Jaron Lanier Gets Old And Crotchety; Maybe He Should Kick Those Kids Off His Virtual Reality Lawn

from the ok-enough dept

Ok. Let's get this out of the way. Jaron Lanier, Wired coverboy of the early years for his virtual reality work (which was often more hype than reality anyway), has written a book. And it's one of those books that helps prove Douglas Adams' famous statement (paraphrased...) that every tech around by the time you're born is "normal," new technology that is invented before you're thirty is cool and new and anything that gets invented after you're thirty is "against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it." It's worth pointing out that Lanier turned 30 in 1990, just before the web came about. And, boy, does he hate the web. And the book is all about how much he really hates the web because it's new and different and against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it. And since he's Jaron Lanier and since he hates the internet (even though he's published ridiculous essays making these same points that were debunked ages ago), the press is writing about him and have been for the last month or so, meaning that lots of people keep submitting stories, like the recent NY Times article all about Lanier's hatred for the internet.

Honestly, it's difficult to see why it's worthwhile to waste too much time responding to arguments that were debunked ages ago, but just to run through a few of them quickly:
  • Lanier falsely believes in the idea of "lock-in" with technology (the claim that the VCR beat Betamax despite being worse and that QWERTY beat Dvorak despite being worse due to "lock-in") is why the internet is so screwed up today. Except, of course the classic examples of lock-in were shown years ago to be false. The VCR beat Betamax because it was better at what people wanted (the ability to record a lot on a single tape). QWERTY is no worse than Dvorak.
  • Lanier pulls out Nick Carr's tired and silly claim that people doing user-generated content are "sharecroppers." This ignores that the whole reason they use those sites is that they get value in return. It fails to realize the non-monetary reasons why people use those sites.
  • Lanier thinks that the "answer" to file sharing online is to rearchitect the internet for micropayments. Again, this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of both economics and psychology. People hate micropayments and they're incredibly inefficient from an economic standpoint. It also shrinks the market of ideas and holds back communication.
  • Lanier argues that the market for "creative people" is shrinking. Apparently he hasn't read any of the recent studies that have shown that every aspect of the music business has grown -- except for the business selling plastic discs.
  • Most amusing of all, he argues that "artificial scarcities... allow the economy to function." He even admits that they are artificial scarcities, but still thinks they're a good thing. Again, this seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of economics. It's hard to talk logically to someone who thinks that having less of a resource is somehow good for the economy.
The list goes on, but at some point it's just not worth bothering with responding point by point. Lanier's trying to sell a book, and it's yet another in a long line of people who don't like the newfangled thing the kids are using because he doesn't understand it. The fact is, it doesn't matter. The internet is a huge success because people actually like the way it works and they get tons of value out of it, even if it's not the value Lanier wanted. No one's going to change the architecture of the internet. No one's going to suddenly figure out a way to make micropayments work where they don't make sense. So consider this my post on Lanier's book, and let's just move on and ignore all the other silly news stories about it, and they'll fade away quickly just like his book.


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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2010 @ 7:07am

    "Honestly, it's difficult to see why it's worthwhile to waste too much time responding to arguments...."

    But you do because responding to these pearticular aguments was cool before you were 30 so it will be cool forever, and your heading enthusiastically towards your crotchety old fart years.

     

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    The Anti-Mike (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 7:13am

    Most amusing of all, he argues that "artificial scarcities... allow the economy to function." He even admits that they are artificial scarcities, but still thinks they're a good thing. Again, this seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of economics. It's hard to talk logically to someone who thinks that having less of a resource is somehow good for the economy.

    yet the whole "lotttttts of t-shirts" thing is entirely dependant on artificial scarcity (limiting production to create scarcity where it would be easy to produce enough for the entire market). So apparently it is good for your economy, but not suppose to be good for his?

     

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      dorp, Jan 13th, 2010 @ 7:31am

      Re:

      yet the whole "lotttttts of t-shirts" thing is entirely dependant on artificial scarcity

      And Anti-Mike is in as usual with a no topic post that gets things wrong. The "t-shirts" are a scarce good, it's a physical good, that's tied in to a non-scarce good. Of course, you like to twist everything up as a good troll that you are, hence your misrepresentation of the idea.

       

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      :Lobo Santo (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 7:31am

      Re: *bang!*

      Hey knee-jerk! You realize you're responding against the reference to what's being written about rather than what's being written, right?

      (*remember to aim first, then fire! Sheesh... poor Igtor, the ignorant troll).

       

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        The Anti-Mike (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 7:37am

        Re: Re: *bang!*

        igtor write good. you read bad. try again.

         

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          :Lobo Santo (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 7:43am

          Re: Re: Re: *bang!*

          *sigh* Premise bad--until automatic tshirt creation from corner vending machine in any color/shape/style/print desired for only pennies, tshirt scarcity not artificial.
          ; P

          Someday though... someday we'll have true tshirt abundance!

