Announcing The Free! Summit... And Some Other Speaking Gigs

from the talk-talk-talk dept

As regular readers of this site know, I'm pretty passionate about how businesses need to understand the economics of "free" in figuring out how to create business models that work. So, I'm excited to announce that I'll be hosting and emceeing the newly announced Free! Summit, to be held in Silicon Valley on May 11th.

Chris Anderson (whose book on "Free" will be coming out in just a few months) will be keynoting, and we're pulling together the rest of the participants as well. The event is being produced by the fine folks from Tech Policy Central, and works as a nice lead-in to their Tech Policy Summit that will start immediately after the Free! Summit concludes. In fact, attending the Free! Summit gets you access to the opening session of the Tech Policy Summit as well. And, yes, registration to The Free! Summit is, in fact, free. But... there are a limited number of seats, so sign up now. Also, we're very much looking for individuals or organizations interested in presenting case studies on how they've used free as a part of their business model. We already have a few lined up, but feel free to suggest others of interest.

I hope that many of you can join us for what I'm sure will be a great series of discussions on "free" and what it means for business models, policy and the economy.
Separately, there are a few other events I'll be participating in that are worth mentioning:
  • First up, I'm going to be keynoting the Leadership Music Digital Summit in Nashville, Tennessee, to be held on March 23 -- March 25th, where I'll be doing an updated version of my MidemNet talk. It's yet another chance to talk with folks from in and around the music industry.


  • Next, I'm thrilled to be keynoting the Mesh Conference in Toronto, Canada, being held April 7th and 8th. I've attended Mesh the past two years, and it's a fantastic event for (as they say) connecting, sharing and inspiring around all sorts of new ideas relating to the internet, media and new business models. That talk will be a brand new one focusing on digital media business models, followed by an interview with Mathew Ingram and a Q&A. If you're in the Toronto area, don't miss it.


  • Also, the week of March 8 - 14th, I'll (once again) be in Edinburgh, Scotland, giving a whole series of talks at the University of Edinburgh. I'm not entirely sure which of the talks are public and which are for students only, but two events that I know are public are the talk I'll be giving to the Edinburgh Entrepreneurship Club on What Makes Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley on March 10th and then I'll be attending/participating at a special BarCamp Scotland on March 14th.


  • Because I'm in Scotland that week, I won't be able to attend Canadian Music Week in person in Toronto, unfortunately, but they will be showing my MidemNet talk during one of the sessions on music business models.


  • Finally, unfortunately with all the travel on my schedule, I'm going to be unable to personally attend David Isenberg's fantastic Freedom to Connect even in Washington DC on March 30th and 31st, but if you're anywhere in the area, you shouldn't miss it. It's a great event focused on "the emerging internet economy" with a strong focus on the policy angles related to internet connectivity these days. You're probably already aware of Isenberg from his regular writings on the subject, but he pulls together such a great braintrust for his events that you'd be crazy to miss it if you're in the area. And, along those lines, he's agreed to offer Techdirt readers a special $100 discount on registering for the event. Prices actually go up this Saturday, so if you want to attend, you should register now...
That's it in terms of speaking events for now. There are, of course, a few other private speaking engagements that I'm doing (if you're interested in having me speak at private events, please contact us), and some other events that are in the works... In the meantime, I hope to see you at one of these events!


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 26th, 2009 @ 12:04pm

    It would have been funny if admission was only $19.99.

     

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    Phillip, Feb 26th, 2009 @ 12:12pm

    So how many of these speeches and whatnot will be recorded and available to us?

     

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    Mike (profile), Feb 26th, 2009 @ 12:20pm

    Re:

    So how many of these speeches and whatnot will be recorded and available to us?

    Unfortunately, I really don't know. In each case it depends on the group hosting the events. I think the Mesh team put stuff online last year. And, I also remember that stuff was filmed last year in Edinburgh, but I don't know if it was put online.

     

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  4.  
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    Natalie Fonseca, Feb 26th, 2009 @ 12:38pm

    Recording sessions

    Phillip,

    For The Free!Summit, we'll be recording sessions and posting them online after the event. No plans right now for live streaming.

     

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  5.  
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    David (profile), Feb 26th, 2009 @ 1:38pm

    Re: Recording sessions

    Thanks for the quick reply, Natalie :) It'll be interesting for those of us unable to make the sessions to see what happened, particularly since Mike's likely (please!) to post about it afterwards.

