Adam Fields (weblog)

This blog is largely deprecated, but is being preserved here for historical interest. Check out my index page at for more up to date info. My main trade is technology strategy, process/project management, and performance optimization consulting, with a focus on enterprise and open source CMS and related technologies. More information. I write periodic long pieces here, shorter stuff goes on twitter or


The MPAA has no idea what’s about to hit them

Recently, several large Bittorrent tracker sites were shut down, citing concerns about problems with copyright holders.

The movie studios think this is a good thing. They’re wrong. P2P is the Content Industry’s worst nightmare…. to date. But it just keeps getting worse from there.

Mark Pesce (inventor of VRML, which, despite completely failing to take off in any meaningful way, is still really frickin’ cool) has an extended rant about it, which is worth reading.

Here’s what I think it boils down to – a simple choice. We, as a society, have to choose one of:

1) Copy protection.
2) General purpose open computing.

They are not compatible. Copy protection (and everything else that goes along with being able to perform copy protection) simply cannot be enforced in a world where the end user has control over their hardware and software. (Update: I wrote a longer piece about this.) Everything else is a thin sugar layer on top of that, disguising the fact that we’re heading for one of two worlds – where all entertainment (and consequently, all other computing) is viewed with industry-mandated black boxes, or the content creation industry (movies, music, games, etc…) learns to live in a world where they can’t force people to pay for their product. Currently, it’s a weird mishmash, but eventually, It’s one or the other.

Fortunately, there’s still a looong way to go before general purpose computing is outlawed, and there’s not a long way to go before technology makes it possible to anonymously copy whatever you want. Two things work in favor of that outcome – 1) storage keeps getting cheaper, and 2) because everything’s digital, a distribution mechanism that works for one kind of media can be easily adapted to work for all kinds of media. Eventually, there will be enough storage out there that the entire music library of the human race will be able to fit on a card or disc that’s small enough and cheap enough that it will be practical to just hand them out with a cup of coffee. Then, eventually, the entire movie library. Then, without the cup of coffee. All radio. Recordings of every live performance. P2P is just a way station on the road to constant on-demand availability of all digital media. It may be over the wire, it may be on cheap storage, it’ll probably be a combination of the two. But how it happens doesn’t matter – it will happen. Eventually, it isn’t about “piracy” vs. “legitimate usage”. It’s about facing a world where copying is not only widespread, it’s simply unavoidable.

What will the music and movie industries do when faced with the prospect of such a world? It’s tricky. They can try to fight it, but, sadly for them, these enabling technologies are also really good, and in some cases necessary, to all kinds of other interesting (and interested) parties, industries, and countries. I think fighting it is doomed to failure, and any attempts to do so only prolong the agony of all concerned, make criminals out of legitimate users, and alienate any goodwill towards actually saving these industries by paying for their product in some other way. They can try to make money off of live performances, but eventually those will all be available as recordings immediately after the fact. It’s already starting to happen. And that doesn’t help the movie industry much – although it’s been longer in coming, the movie industry is going to do much worse than the music industry out of this – they don’t have live performances to fall back on and their main revenue model is built around staggered, restricted distribution.

But here’s the real point – these industries are going to have to find other ways to make money. Many people will pay voluntarily, if they think they’re giving their money to people who are working hard to produce the content they like, and they don’t think they’re being taken advantage of by asshats who don’t respect them. Suing them doesn’t help. Trust me on that one. Maybe we need a voluntary entertainment pool, where people pay in (say, monthly), then they get to vote on media they’ve seen. If you make good content, you get a bigger piece of the pie. Maybe we need to return to a patron model. Maybe it becomes much more difficult to be “a professional creator” (and maybe it becomes MUCH more difficult to be “a professional content distributor”). The argument “if you can’t make money off it, no one will create” is just wrong. People will create because they need to, and the consequential technologies that increase the distribution of content also make it cheaper and easier for everyone else out there to express their creative energies. We need to find a way to pay them (us), and they (we) need to find a way to convince us (them) to do so.