           

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      PaulT (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 7:49am

      Re:

      Erm, what? T-shirts are an artificial scarcity now?

      You serious misunderstand every point here, and I really don't know whether it's deliberate or not at this point. I'd appreciate some honest counterpoints to Mike's articles now and again, but you fail if you have to make things up. try coming up with some reality-based arguments every now and again, rather than just saying the opposite of Mike's claims and expecting people to take you at face value.

      Just in case you're being honest:

      - Infinite goods are not naturally scarce (e.g. digital files with marginal production costs approaching zero)

      - Physical goods *are* naturally scarce (there's a non-trivial cost of production)

      - Mike's "economy" is about using the infinite goods that are less attractive on their own (e.g. MP3s) to leverage sales of scarce physical goods with a much higher dollar value (e.g. merchandising).

      - Your argument, on the other hand, seems to be that the physical merchandise is scarce through some kind of artificial means, and that's the only way it works. e.g. the exact opposite of reality. Otherwise, you seem to be arguing that T-shirts should be produced on a "one shirt for every potential fan" basis, which would require not only a massive cash outlay for production, but also do nothing to make the music more valuable.

       

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        The Anti-Mike (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 9:45am

        Re: Re:

        Physical goods *are* naturally scarce (there's a non-trivial cost of production)

        When Mike discusses scarcities, he sort of muddies the waters and doesn't exactly explain it all. Basically, yes, anything physical is scarce only because we can't produce infinite numbers.

        However, what Mike is really pushing is artificial scarcities, limited time, limited quantities, "autographed" or whatever. It is the creation of artificial scarcities that won't hold water in the long run, because any market of good over priced because of artificial scarcity will be quickly lowered in price down as other companies come in to satify the market (and remove the artificial scarcity).

        The profits on these artificially scarce good is high by the laws of supply and demand, but once the supply ramps up, the price drops quickly close to the cost of production. They may not be exactly the same product, but for most people (see Mike's discussion of knock off clothes above) it doesn't appear that the public minds.

        Remember, we are talking about tossing copyright and such out the window, so today's scarce t-shirt is tomorrow's knockoff without restriction.

        you seem to be arguing that T-shirts should be produced on a "one shirt for every potential fan" basis, which would require not only a massive cash outlay for production, but also do nothing to make the music more valuable.

        The t-shirts don't make the music valuable, it's the other way around. Music has value but no retail price, the t-shirts have little value but a higher retail price, mostly because of artificial scarcities.

        Remove that artificial barrier, and suddenly $10 t-shirts are, well, $10, not $50 "official merchandise".

        Can you say "unsupportable business model"?

         

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          Ryan, Jan 13th, 2010 @ 10:05am

          Re: Re: Re:

          There's a good phrase I heard once that describes you to a T:

          "If you can't baffle them with brilliance, befuddle them with bullshit."

           

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          cc, Jan 13th, 2010 @ 10:19am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "It is the creation of artificial scarcities that won't hold water in the long run, because any market of good over priced because of artificial scarcity will be quickly lowered in price down as other companies come in to satify the market (and remove the artificial scarcity)."

          e.g. artificially scarce copies of music and movies. So much for the business models you often advocate, eh?

          *Physical* copies are never the same as their originals. Buying a copy of a t-shirt signed by the band is not the same as buying a t-shirt actually signed by the band (and the number of t-shirts signed is limited by practical restrictions).

          It is *sentimental* value in its strictest sense that differentiates a copy from an original in this case, and the "counterfeit goods" article that Mike talked about is exactly about that. People WANT the real thing, and buy counterfeits because they can't afford otherwise -- they WILL buy the real thing when they can, and they buy it because that's what they really wanted in the first place.

          So, music has value, but no retail price without artificial restrictions. Original t-shirts have sentimental and monetary value and thus high retail price (even higher with artificial restrictions). Knockoff t-shirts have no sentimental value, low monetary value and therefore low retail price (and no amount of artificial restrictions will add value).

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2010 @ 10:43am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Remember, we are talking about tossing copyright and such out the window, so today's scarce t-shirt is tomorrow's knockoff without restriction.

          You're the one talking about tossing copyright.

          We want reform! When do we want it? Reform now!

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2010 @ 3:17pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          You're arguing about the pricing, not the scarcity or lack there-of. A physical good is a scarce good by definition. There can only be so many of them due to material costs and availability, labor costs and time, etc. Arguing that they could sell a $50 for $10 doesn't change it's status of a scarce good to an artificially-scarce good. You can do better than this, but you won't.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2010 @ 3:21pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            If your job is based on you not understanding the issues . . . .

             

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            The Anti-Mike (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 3:30pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            You are doing the same thing Mike does, alternately playing with the meaning of scarce.

            As I said before, technically, everything physical ever is scarce. Actually, even the internet is scarce, as there are limits.