     

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  6.  
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    Jon L (profile), Feb 26th, 2009 @ 7:28pm

    No Hollywood?

    Hey Mike! What's up, no Hollywood speaking gigs? We've got our heads buried too far in the sand?

    Let me know if you're interested, would love to try and arrange having you speak to my guild (Producer's Guild of America). There's a lot of protectionists that might benefit from a good talking to:) er, with...

    :)

     

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  7.  
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    Mike2, Feb 26th, 2009 @ 11:24pm

    Swedish singer

    Hi,

    There is a Swedish singer called Marit Bergman who is able to live off her music due to adapting and innovating. Chris Anderson met her at the Media Evolution gathering in Malmo, Sweden on Feb 4. She probably has some interesting stories.

    /M

     

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  8.  
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    JP_Fife, Feb 27th, 2009 @ 1:22am

    Remember to get your inoculation against haggis before you come to Bonnie Scotland! Wild haggis can give a pretty nasty bite!

     

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    Mike (profile), Feb 27th, 2009 @ 2:34am

    Re:

    Remember to get your inoculation against haggis before you come to Bonnie Scotland! Wild haggis can give a pretty nasty bite!

    Oh, I'm plenty immune from last year... when I was there just in time for a Rabbie Burns supper (actually two).

     

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  10.  
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    Mike Clouser, Feb 27th, 2009 @ 3:50am

    Talks in Edinburgh the Week of March 9th

    Mike, we are looking forward to your visit in a couple of weeks here in Scotland, and especially on more sessions on business models, including "free" business models.

    The Edinburgh Entrepreneurship Club event is indeed open to the public; as is my Edinburgh Meetup Group dinner, as long as they join the group, which is free, but the dinner will have to be paid for. Also, people are welcome to sit-in on my courses, The Digital Marketplace and Informatics Entrepreneurship 2, in which you will be speaking, as long as they let me know beforehand and we have seats for them. These are on Tuesday the 10th, at 2p-4p and 4p-6p at the University of Edinburgh.

    Finally, yes, finally, BarCamp Scotland is free and open to the public. It runs from 10a-6p in the School of Informatics at Appleton Tower; and the networking session is from 6p-9p in Teviot (Library Bar) at the University of Edinburgh.

    michael.clouser@gmail.com

    Edinburgh-Stanford Link, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh

     

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  11.  
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    Weird Harold, Feb 27th, 2009 @ 5:01am

    Free - misleading business concept

    Free is the most misleading business concept in the world, because it is predicated on giving something the appearance of value by actively devaluing everything else around it.

    Problems? Now many bands give away free music so that people will attend their (still profitable) music events. What happens when some bands start playing free concerts just to sell T-shirts? Will they devalue the concert experience enough to lower the value for everyone? What happens when a band gives away T-shirts and concerts just for a share of the concession stands? It doesn't end because the concepts of "free" continue to encourage end users to think of things as having no true value.

    Free is never free, but it expects a whole bunch of people to work for nothing. Web2.0 is already leaving the building, hopefully free will go with it.

     

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    Scottish_person, Feb 27th, 2009 @ 7:01am

    Scotland visit

    Mike,

    I've followed the Techdirt site since mid 2004 and it's long been a daily "must read". I've only recently moved to Ireland though so may not be able to attend any of your talks :-( but I will try.

    A word warning about March the 14th though. Ireland play Scotland in Edinburgh. This is a 6 Nations, a Rugby Union competition. The two teams have a good, friendly rivalry and this is also the same weekend of St Patricks weekend so be prepared for a party and a drink!

     

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    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 27th, 2009 @ 11:46am

    Give Away Scarce Goods For Free?

    RE: Comment #11

    Harold,

    You make an argument that merits rebuttal. It would indeed be problematic if one band chose to give away music and charge for attendance and T-Shirts, while others gave away music and T-Shirts and chose to charge for music. Ostensibly, consumers (who DO like to get everything for free) could get some music and some t-shirt without ever paying for anything.

    But your logic unravels in two ways:

    1) People who like Radiohead don't want to get free Radiohead music and Cure t-shirts. They want both from Radiohead, as it expresses their interests to their peers and rewards their preferred artists. They want attendance at Radiohead shows, and will pay for same. Radiohead t-shirts and Cure t-shirts are not substitute products in the economic sense. Neither is attendance at a Cure show a substitute for attendance at a Radiohead show. Are you really proposing that any music is a substitute for other music?? Wow, you value music lower than people who argue the price should be free!

