with this model I have little doubt other artistis can as well. I realize both her and Louis CK have established themselves and will make more from this kind of venture than someone less established. But I don't think that means we can't adapt this model to suit fledgling artists.
If you are interested in the issues I have raised here you might like to look at the Indiegogo campaign I have launched to create Our Bookshelf, a DRM-free ebook lending social network.