26 Responses to “The MPAA has no idea what’s about to hit them”

  1. paryl Says:

    indeed. Very insightful, even though it may come across as rude and opinionated. :D

    You hit the nail on the head, though, with the idea that people will pay if they think they are benefitting the artist. I’m personally proud of being totally legit… I pay for everything, even though I know money is going to “asshats” as you put it. But I can honestly say that I would end up paying _much_ more if the money were going directly to the artist.

    I think of it kinda like buying a homemade cd from the artist right after the live show. If I’m putting money into his/her hand, I’m letting them know that I appreciate their work. But when my purchase is reduced to ‘just another copy sold’, I know that very little of what I pay is actually making it’s way to them.

    My hope is that at some point tv/radio will be so integrated with the internet that a person can choose to watch ‘broadcasts’ from anywhere. So while I may tune into the Simpsons on Fox, I could also watch the latest Strong Bad Email from If such integration could happen, I believe the big networks would eventually get phased out as more people watch more amateur programming.

  2. adam Says:

    Opinionated, certainly. Rude? I’m not sure I see why.

    But you raise another good point – Why do we pay for content anyway? Because we appreciate that another fellow human being (or several such entities) has drawn some pleasing order out of the chaos, because we want to experience it, maybe because we want to experience it more than once. It’s not just a sales statistic designed to put money in the pocket of the studios, it’s an affirmation of artistic approval.

  3. Jay Fienberg Says:

    Well said! Musicians and artists will continue to find ways to adapt–recordings themselves originally threatened whole industries and eventually destroyed a few. But, musicians adapted.

    Also, you might find interesting my series of posts, ending with The future of music playback, in which I ruminate on what things might be like in the not too distant future when high volume digital copying is built-in to every device. . .

  4. thom Says:

    But I can honestly say that I would end up paying _much_ more if the money were going directly to the artist.

    you shouldnt have to, you should be able to pay LESS and have the artist get more money. to me the whole crux of the argument is that the current system where people grow fat off the work of artists is obselete. the idea that people should be paying $18-$25 for a CD that costs them ~$7 to produce is absurd. back when the methods of producing physical product and distributing them were few and far between this model had merit: if these large companies didnt do help, it wouldnt happen (take this as a plus or minus as you will). the argument that a record/movie company needs to charge exorbitant prices to make up for losses on other projects (Pareto’s principle) is a fallacy. Read The Long Tail on Wired to see precisely why this no longer applies.

    but now the methods of production and distribution are at the beck and call for a vast majority of people. which is why these lumbering ancient bohemoths will never accept this new distribution method: it takes the control and power from them and places it in the hand of majority.

    of course there is the cult of celebrity to contend with, but thats a whole ran unto itself.

  5. sparky Says:

    And what about the folks who own the content delivery mechanisms? Where does TimeWarner/Cablevision/etc. fit into the new-world-content-order? How do you predict they will they fare?

  6. adam Says:

    Time Warner is in a slightly different boat as both content distributors and creators. But I think everybody who’s in the “general digital distribution” business does well. You still have to pay for the wires (or wireless transmission). Even if you can fabricate your own CDs (or whatever) anywhere, and they hold everything you could want, the content or the recipe (the bits) still have to come from somewhere.

    This is especially true if you want the up-to-the-minute latest work that someone is creating NOW. Physical transmission works really well for stuff that’s been around for a while, but there’s still lag.

  7. Emmanuel Pirsch Says:

    An economy is based on resource scarity. The content/entertainement industry rely on legislation to artificially create scarity. It is destined to fail as ways to break the rules (without being caught) multiply. In a digital world, where the cost of duplication is near zero, you cannot have scarity of content. You can only have scarity on bandwidth. Even if bandwidth cost continue to go down… This will always be a limited resource because it relies on real stuff (hardware, physical limits, …).
    So a good way to collect money, is from selling bandwidth. A good way to distribute that money to artists is wuffies (or any kind of popularity voting system). The system could also use another scare resource… Attention. For you to consume some content, you pay attention to it… But the degree of attention required differ based on content type. Listening to music requires less attention than viewing a movie, which requires less attention than playing a game. So spending 1 hours of playing a game should give more wuffies to the artists (note that an artist is not necessarely an individual) than listening for one hour to some music.
    By basing an economy on real resource scarity, the current problem with the content industry would never appear. Artifical scarity will always be fragile.

