Former Musician Now Lawyer Comes To Terms With What's Happening To His Music Online
from the welcome-to-the-internet dept
G Thompson sends in this absolutely wonderful read by law professor Ben Challis, a former punk musician, explaining the mental back-and-forth he went through after discovering that some of his band’s old music is available online — specifically discovering that some sites are selling unauthorized copies of it. He reacts naturally at first — which is to get upset — but then as he thinks about it some more, he begins to recognize that this isn’t all that productive. Eventually he seems to come all the way around to realizing that this actually is really good market research for him.
He begins to reason through the arguments, recognizing that he and his (one surviving) bandmate haven’t actually put their own music online for sale, and they probably would have put some of it up for free anyway, so maybe having some free music out there isn’t that bad. But more importantly, he realizes that this means there’s actually both interest and demand in his old band (he even discovers that old copies of the band’s single are selling for £35), and he might as well do something about it, rather than worry about what others are doing:
And should I really worry at all? Well clearly at this scale, no, not really. But even so, it does get you thinking and suddenly you see beyond the immediate problems of ‘piracy’ to the new opportunities that come with the web. First of all, now I know we have fans, I have my new blog (I know you are desperate to know, it is www.theignerents.blogspot.com). I then began to think of what other opportunities there are beyond those that just pander to my ego. Well with the Blog, I will soon have set up a mechanism for collecting fan data — and databases are king now (I think!). And if we were still a band we could try and get a gig at the annual Rebellion Festival in Blackpool in March, the highlight of the punk calendar in the UK — and maybe try for a European punk festival or two too! And we could definitely try and sell those last few boxes of CDs I have somewhere — fans in Japan and Germany seem increasingly keen on Ignerents’ collectibles, or I could empty out my cupboards and try and find those last few copies of our first single I have — at £35 a pop that would pay for quite a few nice winter warmer! And what if I autograph them? Hang on, will the value go down? And maybe some PRS monies will come through – eventually I imagine they will; and hang on, and what about that Glastonbury Festival thingy — I work there — I know the main booker! So many possibilities, so little time!
It’s a funny old thing the internet: yes it has destroyed a number of traditional business models in the music industry, and maybe “Ignerence was bliss” for me until a few weeks ago — but the internet has created many many other new and interesting opportunities. The clever bands of the future will be the ones who can seize these opportunities and move quickly and nimbly from technology to technology and embrace and react to ever changing patterns in consumer behaviour.
This is really important. It’s totally natural for people to react the way Challis does above when they first see their work copied online. Even though we encourage people to copy our stuff, there are brief moments when I feel the same way when I see it. But then you think logically about it, and you realize that it’s up to you to do something positive about it, and use it to your advantage. Flipping out and going negative is a waste of time and does nothing valuable for anyone. But learning from it and realizing that it’s actually valuable market research can be quite powerful.