Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Music Piracy and Your Acts of Rightful Civil Disobedience

Yesterday, I received a notice from the Pew Internet & American Life Project that there was an excellent new report on online music by Mary Madden. The report notes consumers are clamoring for these "selling points"::

1. Cost (zero or approaching zero),

2. Portability (to any device),

3. Mobility (wireless access to music),

4. Choice (access to any song ever recorded) and

5. Remixability (freedom to remix and mashup music)

The music industry is still figuring out how to deal with intellectual property because they're still stuck with an antiquated notion of property rights and value. At least they {via RIAA in the US} stopped suing individuals for music piracy late last year. Ironically, those engaging in piracy tend to buy the most music online-- legitimately.

Some may argue that artists deserve to be compensated for their work, but what has the merging of art and commerce done to art {defined broadly to include all its forms}? Is this mass-market art just giving the people feel-good candy, akin to a Thomas Kinkaid painting, that can be readily merchandized and plugged into the marketing machine? Sell X units by Y weeks. Sometimes, the machine is wrong and it tends to support decisions that limit risk, but hardly push the envelope. Wilco ran into a lack of support by the machine, but Madden's Pew article notes that they chose to embrace filesharing::

"The rock band Wilco famously was one of the first acts to benefit tremendously from the promotional power of peer-to-peer. After being dropped by their label in 2001, the band decided to release their album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,for free online. The resulting swarm of listening and sharing by fans ultimately convinced the label to offer the CD version of the album for sale in 2002. And while the bands previous recording, Summerteethhad sold just 20,000 copies, Yankee Hotel Foxtrotquickly surpassed the 500,000 mark. Shortly after, Jeff Tweedy, the lead singer of Wilco, began speaking out in support of file-sharing, expressing little patience for the Metallicas of the world: In a 2005 New York Times article, he suggested that downloading was an act of rightful 'civil disobedience' and was quoted as saying, 'To me, the only people who are complaining are people who are so rich they never deserve to be paid again.'"

David Bowie also was unfazed by filesharing and even encourages it and Elvis Costello {who once was banned from SNL for pissing off a pissy Lorne Michaels for playing the big-media unfriendly "Radio Radio"} had a cavalier attitude towards anti-piracy warnings::

The music and entertainment industries need to rethink what value is and develop business models accordingly. While the megastars get truckloads of cash for touring, even indie artists like Lloyd Cole remark how touring can be a necessary revenue stream. So, the music becomes a "loss leader." Or, is it? Radiohead and NIN both had success with alternative pricing/distribution schemes. While these are bands with established followings, it shows that people will pay for music that means something to them. Emerging artists should take note of Ingrid Michaelson. She gets how to leverage the new media.

As for the record companies? The old model of investing in the hits and playing the airplay game is bloated and outdated. Find out how to create value with the consumer experience and embrace the long tail--embrace the vast majority of titles that aren't the blockbusters and stop swinging for the fences. Price accordingly.

Twitterversion:: #newblogpost New Pew Internet report on #musicpiracy.Implications for rethinking content & the future of entertainment. http://url.ie/1qf7 @Prof_K

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