  8. adam Says:

    For the record, Cory, I love what you do, but the word “Whuffie” has simply got to go.

  9. risha Says:

    Great of summary of the dilemma. At some point, entertainment distributors must face the reality that technology has put them out of business – they’ve been made obsolete. This has happened before to other industries, and the lesson to be learned is that you simply cannot fight progress. Those distributors who see this first will not just look to build new business models but actually work to create a new industry. I have not a clue about it, but it seems obvious that this new industry will be heavily reliant on future versions of the same technology that they seek to disable today.

    I have hope that in short order, visionaries will appear on the scene to embrace this technology and create a method/model that works for consumers and distributors. Once the first view visionaries have broken ground successfully, the old model will die quickly.

  10. Ian Says:

    My take on it: The P2P wars re-ignite.

    Put briefly, we’re hearing the same things we heard when Napster went down, these things take longer than people expect, the same solutions (anonymity) are being proposed, but we’re no closer to seeing any change in the real world, but closer than before to the Internet being stomped on as never before by people with real-world power.

  11. Asshat-fan Says:

    “I’m personally proud of being totally legit… I_pay_for_everything, even though I know money is going to “asshats” as you put it.”

    well you’re either easily entertained(you have a six-cd collection) or you have all the money you’ll ever need and don’t care who catches it as you throw it out the window-those CDs you bought for 24 bucks last year weren’t actually worth that much,and the supreme court ruled so saying that distributors and labels have been price gouging for years yet what is the price of a cd now?Surprise surprise its still between 14 and 24 dollars.Wake up to the economy of scale you dunderheads,you paid too much for that hot new britney spears cd! But maybe you work in a music store and so there is no reason for you to want CDs to drop below 15 dollars…ASSHAT!

  12. adam Says:

    Ian – good post. You’re absolutely right about the term “copy protection”. I meant it to encompass “copy control”, “information control”, “information usage”, and all of the other things that go along with being able to dictate when a certain pattern of bits may be arranged in a particular order.

    I didn’t really think of this as a call to arms for anonymity – I sort of take it for granted that that issue will take care of itself (by dedicated programmers working somewhere out there in the world – thanks, guys!). Maybe I shouldn’t, but I tend to view anonymity as something that pops up whereever it’s needed, unless it’s legislated against, which is the dichotomy I was trying to illustrate in the first place.

  13. Eric D. Fields Says:

    Wonderful rant. I found one point in particular interesting:

    The argument “if you can’t make money off it, no one will create” is just wrong. People will create because they need to, and the consequential technologies that increase the distribution of content also make it cheaper and easier for everyone else out there to express their creative energies. We need to find a way to pay them (us), and they (we) need to find a way to convince us (them) to do so.

    While I wholeheartedly agree with the first point, that people will create because they need to create, whether they get paid or not, and that access to technologies that enable people to display their creativity become increasingly more available, I found myself thinking differently about finding a way to “pay” these people.

    Think about the popular internet entertainment of our time. Hamsterdance. All your base. Strongbad. Penny Arcade. Something Awful. Worth 1000. GI Joe PSAs. The list is lengthy at this point in time. But my point is that so many of these projects started out of a general interest in accomplishing a particular creative goal, either by one person or a group of a few… and they didn’t get paid.

    The combined force of the internet and the personal computer to distribute endless, picture-perfect copies of digital media calls for a sea change in our currently copyright-based capitalistic economic structure; it’s in the nature of the system. We are truly living in post-modernity: art is dead and everything created that would at one point be considered art (music, movies, video or shorts) is merely a copied distortion of something else, and none of it is sacred. Contemporary creations are meant for as many people as possible to see\. As more and more artists (as in producers of media) create works that are instantly available online, less and less people will feel the need to shell out to pay-for entertainment in the first place.