            However, there is the other (and more common) meaning for scarce, as in "hard to find". Like parking near where you want to go, it always seems scarce. Artificial scarcity of parking would be when the city comes and turns the 20 parking spaces where you are going into a no parking zone without reason. That creates a form of artificial scarcity.

            What Mike did with the techdirt shirts, saying "get your order in by friday, we only make as many as are ordered" created an artificial scarcity for two reasons: the cutoff was artificial, he could run another batch off the next day and sell those, effectively rendering the scarce good you paid for much less scarce (thus the scarcity was artificially created). The other part is that the only true measure of scarcity in this would be the limit to the total number of t-shirts possible to be made ever.

            So yes, as a physical good, it is "scarce", but as a "limited edition" it is also artificially scarce.

            It is like those artists that sign and number a limited amount of reproductions of their paintings, or what have you. The machine that is doing the duplication could make as many more as they like (until they run out of stuff to print them on, the ink, or the machine dies), they limit the number of copies signed and numbered to artificially create a shortage in the marketplace, and drive up the price. People foolishly pay for this artificial limitation.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2010 @ 3:36pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              People foolishly pay for this artificial limitation.

              Like how people used to pay for shiny plastic discs?

               

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              nasch (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 9:23am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Anti-Mike, please ignore this. This post is intended for anyone else reading this stuff who might be befuddled by your bullshit, as Ryan put it.

              Parking spaces are naturally scarce. Blocking off some of them for no reason other than to increase parking prices is an artificial limitation on supply, in addition to the natural limitation on supply of the physical size of the parking lot. This artificial limitation does not mean that suddenly parking spaces are a naturally infinite good that has been made artificially scarce. They were always scarce.

              The same is true of all TAM's examples on this topic. T-shirts are naturally a scarce good, and making 50 of them instead of 10,000, or selling them at $50 instead of $5, does not turn them into an artificial scarcity.

               

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2010 @ 9:44am

      Re:

      Exactly-it is good for the INDIVIDUAL economy, but not a "good" in the macro sense.

       

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    Drew (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 8:00am

    Dvorak

    OK, so I agree for the most part with your points on Lanier...

    But you make a rather baseless throwaway claim that "QWERTY is no worse than Dvorak" as well. I don't think this claim holds up to scrutiny. I'll spare everyone the laundry list of reasons, but suffice it to say that if we'd have started with keyboards instead of typewriters, Dvorak would be much more efficient typists...

     

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      dorp, Jan 13th, 2010 @ 8:08am

      Re: Dvorak

      There are no quality studies to prove your point.

       

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      The Groove Tiger (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 8:10am

      Re: Dvorak

      I tried DVORAK once. I actually memorized (tried to) the layout because I couldn't be bothered, but once I got to typing I immediately noticed how much more efficient it was, and how much less impact on my joints was felt.

      But I couldn't be bothered to change my keyboard. I also don't have any say on how my keyboard looks at work, and am occasionally forced to use other peoples' keyboards (trying to get used to 2 completely different layouts is a nightmare).

      So that's the real reason DVORAK isn't used, because people can't be bothered, to change their keyboards or learn typing again, or having to cope with other people's keyboards that aren't in DVORAK yet. But DVORAK is definitely superior, and people would use them if they weren't already used to QWERTY. Quite different from "give people what they want" with VHS.

       

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        The Groove Tiger (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 8:12am

        Re: Re: Dvorak

        That said, I think I'm going to buy an inexpensive USB keyboard and swap the keys into DVORAK and carry it around at the office and see how that goes - still... I'm going to have to carry a keyboard driver everywhere.

         

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    Ryan, Jan 13th, 2010 @ 8:00am

    Common Fallacy

    Most amusing of all, he argues that "artificial scarcities... allow the economy to function." He even admits that they are artificial scarcities, but still thinks they're a good thing. Again, this seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of economics. It's hard to talk logically to someone who thinks that having less of a resource is somehow good for the economy.

    I think this is more maddening than amusing, because this is a pretty typical misunderstanding of economics that the vast majority of the public seems to have, including Congress. In fact, just about all of our issues right now can be traced to this.

    Jobs exist to decrease scarcity, but somehow most people seem to have come to believe that scarcity exists to provide jobs, ignoring that zero scarcity/zero jobs is the optimal economic state and that by decreasing scarcity in one area, you free up resources to decrease it in another.

    What do copyright supporters state as their reason for using current copyright law to prop up an artificial market? That the artists need to be paid for something they didn't provide. Doesn't matter that they can get paid providing other services, or that other people are making less money as a result, much less consumers that have a higher cost of living as a result. Same goes for trade restrictions, where idiot bureaucrats place tariffs to protect one small subset of producers at the expense of a much larger group of consumers. Same goes for the bailouts, where idiot bureaucrats sustain inefficient corporations to "protect" their employees at the expense of competitors, consumers, and whatever jobs the otherwise temporarily-unemployed would have transferred to.

