Why Music Is Not A Product & Three Reasons Why That's A Good Thing

from the check-your-assumptions dept

Perhaps the biggest illusion in content-centric industries is the belief that the content itself is the main product. For the end-consumer, music is not a product or a service. End-consumers rarely pay for music. They put down money for copies of music, such as CDs, sheet music or music downloads. They put down money for tickets to live experiences. They put down money for subscriptions to music services. Those are all products, but music itself is not. Arguably, the only way to directly ‘pay for music’ is through commission or donation.

So what is music, or any other type of content? It’s what adds value to the CD in the box. It’s what makes 2 covers separated by a stack of paper worth buying from the book shop. It’s what brings hundreds of people to one place for a shared experience. But it’s not a product.

For people that have effectively programmed their minds to see their content as a product, this might be an uncomfortable revelation. Yet while uncomfortable, it can also be very empowering and here’s why:

  • Digital-proof. For a long time the music industry ‘got away’ with believing that the content is what people buy. However as music went digital, an increasing amount of people were able to separate the content from the product; thus leading to an uncontrollable proliferation of the content through unauthorized networks. Understanding that music ≠ the product fully acknowledges the digital reality, which is the first step to finding viable alternatives for products.
  • Flexibility. Understanding that music is not the same thing as the product which creates the financial reward is a great way to rethink the products that are created surrounding your music. Music is neither a CD nor a download. It can add value to anything. Some people actually create content around physical things to make them more valuable and easier to sell (it’s called Significant Objects).
  • Fan-centrism. Separating product and content means you no longer have to sell fans what you want them to buy. You can sell them what they want to buy and let the music add value. By understanding who your most avid fans are, you can provide them with something they’ll be happy to spend money on. Example (oversimplification alert): got hipster fans? Sell subscriptions to exclusive content via an iPhone app. Got teenage girl fans? When doing a live show, give them a number to send a text message to for an x amount of money & give them exclusive backstage content from the show when they return home. You can do anything; just understand your audience by being connected with them and realize that it’s not the content itself that’s being sold.

This way, everybody wins. The fans win, because what they pay for is more relevant to them. The artists win, because not only do you have increased chances to monetize, but you will also create a stronger connection with your fans by giving (or selling) them what they want.

Some great, classic examples of artists & labels that ‘get it’ are:

In short, the value of the products you sell can be raised dramatically by attaching your content to it. Your content is valuable, but for end-consumers, it’s not your product.

Filed Under: ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Why Music Is Not A Product & Three Reasons Why That's A Good Thing”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Hephaestus (profile) says:

I have to say this again. The cost of content to the consumer is going to zero over the next several years.

The record labels will fail, someone will buy their catalogs and monetize them in new ways, or use them as a loss leader. New business models will evolve for artists. The only thing currently missing to create “mega stars” is the advertising. I had high hopes for MegaUpload and what they were planning artist wise on this front.

RD says:


This is obviously just the “t-shirt” model and even then will only work for already well-known established acts. This will never work in every case, no one is going to just throw away their current way of selling just so you pirates can get music for nothing.

You just want everything for free.

Mike only wants to support his pirate freetard kool aid drinkers.

Copyright forever!

Steve Worona (profile) says:

Buying and selling

Re “You no longer have to sell fans what you want them to buy. You can sell them what they want to buy.” This is the key distinction between business models based on monopoly control (i.e., Copyright) vs business models based on competition. It’s why Apple invented iTunes while the labels were saying “You can’t compete with free!”

Mike Masnick (profile) says:


Yup, they guy who went off to make music for movies and video games, and in that manner assured himself a paycheck that just being a great song writer and musician would otherwise not get him.

Yeah, he didn’t sell “product”. Right.

Actually that seems like a perfect example of what Bas is saying. Reznor’s music makes those things — the movies, video games — more valuable, and thus Reznor is paid handsomely for that *work*, not for the music itself.

Melissa Ruhl (profile) says:

Very interesting article.

I can see how this argument also applies to the higher ed industry. I think some educators can feel threatened by the amount of information that is online because they think it threatens their own legitimacy. On the contrary, paying tuition buys the right to sit in a class or office with an expert. Anyone can and always has been able to buy a textbook or read an encyclopedia; though it is easier to do this now, it has always been possible. It is up to the higher ed experts to deliver the content in a coherent and relevant way. Thus the product.

That said, we are definitely living in an exciting era in which this separation between product and content can truly be realized. If there really will be a student loan bubble soon to be a’poppin,’ then we’ll have to understand quite a bit more about the content/product argument in that arena as well.