    Media on the internet has no personal qualities about it. It is not owned; there is no digital private property to be bought and sold. Either we figure out a way to embrace what is, in terms of a rising white collar and creative class populace (the “cognitariats” i have heard them called), digital communism, something that may just require a new altruistic way of looking at economy-based societies (gee, wouldn’t that suck!), we’re destined to destroy, if not civilization, than at least the digital civilization, which over the past decade, has already revolutionized society.

  14. HamNRye Says:

    These arguments deny the true purpose of record companies and movie studios.

    The Asshats in the recording industry do a fairly good job of acting like a quality control filter. If it weren’t for these fat-cat middlemen, how many people would have spontaneously discovered their favorite band?? If the only purpose these asshats served was the restricted distribution of content, why hasn’t music direct from the artist to consumer taken off?? Because the content industries refine the content that is brought to you. At the same time, they invest in the Making of a recording better.

    I’m a musician, and I want to independantly produce an album that will go Platinum. I can’t afford $5,000 studio mics, and renting Studio space for $450 an hour isn’t really an option either. However, I do manage to scrape together $50,000 to outfit a basic studio, purchase some necessary equipment, pay auxillary musicians for any parts my guys can’t cover, and an initial pressing of 100,000 units.

    Let’s pretend that all Radio is indy…. Now, I have to take my album and give out maybe 5,000 free copies to any station that will promise not to throw it in the trash on the first day. Mind you, every station in the country is probably getting 50-100 albums a day. So maybe this station only listen to albums that “Guy X” says are good. So, I pay “Guy X” to promote my album. This is a very real situation that would exist with or without the RIAA. Current costs can be as much as $250,000 for a large market like NY.

    Well, let’s assume that this album is better than “Thriller” (not hard) and I know it’s going to sell copies in the Billions. So maybe I find a guy willing to pony up the cash to make the album in exchange for a cut. It’s a high risk investment, so he wants a large percentage. Maybe that guy invests in 100 different albums a year. He’s a record company.

    He doesn’t care much about music, and knows little about it, besides, he can never understand today’s kids anyway. And you’re one of 50 acts that wants to get his money, and you all sound the same to him. So he takes the act that’s willing to ask for the least in return. The acts that he gets more of a cut from he pays to promote, and the acts he gets less of a cut on should be able to make it on their own merits.

    Distribution is no longer controlled. You can purchase CD’s directly from the artist at CDBaby, why isn’t CDBaby the biggest record store on the planet?? Because it’s all local artists you’ve never heard of. So the record companies are massive marketing machines. They may chew you up and spit you out, but they make even the talentless stars, and they will continue to do so until there is no way to make money off of popularity. I’m thinking an eternity.

    Movies are no different, except they’re massively more expensive, and take scads of people to do. Writers and directors of movies will always need someone around to foot the bill for makeup and things that explode.

    These companies amke money off of Marketing, not Music. If they made money off of music, then those with the best music would be the biggest, and we should be able to agree that’s not the case. Last I checked, P2P technologies do not change the marketing paradigm in the least.

    Plus, it’s not like people say, “Hmm, i need a new album, I’ll go browse CDBaby….” It’s more like, “Whoah! Did you hear that new song by BucketBreath “Jonsin’ for the Smiths” I gotta get that album….” That accounts for like %40 of sales, especially for people buying their first release by the artist. I have to make you hear it before you want to buy it.

    A similar thought might also be, text has been easy to copy for ages, and Project Guttenberg has been online for a decade, has this hurt sales of Dorian Grey?? I read “Theory of the Leisure Class” online, and then purchased a dead-tree copy because it was affordable and accessible. I had a DIVX rip of “Life of Brian”, but later purchased the DVD on sale for $9.99. I liked having the actual DVD, nicely packaged, and it freed up a Gig of Disk Space. Some of those benefits will go away once more moves to digital, but I think most users are aware that they are a head crash away from losing that MP3 library, and will make sure that they own working legitimate copies of their favorite works. (If not yet, they’ll learn eventually what MTBF is….)

    A change in how music is distributed doesn’t threaten the RIAA, a change in how music is marketed would impact the RIAA.