    This isn't an uncommon fallacy at all, and that's pretty sad.

     

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      cc, Jan 13th, 2010 @ 10:03am

      Re: Common Fallacy

      Thank you for a very insightful, well thought out post.

       

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      Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 10:39am

      Re: Common Fallacy

      What do copyright supporters state as their reason for using current copyright law to prop up an artificial market? That the artists need to be paid for something they didn't provide. Doesn't matter that they can get paid providing other services, or that other people are making less money as a result, much less consumers that have a higher cost of living as a result.

      This is something I wish would get more discussion here. There's been the assumption that as major labels disappear, musicians will benefit.

      But as technological tools develop, there will continue to be disruptions. I think we will see a day when everyone can make music because there will be tools that will ask what the user wants in terms of a song and it will be created. So everyone will be a music creator to some degree. There will be millions of musicians, happily making the music that they want, but very few people in the audience to spend money on music.

      We've already seen the mass market music segment growing smaller. People are talking about making a living with 1000 fans. I anticipate that in time it will be hard to come by even that number. We'll have a lot of home musicians who play for friends and family. And even in the live music sector, amateurs are getting involved in performance groups, so I think we'll have many performers getting little or no money.

      This isn't bad at all. It's like being able to drive your own car versus having to pay someone to do it for you. But it is a different model than the 1000 fans concept.

       

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        cc, Jan 13th, 2010 @ 11:20am

        Re: Re: Common Fallacy

        "There's been the assumption that as major labels disappear, musicians will benefit."

        In my view, fans are and have always been scarce. Labels promote and market SOME artists and their music -- a very limited number of them, which allows the creation of stars and even super-stars. If the labels are done away with:

        1) More artists will have a fighting chance. The process of artists getting noticed will become more evolutionary: good artists will float to the top by their own merits, while not-so-good artists will need to consider a change of career. This will shift the actions of artists from "must be noticed by a label" to "must be noticed by the public" -- a very different kind of competition that is centred around what consumers want, and invites experiments with innovative business models (including CC licenses and the internet), new music styles and possibly new media.

        2) Music will become cheaper, so fans will be able to buy more, from more artists. If the price of music comes to match its perceived value (e.g. 10p/track), piracy will quickly become irrelevant. Without a sizeable industry pushing for profits and oppressing fans, such pricing may become attainable.

        3) Old music may become free (as in freedom). Music that should be in the public domain is locked up in the basements of these companies, to the detriment of culture and education. Some day, that music may become lost because no remaining copies survive -- that is a crime against humanity, and the greed of these companies will be the cause.

        "I think we will see a day when everyone can make music because there will be tools that will ask what the user wants in terms of a song and it will be created."

        Science fiction, as far as I'm concerned (and I'm in technology, specifically involved in Artificial Intelligence). If that ever happens, human musicians will become obsolete, end of story. But I'm not holding my breath.

        What is more likely, is that everyone who has any talent will have the opportunity to make music. Apart from talent, they'll also need some business savvy and the will to pursue their art -- it will be like most other professions.

         

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          Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 12:02pm

          Re: Re: Re: Common Fallacy

          cc, rather than going through each of your points, it's easier to point you to some of what I have written on the subject.

          As for the musical tools, some of them already exist. Mixing and editing tools have already opened up music to many people who wouldn't have been perceived as talented in the past. There are a number of new music tools coming out which take people step-by-step through the process. The resulting music doesn't have to be great as long as people are happy with what they have done. YouTube is a example of what happens when everyone can create video with a point/shoot/upload camera. And some of the most successful YouTube videos have required no talent at all -- just being at the right place at the right time. The democratization of music is coming next.

          The People Formerly Known as Fans

          The Potential iPhone Musical Revolution

          Tod Machover and Musical Innovation

          The Recession and "Amateur" Talent

           

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            cc, Jan 13th, 2010 @ 12:45pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Common Fallacy

            I'll try to remember and have a closer look at your links later. At first glance, you have some intriguing predictions there, and I agree that more people will be writing music in the future (as the education and tools become available). I'm not convinced that the artist-fans relationship will disappear any time soon, or that people with no skill or talent will be able to produce content at the level of professionals, even if the tools they are using do a lot of the work for them. Apologies if I misread your suggestions, I'm in a bit of a hurry right now!

            As for the musical tools, I don't doubt that new tools exist that make it easier for people to write music. Sure, you can make programs that you sing to and they kind of put backing instruments in, for example, but those are only as good as the people who made them (I've sort of made one -- good fun). My point in my previous post was, tools that write and perform 100% original music on their own (that isn't terrible) are unlikely to be invented.

             

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              Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 1:01pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Common Fallacy

              My point in my previous post was, tools that write and perform 100% original music on their own (that isn't terrible) are unlikely to be invented.