Free Sandwiches says:


Are you kidding? Are you suggesting that if id hired Trent Reznor to make the music for a new FPS and he turned in a batch of twee singer-songwriter tracks that id would just shrug and say, “Great!” and slap Trent Reznor’s name on a game of alien slaughtering set to a score reminiscent of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and call it a day?

Somehow I doubt it. I believe his music is indeed a product, along with his persona/credibility. Otherwise, why license music from Trent Reznor when you could make him a character within the game?

Anonymous Coward says:


I love how ACs always find one thing to nitpick about and to just throw up their hands over and go “SEE THIS WON’T WORK!” or “SEE, THIS ONE ERROR IN YOUR ARTICLE NEGATES THE ENTIRE THING!”

So do you have anything to say about the rest of the article?

Or do you just want to focus on Trent Reznor?

If it’s the latter, he didn’t sell a product. Well, not only pe rse. He sold his name, his reputation and his talent. He’s giving all that to whoever wants to pay for it to use in their movie, in their game, etc.

Think of the name “Trent Reznor” as a brand. People are paying him for brand recognition, in a manner of speaking. His “product” is himself.

Also, I don’t get what you’re saying. He’s making music for movies and games, so he can get a paycheck that just being a great song writer and musician would otherwise not get him? WTF? Read that yourself.

Anonymous Coward says:


Actually, Trent is paid license fees, residuals, etc. You know, all those horrible trappings of copyright law and licensing that you hate so much.

What doesn’t the bum just go out and play live like a real musician would, right?

As an artist, movie music is a bit on the scale of a master artist doing charactures at the beach for cash. It’s not the best job, but it pays really well.

Anonymous Coward says:


Sorry Ken, that doesn’t work out.

How much would a blank newspaper be worth?

How much would a seat in an empty arena be worth?

The stories, the music… that is the product. Without it, the rest of it is nothing.

Would you come to Techdirt if every story was a blank headline and a blank story? The website isn’t the product, nor are the ads. It’s the actual content that is the product.

It’s the misleading game played by many here. The product people want isn’t a shiny disc or a t-shirt. It’s the music, the movie, the content. Take the content away, and you don’t sell anything else.

Doug B (profile) says:


Actually you’re buying the bandwidth it takes to get the bits that comprise the file to your device. They are providing you with nothing in the way of a “product”, at least as it is strictly defined. A transfer service is what they’re providing. The sad part about the whole thing is that at $0.99 per song the industry makes a killing as the bandwidth to transfer said song costs next to nothing.

If the owners of the songs sold them drm free for 10x the cost of the bandwidth I’d bet they would make a killing as it would probably be worth it for me to buy music that way than rip it from the CD I bought it on 20 years ago. However, at 0.99 per song it is cost prohibitive. Therefore I simply rip my old CDs. In fact, often enough it’s cheaper for me to buy a used CD for $3 and rip the songs off of it than buy them as MP3s.

Torg (profile) says:


Except that music isn’t the product of a concert either. If it was then anyone who bought a band’s songs on iTunes wouldn’t be interested in seeing them in concert. The “seat is the product” idea is indeed wrong, since most of those seats suck, but that doesn’t make “music is the product” right. If you were to get a giant speaker that plays at the same volume and quality as a live concert, people would not spend a hundred dollars to sit in front of it.

Machin Shin (profile) says:


“On the contrary, paying tuition buys the right to sit in a class or office with an expert.”

If only this was true, I’m now 20k in debt because of tuition and what did it get me? I can tell you right now that the morons I had for “professors” were hardly experts. I had one that was off his ADHD drugs and told the class that he was too lazy to get more. Another spent the class telling us about beer fest and her crazy relatives. I was taking a programing class and called the professor over to figure out why my code did not want to compile, he looked at it and said “hmm, I don’t know, that should work” and walked off.

The school system is just as bad as the copyright system. “Higher education” at this point has turned into a money grab and nothing more. It is impossible to claim otherwise when you sit down and take a serious look at how that system is run.

Anonymous Coward says:


Did you read what you wrote. You said his MUSIC makes things more valuable. So, what is this work he does that he gets paid for ? And why would he go to the trouble of writing music if he could just get paid for this unseen work you talk about. This is the most mumbly jumbly Bull Butter I’ve seen on here yet. Wow….you guys really do just want shit for free.

