Once More, With Feeling: Embracing 'Free' Doesn't Mean You Make No Money
from the how-hard-is-that-to-understand? dept
We’ve gone through this about a hundred times already, but every few months, someone, who doesn’t seem to comprehend what’s being discussed, jumps up with a “revelation” that people who are embracing “free” are also (gasp) “making money.” The latest to walk down this path is Helienne Lindvall, a songwriter and Guardian columnist, who has been writing a series of columns recently that I’ve been meaning to respond to, since each one seems more confused than the last. I’ll start with this one, though, where she mocks a bunch of people, who talk about how to use “free” to your advantage, because they charge speaking fees (and pretty large ones at that). Except, she’s making a rather fundamental mistake: no one claims everything should be free. In fact, of all the people she names, I’m pretty sure every single one of them spends time explaining how to use free to help you make money elsewhere.
It’s the same point we’ve made for years. The point of understanding “free” isn’t that everything is free, but that you need to understand what makes sense as free, and what doesn’t make sense as free. Someone’s time — which is scarce — is something that it makes sense to charge for because it cannot be copied and distributed freely. Oh, and should I even mention that Lindvall’s column, where she insists that the free business model has been proven dead… is available for free? I usually like The Guardian, but Lindvall’s work is not up to its normal standards. Free is a part of a business model. That’s all anyone’s saying. And when you say that it means you do believe in a larger business model, which means making money. I’m always amazed at how people like Lindvall seem to have their brains stop in their tracks when they get to the big 0, and never reach the other side of the tracks where it’s explained how you use that $0 to make money elsewhere.