              Keep in mind that people are making videos right now by cutting and pasting bits and pieces from other people playing music. They can grab a note here and there and create a song.

              There are now software programs coming out that let you take a heavy metal song and turn it into an acoustic version. You can change everything about it and substitute so much that your final product is more your own than it is a copy of the original.

              A lot of people are pretty pleased with themselves at being able to create something to call their own by manipulating elements that are available.

              As for talent, that's in the eye of the beholder. Lady Gaga is a good example. Does anyone believe she's the most talented artist out there? She's created a package that can be mass marketed and it works at the moment. So I'd say the triumph is in her marketing skills rather than her artistry. Same with Madonna.

              So what I am saying is that music is now everywhere. And more and more people can create it. Will there continue to be some people who can sell branded merchandise? Sure. But now we are talking about branding, which can exist quite separately from the music.

              People want to feel like rock stars themselves. The tools are being created to allow them to do that. Which means the ability for most musicians to find paying customers for what they do will be hard.

               

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            mrharrysan (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 3:31pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Common Fallacy

            A talented musician who has honed their craft will be around a lot longer than some kid who made a cute song with Garage Band and put it up on Youtube. (Career artist vs One hit wonder)

             

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              Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 4:01pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Common Fallacy

              A talented musician who has honed their craft will be around a lot longer than some kid who made a cute song with Garage Band and put it up on Youtube. (Career artist vs One hit wonder)

              I'm curious about how strong fan loyalty will be. Among those who are old enough, how many of you are continuing to support artists/bands over the long haul?

              The churn rate for bands being promoted online in blogs seems greater than in the turnover in the pre-blog music days. Seems like a lot of bloggers want to discover the next big thing and then a month or two later they are on to the next big thing.

              I have no idea how many of today's DIY artists will have sustainable careers.

               

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          The Anti-Mike (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 12:12pm

          Re: Re: Re: Common Fallacy

          More artists will have a fighting chance. The process of artists getting noticed will become more evolutionary: good artists will float to the top by their own merits, while not-so-good artists will need to consider a change of career.

          While I am sure some of this will happen, I suspect that music will end up being a much more local and regional thing, and much less of a worldwide thing. It will be exceedingly difficult for a band or artist to get enough worldwide recognition.

          The record label style business is a 20 x 20 swimming pool 8 feet deep. The DiY music business is a pool 200x200, but it's only a few inches deep. Lots more people will get wet feet, but it will almost be impossible to really swim.

           

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            cc, Jan 13th, 2010 @ 12:22pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Common Fallacy

            Unless your music goes viral via bittorrent or something, just because it's good and it stands out from the rest. Thus, evolutionary.

             

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              Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 12:44pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Common Fallacy

              Unless your music goes viral via bittorrent or something, just because it's good and it stands out from the rest. Thus, evolutionary.

              The challenge is that even if the music does go viral, that doesn't mean there will be an income stream from it.

              I have access to all the music I want/need to listen to via free music streaming. So I don't need to buy music. And I'm not likely to go to shows or buy merchandise from most of the artists I listen to.

              A lot of people are cutting back on spending during this recession and there's a lot speculation that this will continue to be the case even if/when the economy improves. So if you can get your music for free and if you can find cheap entertainment alternatives to buying expensive concert tickets, then you might save your money for the stuff you really need, like food, rent, health care, and fuel rather than to spend it on t-shirts and the like.

               

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            Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 12:23pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Common Fallacy

            The DiY music business is a pool 200x200, but it's only a few inches deep. Lots more people will get wet feet, but it will almost be impossible to really swim.

            Yes, the very tools that allow some artists to get involved in music allow just about everyone to get involved.

            I've been championing local musicians, the weekend warriors, because that's really where music has been and is headed. They are the ones who have other jobs for income and play for family and friends. There's a low carbon footprint because no one is traveling very far.

            If you have ever gone to a bar that is packed with people turning out for a local cover band, you know that often what gets people out to live music is fun, not art. Similarly, karaoke nights often do better than live music at many bars.

            There will always be music. But there may not be enough money to support all the people who dream of earning a living at this.

            And that's okay. Everyone gets to do it. Few make money at it.

             

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              The Anti-Mike (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 12:49pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Common Fallacy

              Everyone gets to do it. Few make money at it.

              Exactly.

              Sadly, it also means that even the ones making money likely won't make anywhere near as much, even if the total money in the system remains the same.

              Live music isn't cheap for a club to offer. The club has to be big enough to support it (30 or 40 seats doesn't make a gig financially viable for a band, unless they are getting more thatn $20 a head). Ratio of stage space to "retail" space is off, making the cost of operating the club too high. (slightly different if your version of live music is someone on a stool alone, but still an issue).

              Clubs owners aren't lovers of the art, generally, they are lovers of the buck. It is amazing how many "alt rock" clubs are owned by the proverbial crotchety old men. It's a business, not art.