Anonymous Coward says:


No, but that wouldn’t really be Trent would it? If you got him to compose music it would be his unique style that would help the scenes and setting of the game. If he did write ” twee singer-songwriter ” you tell him to go away and that you are ashamed of his work. On the other hand if the music was true to his style, your games music would be “Exclusive work by Reznor” and if you were smart you would have something in the physical copies of the game. Small token such as a piece of the paper he used to doodle on or write music on. You know things that are real physical goods. You could also throw in exclusive models from your game. The point would be to only use so many of a certain model.

His music is not really a product, it is an expression of Him. The difference between it and facial expressions is that you can duplicate his music endlessly for distribution.

If you are not doing something for the enjoyment of it and are instead doing it for the money, you are destined to fail. Fans REALLY only care about the experience. The unique experience.

Music was a product but no more. Before you could listen to an artist you had to go to where they were performing and experience it. Then came the record, large but still on demand. Then you had tapes that were smaller and you take with you on the go. They suffered over time so the first play was the same as the last play. Then we moved up again to CD. Even smaller then a tape and held more. More durable. Then we figured out how to rip music into digital format. At that point, Music went back to being an experience and no longer a product for hocking.

Also, you could make him a character, but unless you got him to do the voice acting, what would be the point? You might as well have a wax statue of him in the game. You are still thinking that X (that which is infinite) is a money maker. What you are failing to under stand is that it is E (that which is finite) is the way to make money. Sure you will have some people willing to buy X, and some willing to buy E. The difference is that E is an actual something that there is only so much of. Once you are out of it, it is gone, where as X will be here forever.

Anonymous Coward says:


How much would a blank newspaper be worth?

This is kind of the point of the whole article.

The newspaper is a product made more valuable by having news printed on it. “News” itself cannot be bought. You don’t run down to the store and get a can of ethereal news.

“News” can be applied to various mediums, TV, newspapers, blogs, radio, books, magazines etc all of which compete with each other to be the best news delivery to suit the customer’s needs.

If you think your customers needs is just “news” – you’re not going to be compete very well.

Much like if you think your product is just “music” – you’re not going to compete very well.

Bas Grasmayer (profile) says:


Besides that, my point wasn’t that he’s not selling products. My point is that his music itself is not the product. Perhaps the creators of the games/films are commissioning, which is one of the few ways to pay directly for music. And then of course there are licenses and things like that.

But for the end consumer, what is the product?

The copy of the game or the movie. The ticket to the movie in the cinema, etc.

That is the product.

el_segfaulto (profile) says:


I know this is probably going to go right over your head, but some people actually create for the joy of creation. It’s what art used to be about before it was coopted by people like you. My time is valuable, I charge $60/hr for general consulting and $100/hr for data recovery and penetration testing. I still manage to contribute time and code to a variety of open-source projects. I do it, not to get paid, but because I want to give something back to society. Even if I weren’t getting paid in my 9-5 job or my consulting gigs I would still give back to the open-source community because it is the right thing to do.

Money obsessed psuedo-artists make me sick. If the end result of the “digital revolution” is that the fake artists get real jobs and leave art to those who love creating, then I say we call their bluff.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:


Otherwise, why license music from Trent Reznor when you could make him a character within the game?

Because being a character in video games is not what Trent Reznor is known for?

As for the rest of your crap, Id would hire Trent because he creates music that fits the theme of their game. They hire Trent because they trust him to not make “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” type music. They hire Trent because getting the same music from a nobody composer is not as valuable.

Seriously, if Trent Reznor and Joe Schmo down the street came to you with the exact same song (both written in isolation) which would you value more? It is not the music that makes Trent valuable. It is Trent.

Torg (profile) says:


His music makes things more valuable. It is not that thing’s sole source of value and it’s probably not the primary reason that most people buy the things his music is in, any more than people buy Star Wars to hear the musical genius of John Williams. The whole point of this article is that music is better used adding value to things instead of trying to be its own product.

Torg (profile) says:


Exactly. So there’s something about that digital copy of a music recording that is more valuable than a normal digital copy of a music recording. Maybe it’s that they can get it on their iPod/iPad/smartphone more quickly and easily. Maybe it’s easier to find. Maybe they just want the artist they’re buying from to succeed. Maybe a combination of those, or a reason I haven’t thought of. Something’s causing those people to pay a dollar for that song when it’s free elsewhere.

Michael says:

From a purely financial perspective, music’s main benefit lies in its ability to advertise the artist or product it’s being used to support. The vast majority of money is made in performance, merch, advertising deals, et al. The major labels know this all too well, hence why whenever there’s a new music video for one of their artists, they post it on YouTube. If they didn’t promote their artists using the internet, they’d go extinct.