    2) The reason we argue the price should be free is based on economic theory. MC = MR. It costs (almost) nothing to reproduce, distribute, and share the music. Since MC = 0, price should also approach zero. That is extremely sound economic theory, even if you may disagree with its direct application to the real world.

    Regardless, Techdirt consistently argues in favor of offering the products with MC = 0 for free, and charging for products or services which are scarce, or for which MC > 0. It's a great notion, in that it costs nothing to offer millions of copies of the music for free, and there is a promotional benefit in that wide distribution of good music will increases the market demand for the scarce goods such as attendance, autographs, and yes, t-shirts.

    What YOU are saying is that other bands might come along and offer concert attendance or t-shirts for free, and then no band will make any $. That's ridiculous. No band can offer t-shits and concert attendance for free (on anything longer than a promotional basis), because each of those has a very real marginal cost of production. If a band were to steadily give scarce goods away for free, they would quickly go broke paying the costs of those goods with no related revenue to cover the expenditures.

    In the end, your argument would only have made sense if the choice of offering music for free were some random idea that popped into Mike's head. It is not. It is related to fundamental economics, and products that are free to reproduce behave differently than those that are not. You have, thus far, missed the entire lesson regarding the concept of "Free".

     

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    Weird Harold, Feb 27th, 2009 @ 5:50pm

    Nope, sorry, you missed my point.

    1) Band A makes money selling music and concert tickets. Band B supports free music and makes money selling concert tickets. Directly or indirectly, Band B has lowered the value of recorded music. Enough Band B types, and recorded music loses almost all it's value (the current situation with P2P music trading, example). So we have our current situation, bands making little on recorded music, and trying to make all their money on concerts.

    What happens though if a new type of band, call it Band C comes along and gives away the music for free, and gives all free concerts, with the intent of selling merchandise at those free shows? In theory, if enough bands join the Band C movement, the value of a concert drops to near zero (after all, if it's free all the time, who would actually pay for it?). It's the same logic in the end.

    2) MC = MR is misleading in context, because it ignores completely the costs to create the product to start with, and all the other costs related to getting it to market (including all that lovely marketing that we all enjoy, those appearances on the tonight show and whatever else is done for "FREE" in the process). If a standard Radiohead album costs a million dollars to make (their time, effort, recording time, equipment, mastering, producer's salary, whatever) and they sell 1 million copies, just the setup costs are $1 per unit without any distribution.

    Admittedly, if the bad wants to work for nothing, pays nobody to do any work, doesn't count their time as having any value, and uses only existing equipment and buries the costs of electricity and whatnot somewhere else, then yes, music costs nothing to produce. Most of us don't have the luxury of working on something for a year full time on something with no intention of ever making a cent back.

    Real marginal costs are NOT important, provided that what you are using to cover the free part sells enough to pay for the free part. If you sell enough t-shirts, the concert can be free, because net there is a profit.

    I understand the idea that "products that are free to reproduce behave differently than those that are not" - but that in the end, the only people who can truly afford to do this are multi millionaires who don't give a crap if they get paid for their efforts or not anymore. When a musician no longer can make money for their music, most of them will stop making commercial music altogether and go back to playing cover tunes at the local bar for beer money, because it's more profitable.

    The entire "free" concept in the end is pretty much just a nice excuse by people who can afford to be flippant to look great to a group of people who can't afford anything. (rich musicians and poor college students)

     

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  15.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 28th, 2009 @ 9:45am

    Re:

    Nope, sorry, you missed my point.

    Actually, Derek was absolutely correct.

    1) Band A makes money selling music and concert tickets. Band B supports free music and makes money selling concert tickets. Directly or indirectly, Band B has lowered the value of recorded music.

    You are confusing value and price.

    Enough Band B types, and recorded music loses almost all it's value,

    You are still confusing value and price.

    You also seem to be assuming (incorrect) that there is a static market, and that there is no additional benefit to giving out the music for free. But, the fact is that the music does have quite a lot of value, and that value increases, because the free music allows more people to listen to it, increasing the number of fans, and allowing the band to make more money on another part of its business model (whether it's concerts or something else).

    What happens though if a new type of band, call it Band C comes along and gives away the music for free, and gives all free concerts, with the intent of selling merchandise at those free shows? In theory, if enough bands join the Band C movement, the value of a concert drops to near zero (after all, if it's free all the time, who would actually pay for it?). It's the same logic in the end.