              At some point, unless there is enough live concert space for all these lower end acts to play at, the actual amount of live music money will stagnate. they won't be pulling in 20,000 fans a night, obviously, most of them won't pull past whatever the club normally gets for any band, so they have to play smaller places. There are only so many small places per town / city /etc

              Live music comes and goes, for the most part clubs drop live music because it is expensive and the quality is too variable, and people respond better to things like DJs, Karaoke, or similar types of entertainment. Just look around your city and see what is going on. A few live music venues, plenty more dance clubs, etc.

              Now, if there is no internationally loved dance music (because music goes regional) that might all change.

              The implications of change are bigger than the change projected, which makes one wonder if there is in fact any real change coming.

               

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                Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 1:14pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Common Fallacy

                There are only so many small places per town / city /etc

                Absolutely. This hasn't been discussed nearly enough. All those bands who give away their recorded music in hopes of gaining it back via live shows are competing for the same venue opportunities as every other band hoping to do the same thing.

                The model used to be that a club might have one or two bands playing a night, so they only had to split the door between the two of them. Or the headliner got the guarantee and the opener got a little.

                Now clubs typically book three or four bands a night and the bands each get less money.

                 

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                  The Anti-Mike (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 9:06pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Common Fallacy

                  Yup, and the error that is made is that the guys (and girls) in bands 3 and 4 think they are getting somewhere because they are suddenly making money in the music business.

                  Sadly, they didn't take that money out of the pockets of the record companies or the other hated middle men that everyone goes on about here, they are just taking it out of every other bands pocket, a little bit at a time.

                  It is easy to mistake this for progress, especially if the only people you are asking are the 3rd and 4th band members.

                   

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              mrharrysan (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 3:45pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Common Fallacy

              "Everyone gets to do it. Few make money at it."

              No different than it is now. There will just be more everyones. As a survivor of a few record deals, both indie and major, I can tell you that you would be surprised how many of the artists you know and think of as "stars" don't make as much money as you think they do. There are only a relative handful of artists out there who someone, say, in middle management in IT would call wealthy.

              A lot of that is due to the labels' shady accounting practices, which have been discussed here before.

               

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                The Anti-Mike (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 4:44pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Common Fallacy

                harrysan, you miss the key point in all of this: Musicians have always made the most money actually playing concerts or actually writing music. Just being a band putting out albums isn't the way to get rich.

                However, if you are on a label, and you have label support, then you have the ability to get well known, which in turn puts butts in seats at your shows, which in turn puts money in your pocket.

                The record labels also front the money to get things done. Not everyone loves how they do accounting and what they charge, but at the end of the day, they can take an unknown band from the middle of B-F nowhere, and get them known worldwide.

                A band recording their own album which is available only online, running their own website and myspace page, and sticking videos on youtube might never get exposed to enough people to make a go of it.

                So in theory, even if a band makes absolutely nothing off of their record deal, never makes a penny, they still can get huge benefits.

                As for actual income, consider this: If overall income stays the same but 10 times as many people are sharing it, what do you think that does for average take home cash for band members? So far what seems to be happening is more beer money, less steak money. More people afford the beer, fewer people afford the steak.

                 

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            Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 12:33pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Common Fallacy

            The DiY music business is a pool 200x200, but it's only a few inches deep. Lots more people will get wet feet, but it will almost be impossible to really swim.

            Yes, the very tools that allow some artists to get involved in music allow just about everyone to get involved.

            I've been championing local musicians, the weekend warriors, because that's really where music has been and is headed. They are the ones who have other jobs for income and play for family and friends. There's a low carbon footprint because no one is traveling very far.

            If you have ever gone to a bar that is packed with people turning out for a local cover band, you know that often what gets people out to live music is fun, not art. Similarly, karaoke nights often do better than live music at many bars.

            There will always be music. But there may not be enough money to support all the people who dream of earning a living at this.

            And that's okay. Everyone gets to do it. Few make money at it.

             

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            Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 12:34pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Common Fallacy

            The DiY music business is a pool 200x200, but it's only a few inches deep. Lots more people will get wet feet, but it will almost be impossible to really swim.

            Yes, the very tools that allow some artists to get involved in music allow just about everyone to get involved.

            I've been championing local musicians, the weekend warriors, because that's really where music has been and is headed. They are the ones who have other jobs for income and play for family and friends. There's a low carbon footprint because no one is traveling very far.

            If you have ever gone to a bar that is packed with people turning out for a local cover band, you know that often what gets people out to live music is fun, not art. Similarly, karaoke nights often do better than live music at many bars.

            There will always be music. But there may not be enough money to support all the people who dream of earning a living at this.

            And that's okay. Everyone gets to do it. Few make money at it.

             

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            mrharrysan (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 3:37pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Common Fallacy

            Not much different than it is now, but the Majors will no longer be the gatekeepers of who gets the widest exposure, it will be accomplished by a variety of means, I'm sure, with the internet as the key enabler.