  15. adam Says:

    Well, everybody should be doing RAID and periodic backups for that precious digital media. :)

    I don’t know – with the exception of a few huge bands, most of the music I like and buy comes either from recommendations from friends or because I hear it on the street. One of my favorite bands, One Handed Molly (sadly, no longer in existence), I ran into playing in Central Park. I recently stumbled upon Gonzalo Silva playing in the subway, and I bought his CD (but maybe that just means that New York is one big record company). Some of the bands I like are actively discouraged from making music by the record companies – look at what’s going on with Fiona Apple. Personally, if they’re there to serve the purpose of being a filter, they’re not doing a very good job from my perspective. Their marketing efforts seem to be primarily aimed towards giving people an excuse to buy something they haven’t listed to as a gift for someone whose musical tastes are a mystery.

    But yes, the role of “filter” is still up for grabs. But I’m not sure that people can be paid for that when bloggers will do it for free (or supplemented by advertising, or whatever the next blogger compensation scheme du jour turns out to be).

  16. Brian Carnell Says:

    “I’m personally proud of being totally legit… I_pay_for_everything, even though I know money is going to “asshats” as you put it.”

    Which works fine until you want something that isn’t commercially available anymore (and unlikely to ever become so) but still protected by copyright.

    “Eventually, there will be enough storage out there that the entire music library of the human race will be able to fit on a card or disc that’s small enough and cheap enough that it will be practical to just hand them out with a cup of coffee.”

    I suspect “eventually” means “not in our lifetimes” with this scenario, especially since the technologies that make coyping music easy also make producing it easier. Even with ripping all this music to MP3, you’re probably looking at dozens of terabytes, maybe even petabytes worth of data (anyone have any independent estimates of the total amount of recorded music).

    Of course, I don’t think you need to reach that level to cause serious problems for the record industry. You can already buy 100gb 2.5″ drives in portable, bus-powered enclosures, and 100gb will hold a hell of a lot of music — it wouldn’t take much for me to hand off 100gb of music to a friend, have them copy and erase and then hand me back 100gb of their music.

  17. adam Says:

    Appropriately enough, I just posted a followup with an examination of what it currently takes to play a DRM-enabled movie. This is highly relevant to this discussion – the attempts to restrict playback rights are also, right now, destroying the user experience, and here’s a tangible example. It’s not good for anyone.

  18. jim Says:

    HamNRye – good comment.

    I think there are a few forces at work here. I think you’re right that RIAA isn’t going to disappear overnight simply because music can be distributed easily over the internet. But in in general, the function that record companies fulfill as distributors has been made obsolete. Their function as marketers definitely has yet to be supplanted by technology. In that respect, radio, MTV and the pop charts and the rest of the music industry machine still determine who makes it big and who doesn’t.

    But obviously the RIAA is concerned about the impact of the internet, or else the lawsuits wouldn’t be happening. I think the biggest worry for them is the change in consumer attitudes that has occurred, i.e. why pay $20 for a CD when you can download it for free? At the same time consumers are exposed to a much greater variety of content and are able to broaden their horizons beyond what is played on the radio. This certainly loosens the grip the industry has over consumer tastes. But as long as people like to go to clubs and hear the music they like, and talk about artist with their friends, popularity will remain important – and the current industry is built around that.

    I do think, however, that there is a movement building that will eventually reject the power and control the recording industry has over what is popular, and that the machinery will be changed to better serve a public that has the power to find artists they like without radio and MTV. I think we might see more and more artists that get record deals after breaking on the internet, and record companies paying more attention to the internet as a way to connect to the public.

  19. Tom Says:

    HamNRye has good points, in that you have to hear something first before you want it, and the record companies filter out *most* of the crap that we listen to. So I think it really comes down to the radio stations. They are the ones that have the most power, and control what we listen to. Not only that, they are controlled by the FCC so not just anybody can start broadcasting whatever they like. So how do we get around this basic problem?

    The best solution I can think of is internet radio. Thats great at work or home but what about the car, where I do most of my radio listening? It is only a matter of time before every car in america is linked to each other and the internet by WiFi. Its not going to be here next year, but it will happen. They have already started talking about the standards needed for it. When we get the power to listen in on the internet in our cars, thats when things really get the opportunity to change. It will still be about marketing, but we will no longer be limited to whatever we can tune in on the radio. Assuming it will still be reasonably cheap to broadcast, the ability to reach the millions of commuters will put the power into the artists hands where it belongs.