    Nope, not at all. Again you're confusing value and price, but also don't seem to be taking into account the cost side, which is exactly what Derek was pointing out. First, you're not devaluing concerts at all. Second, due to the nature of concerts having a MC > 0 it makes little sense to give away concerts for free on a widescale basis (you might do a promotional one here or there, and many bands do...). But the basic economics (you should learn some...) makes it so that you can build an economic model giving away music for free (there's no marginal cost) but nearly impossible to build an economic model that allows you to give away concerts for free (there's a huge marginal cost).

    2) MC = MR is misleading in context, because it ignores completely the costs to create the product to start with

    Um. Have you ever taken an economics course? Yes, there are fixed costs, but if you had taken economics, you would have learned why those don't matter. The fixed costs can be made up entirely by the business model. The point is that when you have a good that is infinite supply, such as a music file, there's no way to avoid the cost eventually going to MC. That's WHY you build a business model around things that have scarcity to them. You need that scarcity if you want to recover the fixed costs (and more).

    Economics doesn't work the way you want it to. It works the way it works.

    If a standard Radiohead album costs a million dollars to make (their time, effort, recording time, equipment, mastering, producer's salary, whatever) and they sell 1 million copies, just the setup costs are $1 per unit without any distribution.

    And here you're confusing accounting with economics. The world doesn't care how much it cost to produce and market the album originally. It only cares about the marginal cost. That's been proven time and time again and it makes sense if you actually understand how supply and demand work.

    Real marginal costs are NOT important,

    Wow. You'd like to totally overturn basic economics. Next, let me guess, you'll tell me that gravity is a joke too?

    I understand the idea that "products that are free to reproduce behave differently than those that are not" - but that in the end, the only people who can truly afford to do this are multi millionaires who don't give a crap if they get paid for their efforts or not anymore. When a musician no longer can make money for their music, most of them will stop making commercial music altogether and go back to playing cover tunes at the local bar for beer money, because it's more profitable.

    Yes, that's why there are more people making music than ever before *and* more people making money being musicians than ever before -- with many of them purposely giving away their music for free. Your mistake is assuming (incorrectly) that when a musician gives away their music for free "they can no longer make money off their music." That's 100% false, as we've shown time and time again for the past decade.

    The entire "free" concept in the end is pretty much just a nice excuse by people who can afford to be flippant to look great to a group of people who can't afford anything. (rich musicians and poor college students)

    Other than the fact that free has been a useful part of the business model for many many years, and is only made more so due to the infinite nature of digital goods.

    But, there will always be economically illiterate folks who won't get that, which makes it that much easier for others to profit while you insist it's impossible

     

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  16.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 28th, 2009 @ 4:48pm

    Bowing To My College Student Overlords

    "If a standard Radiohead album costs a million dollars to make (their time, effort, recording time, equipment, mastering, producer's salary, whatever) and they sell 1 million copies, just the setup costs are $1 per unit without any distribution."

    So you propose a 'cost-based' pricing scheme? So if I'm, say, Axl Rose, and I spend 10 years making a "Waterworld" themed album. And I partner with Kevin Costner for the production, and we blow $900M to produce it. Now, you would suggest that the market will/should pay us more for the album? Sorry, as Mike says, the market doesn't care how much it cost you to produce. You need to price based on what the market is willing to pay, not how much you blew on studio time, cgi, and coke. Blair Witch beat the pants of Waterworld, and Avril Lavigne's debut beat the socks off of Chinese Democracy. No business can argue "We spent a lot of money on this, so the market will pay a high price."

    "The entire "free" concept in the end is pretty much just a nice excuse by people who can afford to be flippant to look great to a group of people who can't afford anything. (rich musicians and poor college students)"

    Dude, you're so far off. I can't speak for Mike, but my business is definitely hurt by the position I take on issues like this. I run a consulting firm that advises major telephone companies and media brands. Do you think they 'like' my views on this issue? I've lost a lot of work due to my foolish adherence to the truth, and the tenets of my training in economics and business. Those poor college students you suggest are our masters don't exactly drive our businesses. I can tell you that if they're stealing music, they're not spending their savings on telecom consulting!

