U2 Manager: Free Is The Enemy Of Good; And It's Moral To Protect Old Business Models
from the morality-has-nothing-to-do-with-it dept
While Radiohead’s manager has noted that file sharing is great for music and should be legal, it appears that his counterpart, Paul McGuinness, is sticking to his guns that it’s evil, evil, evil… and it’s all those darn ISPs’ fault. He kicked this off over a year ago when he gave a speech blaming everyone but the recording industry for the industry’s problems. You see, the problem was that ISPs, Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook weren’t coming up with ways of just giving the record labels money. Apparently McGuinness has such a sense of entitlement that he thinks it’s everyone else’s responsibility to fix his broken business model. Since that time, he’s continued to stand by this position even claiming that no other business models were possible other than having ISPs hand over money to any content creator.
In a new interview with News.com’s Greg Sandoval, he stands by this position, even when Sandoval asks him about the examples of Radiohead and Trent Reznor. McGuinness totally ignores Trent Reznor — which is too bad, since his business model experiments are a lot more complete and well thought out than Radiohead’s little experiment — and simply says:
I admire what Radiohead have done tremendously in seeking a new model. They would take the view, and I would share it, that perhaps price has been a big problem for the music business. The music business has tried to hold onto a price that was unrealistic for a long time now. I think wider distribution of lower priced things is probably the future.
But that didn’t answer the question. He says Radiohead is “seeking” a new model… ignoring that they found one and that it worked amazingly well, without requiring an ISP tax. I’m wondering if he’s simply ignorant of Trent Reznor’s wide-ranging experiments.
But from there, he starts saying a bunch of questionable things, including the claim that we somehow need big record labels:
It’s important to remember that the traditional worldwide star-making functions of the big record companies. There’s nothing on the horizon to replace that.
Oh really? Has he not been on the internet? It’s true that so far nothing has been able to totally replace big record labels’ marketing clout, but there are plenty of interesting new services and tools out there that are quickly improving and quickly changing the marketing equation. To claim that there’s “nothing on the horizon” simply suggests he hasn’t been looking at the horizon very closely. If he wants a pair of binoculars, he should call us and we’ll ship him a pair and even point him in the right direction of where to look.
Amusingly, when asked about the role of new technologies, McGuiness again displays his ignorance of technology. He doesn’t discuss how it’s made it much cheaper to perform, record, promote, distribute and share music. Instead, he only focuses on one thing: how can tech companies give bands money:
I would really like them to willingly go to the movie studios and the music companies and say this is how we can collect money from the people who are listening to your stuff and watching your movies. We acknowledge that it’s the fair thing to do and we have some responsibility for doing it. Let’s do it together and let’s make some money.
How about he goes to those companies and explains why he isn’t paying them for decreasing the costs of recording, promoting and distributing U2’s music… all of which has helped to keep the band in the headlines, selling out concerts allowing them to bring in hundreds of millions. Earlier this year, we noted that Bono had said he was upset about piracy but didn’t want to complain because he was too rich. Apparently McGuinness refuses to recognize that part of what helped make them all so rich were these tools that help promote and distribute U2’s music for free.
And then, of course, he pulls out the old myth: that this somehow removes money from the hands of artists:
Artists are entitled to get paid, whatever kind of art they do, the same way technologists are entitled to get paid.
You know how technologists get paid? It’s not because of any entitlement… but because they build a product with a business model that makes sense. There’s no entitlement. There’s simply setting up a business model that makes sense. And it works for musicians too — big, medium and small.
And then he turns it into a “moral” issue:
I’d like to get a moral tone into the discussion. I think there is a big moral question for civilization.
To which there’s an obvious response: where is the moral question when embracing these trends is making artists better off? All if the artists we’ve seen who have embraced these trends and smart business models finds themselves better off than they were before.
And then, amazingly, he tries to claim that the copyright lobbyists are simply outnumbered and out-gunned.
One official in Brussels, a senior Brussels civil servant, came up to me after I made the speech. I was there with a small group of lobbyists and he said to me ‘In Brussels there are probably five or six lobbyists representing the content worldwide. There are thousands representing the ISPs, telcos and the technology industries.’ He said it’s really overwhelming the forces you have against you.
Basically, that civil servant lied. The entertainment industry has more lobbyists on this issue than anyone on the “other” side. And he makes it out as if all the ISPs are against him — but some of the biggest, including AT&T are in agreement with the entertainment industry lobbyists. There are very few lobbyists (and they have much smaller budgets) fighting for the rights of consumers.
And then there’s one final attack on “free” spoken from a position of supreme ignorance of how “free” works:
I started to glimpse the politics of it at that stage. I hope that our politicians, our journalists our media gain a sense of how much we stand to lose if free prevails. Ultimately free is the enemy of good.
What do we stand to lose? Restriction on how we can use products we legally purchased? Artificial restrictions on the enjoyment of content? New and wonderful business models that allow actual content creators to benefit, rather than siphoning money off to middlemen? Free is not the enemy of good. Free is a tool that, when used properly, has tremendous advantages. Many have already figured this out. The fact that McGuinness seems unable to do so isn’t everyone else’s problem. It’s his problem.