  20. Jimmy Says:

    Well obviously technology makes copyright harder and harder to control but it does not mean that stealing is no longer stealing. The “man” does seek to profit from us and their content creating industries. So what industry does not do this. Stealing a few thousand worth of CD’s because you don’t think the artist(s) will get their fair share does nothing to change the legality or morality of it. And yes, I have a hard drive FULL of stolen material.


  21. michel Says:

    I hope my english is good ? (I’m not sure if I have to use “steal” or “stealing” )

    sadly , but it’s reality , a digital copy is NOT a physical stealing

    yes I know I know, a digital not controlled copy can mean “less money for the creators” (and resellers and engineers and salesman and all the other people)

    a digital copy is not a immoral thing

    it’s just a “ho, more of that bunch of bytes in this memory”
    (yep! technology _did_ bring that “action” in hands of EVERY rich people on earth, child, old, young, woman, man, everyone ! with just a touch of finger, no blood, no cries, no harm)

    (stealing of my flash card memory, THAT is physical loss. stealing of my musical sheets, that is physical loss)

    when old people will learn that and how to speak with young people too much aware of that dichotomy, well, there we will be able to really debate.

    because, no, when I do “copy that file” on my computer, sorry, but I don’t do a physical steal. and if you misuse the word I stop to listen, and young people don’t understand what you mean or easily make a fool of you (destroying what you want to explain).

  22. chris Says:

    “I’m personally proud of being totally legit… I_pay_for_everything, even though I know money is going to “asshats” as you put it.”

    Which works fine until you want something that isn’t commercially available anymore (and unlikely to ever become so) but still protected by copyright.

    Sadly, the music and movie industry is not the only situation where this is a problem. I’ve been searching for two very difficult to come by video games (one of them is less than 2 years old!). Every time I stop by Electronics Boutique and inquire about any used copies they may have gotten in because they *will not* keep your name and number for used games, they just laugh at me and say “good luck!” I fear I might be reduced to getting a mod for my PS2 and trying to find some kind soul who will make a copy for me. I’d buy if I could.

    As for music, well, I don’t think the recording industry is doing a very good job of filtering the wheat from the chaff. As someone else pointed out, radio stations ultimately have the largest influence over what gets popular and what doesn’t. The popularity is further perpetuated by the Billboard top 100 lists. Think your phoned in requests do anything? No, they just play whatever they had already planned on their play list and pass it off as a request. One radio station I listened to had a segment every week night where they’d play a new song and people could phone in and vote whether or not they liked the song, and supposedly songs that were voted down weren’t going to be played again. They never revealed the artist or title of the song until after the voting was finished. I distinctly remember Deana Carter’s Strawberry Wine (sue me, I listen to Country) getting voted down on the segment, but how could a radio station afford to not play a song that eventually became a #1 hit for Miss Carter, even though listeners that bothered to phone in said they didn’t like it? There were a number of situations where it worked in reverse… songs that were given a thumbs up were never played again because they failed to climb the Billboard charts.

    However, maybe radio doesn’t quite have as much influence as many people think it does. I can’t imagine very many people who *don’t* know who Billy Raye Cyrus is. After his shamefully popular Achey Breaky Heart, he was exiled from radio. “With good reason!” I can hear you say, but he continued publishing albums. Despite a lack of activity on the Billboard charts, his music continued to sell. In fact, I understand he’s quite popular among Country music fans in Europe.

    I should point out, though, that some of my favorite albums were from the previously mentioned radio segment. In some instances, they’re the only album ever put out by that artist because they just don’t make it and the record label drops them. Some of my favorite songs are the ones the kind that are thrown onto many albums as filler to ensure there are more than just the 4 air play tracks on it: to try and make it worth the $22+ we pay here in Canada.