     

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  17.  
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    Weird Harold, Mar 1st, 2009 @ 7:42am

    Derek, cost based isn't the idea. There is a market value for music, and you have exactly made my point for me: The public no longer cares what it costs to make music because file sharing has lowered the value of music to absolutely nil. I suspect that most MP3 player owners have a 1000 to 1 ratio of paid for songs versus "borrowed" material in their players. Why? Because the market has been taught that music has no value. It's "free". It isn't a question of this beating that, they are all worthless now, with no more value than the lint in your pockets.

    As for consulting and telling the "truth", well, it is your truth and not really the full truth. The reality is that in less than 10 years, music distribution has increased exponentially and the music industry is looking at adjusted revenues lower than 1991. You need to tell their clients that thier products are probably the next thing to lose value in the market, as those who have no vested interest in the products "lend" them to millions of strangers without regard for what it costs to produce them.

    "free" is just a way to explain away and give credence to widespread theft of products. It has no true business model to support itself in the long run, because "free" means that all the people producing those products are making nothing or entering into an entirely risk based process. You wouldn't have seen your Blair Witch or heard your Avril Levigne without a business process to support them. Free kills the process, so it's only a matter of time before the products suffer.

     

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  18.  
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    Mike (profile), Mar 1st, 2009 @ 11:31am

    Re:

    Derek, cost based isn't the idea.

    Then why did you make the case for cost-based pricing?

    There is a market value for music,

    Yes, and in many cases that's $0.

    The public no longer cares what it costs to make music because file sharing has lowered the value of music to absolutely nil

    Harold, I already told you that you confused price and value. Now, why would you go and do that again?

    No, what Derek showed is that the "market price" for music is often at zero, and that's just basic economics. The value of music is still quite high. If you can't understand the difference between the two, it's pretty difficult to take you serioulsy on the matter.

    It isn't a question of this beating that, they are all worthless now, with no more value than the lint in your pockets.

    Again, you are so wrong it's almost funny. The music that Trent Reznor makes has tremendous value to his fans. The music that Corey Smith makes has tremendous value to his fans. Yet, both of them give away that music for free, and are able to use that free music to create business models that pay them MILLIONS of dollars. And it's all because that music has tremendous value, but the *copies* of the *digital files* are free to give away, helping them build a bigger and BETTER business model elsewhere.

    As for consulting and telling the "truth", well, it is your truth and not really the full truth. The reality is that in less than 10 years, music distribution has increased exponentially and the music industry is looking at adjusted revenues lower than 1991.

    This is also very, very wrong, and it proves how little you seem to know about these issues. The *music* business is doing better than it ever has. More people are making music than ever before in history. More people are making money from music than ever before in history. Concert revenues hit an all time high in 2008. Even *instrument* sales were at an all time high. The MUSIC INDUSTRY is doing phenomenally well. What you may have meant, though didn't say, was that the business of selling PLASTIC DISCS with recorded music on them is having trouble. That's not "the music industry" however.

    You need to tell their clients that thier products are probably the next thing to lose value in the market, as those who have no vested interest in the products "lend" them to millions of strangers without regard for what it costs to produce them.

    Why do you keep insisting on cost-based pricing? That's a myth. It's been exposed as a myth for ages.

    And why do you keep confusing value and price.

    What Derek is properly saying is that if the market prices (not values) your product at $0 because there's an infinite supply, then you need to change your business model -- and there are lots of good ways to do so -- where you bundle that infinite good with other scarcities that are made more valuable as more people have that infinite good.

    In other words, it's good business to price certain things at $0 because it helps all other areas of your business.

    "free" is just a way to explain away and give credence to widespread theft of products.

    Uh. Copying is not theft. You cannot be taken seriously if you really can't distinguish the two.

    It has no true business model to support itself in the long run, because "free" means that all the people producing those products are making nothing or entering into an entirely risk based process.

    Yes, that's why we point to examples of people making money by employing free as a part of their business model every week, and have done so for over a decade. You are wrong.

    You are very very wrong. Ridiculously so.

    No one ever said that "free" was the entire business model. The point is that it's a PART of the business model. You give away some stuff for free (the infinitely copyable stuff) and then you charge for the scarce stuff. It works really well.

    The fact that you seem to have your brain stop flat the second it comes across a 0 in the process is your problem. Luckily plenty of folks much smarter than you have figured out that the process continues past free, and they're making millions by recognizing that simple fact. Your inability to realize this just suggests you have problems with basic economic logic.

    Please, please, learn some economics before making a total fool of yourself.

     

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