The IP Maximalist's Guide To Making It Big
from the or,-How-to-Make-Money-in-a-Sea-of-Pirates dept
Techdirt talks a lot about how to make money in the music biz without actually selling music. Consider this an improvement. With these instructions, you’ll hardly have to produce any music at all, and if you do, you won’t have to go through all that time-intensive and "extremely expensive" production/promotion stuff.
1. Make some music.
Before you can start making money, you’ll need some product (hereinafter occasionally referred to as "bait"). Don’t worry! You don’t need an entire album’s worth of tracks to start cashing in on infringement and piracy. Hell, you won’t even need an entire EP. The RIAA has shown that a single song is worth up to $150,000! (By comparison, the median wage of the bottom 90% of American wage earners is only $30,000. Take that, non-artistic office drones!)
2. Establish a confrontational web presence.
Set up a site to promote your music. Preferably, this should be nothing more than a huge, sternly worded copyright notice and some low-quality watermarked jpegs. Better yet, use bitmaps. Nobody swipes bitmaps. If, for some reason, you feel you should post some music, make sure it’s a low-bitrate stream running through an old version of RealPlayer. Limit each stream to 90 seconds or less. Feel free to shorten this length if it seems to be "giving away" too much. You want people to feel unsatisfied and therefore, more likely to purchase your album whenever the hell it actually arrives.
3. Never release your music.
This is key. Always keep your music in demo form. (Much like Zynga games and Minecraft — always be in "beta".) Without an official release, all music of yours found elsewhere is guaranteed infringement. The time you don’t put into releasing your body of work (hereinafter referred to hysterically as "your children") will pay dividends when discovered on YouTube or Soundcloud. Never underestimate the power of self-righteousness in the face of egregious betrayal. Don’t be tempted to think of this as "free publicity." Nothing in life is free, least of all when you’re planning on getting rich the old fashioned way: through artistic endeavors and/or copyright infringement lawsuits.
4. Get your demo stolen.
This ties in with step 2. In order to maximize your theoretical losses, you’ll need to have your product distributed without your consent. If you’re still carrying around your demo on a USB drive or gasp a DAT (Luddite!), be sure to clearly mark it with the label "Demo." Also consider adding "DO NOT STEAL!!!" for maximum seriousness. After all, all caps and multiple exclamation points work for letters from collections agencies. This lets everyone around you know that you would prefer that your precious "children" not be kidnapped and shuffled around the internet like so many trafficked humans.
There are many ways to have your demo conveniently stolen. For those in certain genres, the quickest way to a stolen demo is through the boudoir. During your next post-gig threesome, display your demo conspicuously. (Perhaps on the nightstand. Or tape it to your bare chest.) Be sure and point out to your cohorts that said "demo" is full of "groundbreaking shit" and contains at least one "top 40 hit." Once all the fun has been had, fall into a deep sleep. This will allow your new acquaintances to let themselves out (along with your demo) without having to deal with awkward goodbyes or false promises to "do this again sometime."
For others, it may be more convenient to have it removed by a member of the studio staff or tossed onto the internet by an unscrupulous muso journalist/blogger, who has been deemed trustworthy enough to handle your demo. Take whichever route feels more "indignant."
5. Publicly bemoan the loss of your demo.
Use any and all interviews to rant about your stolen demo (the "bait") and its subsequent reappearance in a variety of digital storage lockers. Be sure to mention the countless hours spent finessing your product and how this betrayal has left you bitter and (most likely, especially if we’re still using the "children" thing) barren. Rail against the internet in general in comment threads. Don’t just limit yourself to music blogs. Take your case to tangentially-related articles at major online publications and other "artist-friendly" forums. Highlight the thousands-to-millions of dollars that have just been removed from your wallet by this theft.
Take care to downplay the fact that you still have another copy of your demo which could be released at any point in the future. If a blogger or journalist has the temerity to ask whether you’ll still be releasing this album, resist your urge to punch them in their logical mouths and point out that there would be absolutely no point. After all, if everybody (yes, everybody!) has gotten ahold of it for free, why would they even consider paying for the official product?
6. Connect with your fans.
In this day of rampant digital thievery, it can be tough to tell who’s actually a fan and who’s just some sort of internet cat burglar. Play it safe and assume nearly everyone is out to get as much for free as often as they can. After all, you’ve got piles of self-interested studies to back up this viewpoint. Be sure to take to the comment threads of various sites to air your complaints. Decry "piracy" and "infringement" with passion and misspellings. Belittle independent artists who work with small labels or self-release. Write off the entirety of the internet as basement-dwellers and misanthropic teenagers. Point out how piracy has both severely damaged the world’s economy and diluted the talent pool. Back up these assertions with exclamation points and poor analogies.
Here’s where all your efforts will pay off. Having carefully protected your intellectual property and antagonized thousands of people, all you have to do is release your music and wait for the royalties to roll in. Try to keep the sale on your terms: buy the album or get nothing! After all, you’re not releasing a collection of singles. You’re releasing a fully-formed child with a maximum of 40% filler! If the world fails to beat a path to your wallet, you can always blame piracy and the internet’s unholy signal-to-noise ratio. But don’t panic. Bide your time. After all, you’ve got the collective power of the world’s governments in your corner. As enforcement maximizes, so should your profit.
Use your downtime to prowl comment threads with legal threats, allegations and complaints. Mock T-shirt sales. Dismiss every alternate business plan as a one-time fluke. Praise enforcement efforts for stomping all over privacy and civil liberty. Thieves deserve no less.
[Disclaimer: The above steps are not guaranteed to provide you with a lucrative return on your time and talent investment, despite the pageview-grabbing headline. I also realize that a disclaimer is usually more effective when posted in front of the content, but you’re probably used to badly-worded, opaque contracts at this point.]