January 24, 2012

A lot of talk this week about copyright and piracy. The tech people that I normally enjoy listening to are driving me crazy.

I was listening to Gweek today and they were saying that piracy was actually a good thing for content makers. Not even neutral, now piracy is good. (Okay, there might be a positive aspect in having your product shared and passed around in the world, but does it outweigh the part where you didn’t get paid, you got ripped off?)

One interesting point they made was that piracy was bad only for the old media-style distribution systems, not the artists. I see that. The distribution systems have been sucking blood from artists in all mediums for a long time, and that could be ending here.

Tech people keep saying that artists can make it without the distribution systems, and they all trot out Jonathan Coulton as the example of someone who has made it on his own (by the way, he’s amazing). He offers his music for free, or you can buy it, and he does great. Hooray, there’s one guy making it. One guy.

Okay, you can add Radiohead and Louis CK, but both made their reputations over years in the old media system and only now have the power to make independent new media work. That’s three, so I’m still seeing a lot of artists left out in the cold.

Here’s a question to think about as a new artist-friendly distribution model evolves…

The employees of the old media distribution system did a lot of work, like promotion, financing, and obviously distribution. Who is going to do that in the new model? The artists? Does my favorite author now have to spend a couple hours a day on Facebook? Because I really want my favorite author working on the next book, not tweeting or other garbage that could be handled by someone else.

The problem with the old model was that the distribution system forgot who they worked for and started to think they were the important part. The new system will turn it around and put the creatives in charge. Maybe the band of the future will sign a record company to a deal instead of the other way around.

Then when you pirate you’ll be stealing directly from your idols, not from some faceless corporation who has them under contract.

5 thoughts on “January 24, 2012

  1. Insightful as usual. There is a whole infrastructure that people are forgetting about… an infrastructure that was crucial in promoting and getting things out there that the artists perhaps should not be engaged in.

  2. The “What to do with copyright arts now that copying is free” conversation attempts to treat creative works as both commodities and as equivalent. Problem is that they aren’t. Photos are not equal to music which are not equal to books. This is evident in the biggest potential money maker for musicians in our brave new future: live performance. There is no such thing as a live performance for a photo.

    Sadly, along the way to sorting it all out, we’re going to have to listen to people blow on about what they think is best. The answers won’t come from them, however, they’ll come from people figuring it out by doing.

  3. I’d argue that there is such a thing as a live performance for a photo. That is when a photographer is retained to document an event such as TED, right? ;-) Seriously though, the way I’ve seen photo revenues work (for my model at least) is that I receive less money for archive photos and more money for requests to document an event/place/etc… However, your point is taken and absolutely correct that different media are… different and the monetization of those forms should be different.

  4. Yeah, I guess that would be a live performance of a sorts. The only thing is that you only get one performance for any particular expression of content. A musician can pull ‘em in with the favorites. :) As to the ramp between revenues for creation and stock, let’s just say my experience has taken an even stronger pull towards a one end of that spectrum than even a year ago.

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