             

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        Richard E James, Jun 1st, 2013 @ 11:44am

        Re: Re: Common Fallacy

        I think this is somewhat true but, if there are tools that create music and you have unlimited choices as to what music you want to hear, you either

        One: ask for music which is similar to what you have heard before which can be surprising and enjoyable but not as surprising and enjoyable as something unexpected and great.

        Two: are actually making something new and different which takes about the same amount of creativity and musical knowledge as it does today. You are only cutting out the time it takes to learn an instrument, not music theory or creativity.

        Also, even if these tools make traditional musicians obsolete the new musicians will be the people creating the tools, essentially giving you the options as to what music you can make and how it can be made.

        Yeah almost anyone can make music now days, but most amateur/ home musicians are just copying styles of music that they have heard before. I think the number of great musicians who are actively contributing something new to the musical conversation and sound great is about the same number of great musicians there where a few decades ago. It is just harder to filter out the junk now.

         

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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 8:01am

    It's VHS vs Betamax.

    VCR = Video Cassette Recorder. A definition that includes both.

     

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    zenith (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 8:03am

    Anti-Mike understands the term "artificial scarcity". That's because Anti-Mike is being deliberately stupid, so he can laugh at the efforts you go into debunking his stupidity. It's called Trolling. Learn not to feed them.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2010 @ 8:15am

    Artificial scarcities is a good thing because people have to pay more for goods. I dont see anything wrong with that.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2010 @ 9:11am

    Congrats, Mike. I knew Jaron professionally and I think you're more or less spot-on (save that VCR v Betamax should read VHS v Betamax as noted by Groove Tiger)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2010 @ 9:48am

    This summary seems almost completely logical. The one piece I am missing is more information on how classic examples of lock-in were shown to be false years ago. Could someone provide the sources for this. I would be very interested in reading about it.

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 10:01am

    raise your hand if you feel guilty...

    from the article ...

    "“An intelligent person feels guilty for downloading music without paying the musician, but they use this free-open-culture ideology to cover it,”"

    As was pointed out in another article today we have an entire generation that just ignores copyright. So I ask the question,

    Does anyone under 30 actually feel guilty downloading music??

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2010 @ 10:40am

      Re: raise your hand if you feel guilty...

      I don't feel guilty about downloading music because I don't download music. The recording industry and their antics destroyed any love I had for music a long time ago. So I just stopped listening.

      I'm over 30.

      But once this wild internet beast is tamed, I'll be sure to go back to purchasing shiny plastic discs!

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2010 @ 11:14am

      Re: raise your hand if you feel guilty...

      I don't feel guilty about downloading music because the music I download without paying for is music I heard about but not music that I've listened to. If I like what I hear then when the artist releases more music I buy or I go see them in concert.

      On the other hand I tend to listen to lots of new music through radio and streaming services and then buy the music I liked.

      I'm under 30 and support artists I like.

      The rest of artists I would not have given my money to anyway so why should they care.

       

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    Hephaestus (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 10:03am

    Another great quote ....

    "Dr. Liebowitz suggests a more traditional reform for cyberspace: punishing thieves. The big difference between Web piracy and house burglary, he says, is that the penalties for piracy are tiny and rarely enforced."

    hmmmm .... where has this guy been?

     

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      JEDIDIAH, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 8:04am

      Off the rails

      No, the difference between piracy and burglary is that one can happen completely without your knowledge or awareness and the other will a deeply disturbing personal trauma that goes FAR beyond the mere things that might have been stolen from you. There is a lot of history behind Burglary being an especially bad thing that has no equivalent for copyright infringement.

      People seem to be clueless about the law in general not to mention just life in general.

      --- Han shot first ---

       

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    TW Burger (profile), Jan 13th, 2010 @ 10:07am

    Jaron Lanier seems to be one of those people that dislikes what they can not control.

     

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    Dave, Jan 13th, 2010 @ 2:43pm

    why he's whining

    Rearchitect the internet.. that is very funny!

    I think I can boil it down. I'll bet Lanier's really just pissed because he's no longer the Big Deal he was for 15 minutes. At that time, he must have been rolling in dough, and commanding big speaking fees as the Latest Cool Guy. Now he's bitter because virtual reality didn't really amount to much, and his phone ain't ringing.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2010 @ 2:55pm

    Funny, because when I read the actual interview with Lanier, he doesn't dislike the Web. He dislikes Web 2.0 (as fuzzy as that concept may be). He gives high praise to the painstaking nature of homegrown sites in Web 1.0.

    But, because he doesn't like piracy, by all means, let's send him up as a crank.

     

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    details..., Jan 13th, 2010 @ 6:07pm

    Incorrect info re: VCR formats and Keyboard layouts

    I find all this talk about scarcity tedious and somewhat hard to pin down to consistent, reliable definitions... so I won't go there.