  23. Mike J. Moore Says:

    How about eBay open up a section for music downloads, whereas only accounts who are verified as the _artist_ can post them? They could pay for their own recording and mixing as an investment for upcoming sale, just as any other craftsman would naturally pay for a saw or hammer to cut/bang out a product himself before selling it?

  24. Mark Wubben Says:

    I concur with michel that downloading music is not stealing. Evidence that CD sales are hurt by downloading music isn’t conclusive either. What’s really happening is that people think CD’s cost too much, and there are substitutes for CD’s such as DVD’s… which cost even more but usually people think that’s worth it.

    Now, as to marketing and distribution, I think being able to download anything freely is good for the industry. I roughly have 40 CD’s, half of which I’ve bought after downloading them (or another CD by that artist). And, there are like 20 CD’s I want to buy because I’ve heard a few songs (I’m in the Netherlands and I don’t have a credit card, so ordering them over Amazon is a bit tricky).

    How did I get to know about these artists? Weblogs. Stuff like Acts of Volition Radio has made me download albums by artists featured there… and I’m loving it, and I really want to buy it! (Did, but unfortunately only on few occasions — see my comment about Amazon above.)

    What does this tell me about the marketing part of music (and other culture)? It’ll become much easier to reach a worldwide audience, for far less money. If one of the so called A-list bloggers likes you, loads of people will listen to your music. And not all of them have to buy it, just enough for you to make a living of it.

    (I downloaded The Killers – Hot Fuss because Jason Kottke, one of the A-list bloggers, recommended it. Just three days ago I bought it.)

    The idea that not all of the people who download your music is comparable to what Flickr does: give a free account which allows you to store a hundred photos, and a paid acount which gives you everything. The payers also pay for the free accounts. This builds a great community around Flickr, something which could easily happen with music.

    (To put it in numbers, if 50,000 people download your music, and 10.000 people pay for it (whether by buying a CD, donating, or paying for a higher quality download), and you have a revenue of $5 per sold item, you’ll make $50,000.) My guess (yes, it’s a guess, sorry) is that, if you’re really good, you’ll get far more than 50,000 people to listen to your music. And you can probably make a nice living of that. (And if not, there’s always the Sex and Cash Theory).

    And finally, there’s a thing I really don’t like about how the big labels market music. They don’t judge by what’s really good, they judge by what will sell. And then they promote it so it will sell. Sure, there’s a lot of good stuff out there, but also a lot of cheap stuff. And that’s depressing.

    (Whoah, this got longer than I first expected. Perhaps I should vent my feelings more often…)

  25. Brett Morgan Says:

    There is a way that these industries can make money. Doing what the customers thought they were doing from the start – acting as filters. If I could buy music that was what I wanted, when I wanted it, I’d be a happy camper. The fact that the music I want is an eclectic mix of hardcore, darkwave, soul, blues, classical, and irish folk should be a feature, not a problem. If only the music industry was willing to have a one to one relationship with me, and provide me a service. The fact that they want to see me as part of an undifferentiated mass of 25 to 35 year old white males really pisses me. Mainly because I hate a lot of the music that 25 to 35 year old white males like. :-)

  26. Zseni Says:

    I think it’s sweet how people keep trying to find ways for the “music industry” to stick around. Guess what, gang?! Your money pays for shitty artists’ cocaine parties on paid studio time. The music industry is 20% drug industry, 25% layers-of-management-overhead, and 30% shill fees. All my favorite music was downloaded, and it wasn’t even based on radio play or TV appearances: a lot of the time I just downloaded it randomly, just because it was there, but I also pick music because I saw good reviews, I saw people whose taste I trusted also downloading the same thing, or the artist was attached to a compilation or mix tape project.

    The point is that the music industry has no function anymore – not promotion, not a&r, not content production – other than renting studio equipment and engineers and musicians. Someone’s got to produce the record. Someone has to be the sound engineer. You don’t get the full disco glitz of Britney or Utada or Alizee etc. just by sitting the girl down with a guitar. The record label makes sure all those guys get paid for their work. Once things like these can be replaced – digitally or otherwise – the record labels and the RIAA won’t have anything left to stand on.

    This is probably why they were so pissed off about The Grey Album.

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