    I would strongly debate your points on VCR / Keyboard formats.

    Beta WAS better technology than VHS... It just lost the marketing war and Sony wanted it all so they didn't do the required deals with other companies etc. I don't know of too many broadcast agencies that use(d) VHS but a lot did and/or still do(?) use BetaMax. Sony learnt a lot from that battle and applied what they learnt to the more recent HDDVD / BlueRay format war... and won.

    The QWERTY keyboard layout was developed in the age of typewriters. One of the design criteria was to SLOW typing speed as at the time the typewriter keys would lock up in a bunch if your typing speed was quicker than the time required to raise, strike the page and lower back to resting position. The Dvorak layout was designed for speed. The main reasons the Dvorak layout failed to get traction were people not wanting to relearn something to be able to do what they were already doing... the performance boost was not enough of a carrot. At this time the QWERTY layout was so in-trenched (lock in??) that people would have been limiting their options regarding employment, accessibility etc.

    Sorry to nit-pick... but.

     

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      nasch (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 10:38am

      Re: Incorrect info re: VCR formats and Keyboard layouts

      Beta WAS better technology than VHS.

      Beta did some things better than VHS. Some other things, such as how long it could record, VHS did better. It turns out most people would rather record more than record better. Unless of course you have evidence that demonstrates VHS's success was not due to that advantage.

      The Dvorak layout was designed for speed.

      But there have been no good studies showing it improves speed.

      Sorry to nit-pick... but.

      Nit-picking is fine, but back it up with facts.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 7:40am

    oh shit! I've just realized this is the last year people are going to release cool new technology. I've got a feeling technology will start going againt the natural order of things by the end of the year.

     

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    JEDIDIAH, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 7:59am

    ...and another thing.

    OTOH, I disagree about lock-in not being a factor with format wars. When you have the issue of compatability and supporting or buying content in multiple formats then you are quickly going to reach a point where the market leader is the only thing that is supported. This is in stark contrast to non-ip commodities where lock-in is never an issue.

    My VCR purchase is a big thing. So are my videotape purchases. Both severely limit my future purchases.

    It doesn't matter if you personally didn't like beta. The nature of the market for content tied to physical media ensured that VHS would eventually the only option.

    Although overall I do agree that Lanier's rant sounded a bit like senility sinking in...

     

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    Prokofy Neva, Jan 15th, 2010 @ 12:30am

    Good for Lanier's Fight Against Collectivism!

    I can see the bastion of technocommunism, TechDirt, that collective farm of Silicon Valley tech, is really put on the run by Jaron Lanier's successful and increasingly publicized new book.

    Good!

    Indeed we *are* sharecroppers on the Google system which *you* benefit from as tech bloggers but we ordinary people do not benefit from except for a few pennies for our blogs. Sure, people "share" for all kinds of spiritual and psychological and sociological reasons, but you need to get paid and make a living, too, and not everybody can make that living by snide web 2.0 copy-writing.

    I just went to hear Lanier speak, and he doesn't at all hate the Internet. He speaks in a balanced and rational way (unlike you) about the need for the Internet and the web to connect people. What he opposes is the *collectivism* of web 2.0. And he's right to oppose that Bolshevik destructiveness that has killed the music and news media industries and only benefited Google. A course correction is sorely needed.

    People do not "hate" micropayments; tekkies who usurp the right to speak for people among the unelected wired hate micropayments that threaten their power. I love micropayments. They're great. They work great on Facebook or in Second Life. So let's have them all over. Once people start *getting them* they will not find it so hard to *give them* -- duh!

    You're making the same mistake he describes others as making in confusing the quantity of music shared with quality.

    In fact, we *are* going to change the architecture of the Internet away from you lords of the cloud that first invented and possessed it so that it can be made to serve other people than you.

     

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    Prokofy Neva, Jan 15th, 2010 @ 12:33am

    T-Shirts Do Not Feed Your Family

    All you folks claiming (falsely) that musicians can make money through Creative Commons on something other than t-shirt sales please give us names, spreadsheets, facts, figures. It's fake.

     

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    gimmeabreak, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 10:53am

    "So consider this my post on Lanier's book,"

    Umm, that seems self evident. Why would we think otherwise? Is it someone elses post? So why make a statement like this?

    "and let's just move on and ignore all the other silly news stories about it, and they'll fade away quickly just like his book."

    Ohh gee mister, you sound so smart I'm just going to take your word for it without considering other peoples opinions or thinking for myself!

    JUST in case the reader wants to think for him or herself, though, having read the book it's clear to me you are misrepresenting his position on at least a few things, so to me your post is what is not worth reading. You might as well say absolutely nothing about the content and just call him a hater. Sorry, you're going to have to do a little better than a superficial treatment of a few points to refute anything. I will say I do question how realistic his solutions are, but your arrogance knee-jerk reaction addresses nothing.

     

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