While audio recordings may in fact be commoditized, the purpose of music (and art in general) is to be enjoyed. A music recording does absolutely no good just sitting in a vault somewhere nor being restricted from widespread public appreciation. If you restrict it with a toll booth, the result is far less listeners and thus the value on all other financial pursuits in relation must diminish as a direct consequence.

The public is the best advertising tool the industry could ever hope for …yet nobody is smart enough in the industry to take advantage.

Anonymous Coward says:


You have to stand back and think for a second.

A concert without the music is what? Winky blinky lights, and some slightly buzzing speakers.

Taken to the extreme, would you pay $350 for a ticket to see Madonna’s keyboard player hold a single note for 2 hours? Nope.

All of the concerts, t-shirts, fan sites, mini putt games, whatever it is all tracks back to the simple PRODUCT – music. Everything else is a sub-product of that root item. Without the music, the rest of it is moot.

When it’s a performance, it’s a performance of the music. The music is the root. Without it, there is nothing. It is the product that people want.

Anonymous Coward says:


Except it misses the boat for fans who have no desire to play the video game or watch a movie or whatever. If you are a musician, sell your music.

What you are asking musicians to do is to become something that they are not. It would be like telling a plumber he shouldn’t charge for his services, instead he should do a song and dance rountine and charge for that.

Musicians are basically in the service industry, they provide a service, the song. You experience that service by listening to the song. That may be free to you (as in ad supported radio/television/Vevo), it might be through a subscription service (Cable network, subscription music service, etc..), it might be you directly licensing the content, or even a live performance. The musician provided the service (music), you consumed the service by listening. It isn’t a tangible good any more than a plumber fixing your pipe, a doctor examining you, or even teacher instructing you. These are all services and when you consume those services people are paid for those services.

Anonymous Coward says:


And you get paid to service something how hard is that?
A plumber can’t stop another plumber from using the same tools, a musician should not have a monopoly on the music either that is the tool.

Once I want to see those freaking whining self entitled people work for a change instead of trying to get money the easy way through a monopoly that is harmful not only to the economics interests of everyone except theirs but it is also harmful to democracy.

Bas Grasmayer (profile) says:


Actually, it’s not about asking musicians to become something that they are not.

Music has never been the product for an end consumer. This is a constant and in that sense nothing has changed, so nobody has to change necessarily.

By all means, talented people should focus on when their talents lie, but that does not take away that ‘music’ is not the tangible product or service that’s being paid for.

So let’s take the examples you mention:

– ‘Free listening’ or subscription listening (the ads ultimately pay the income to the artist; artist provides music through the license; service pays for license to get the music (not for the music) – the license is made valuable because of the content);

– Direct license (not sure why an end consumer would do that, but same thing; they pay money for the license that’s made valuable by the content – not the content itself);

– Live performance (people pay for a ticket / experience).

A plumber fixing your pipe is quite tangible. Before: pipe broken, after: pipe fixed. A doctor and teacher… well… I have too much to say about the healthcare and education system to drop into a comment and still stay on-topic, but I think we’re comparing apples and oranges now.

The point is that the tangible (product) becomes valuable through the intangible (content & connection), but that the two should not be confused.

Anonymous Coward says:


– ‘Free listening’ or subscription listening (the ads ultimately pay the income to the artist; artist provides music through the license; service pays for license to get the music (not for the music) – the license is made valuable because of the content);

Why would the service pay for the license if the music wasn’t involved ? When I listen to the radio…nobody is talking about licenses. They talk about the kickass music that people want to hear. The music that SOMEONE created. What’s your next argument that it’s really the airwaves that people pay for. What about the freetard who says it only costs the bandwidth of the download. Now that is some F..d up logic right there I don’t care who you are. If that’s all it costs …then download some empty files. It’s a digital copy, that’s right …it’s a COPY. Your rationale for this argument is insane. You can keep saying it over and over and over but so can I.

Anonymous Coward says:


Your logic is flawed. When you listen to music you enjoy your there is a measurable difference in your brainwaves. This has been scientifically proven. Therefor, there is a tangible effect provided by the music – not the artist, the music. I couldn’t care less if I ever meet Adele, but I sure love some of her songs. I think she deserves to be paid for creating those songs so I purchased at first one of her songs, then two and then finally the entire album, 21.

I noticed you completely avoided the education and healthcare questions because you couldn’t find clever ways of avoiding the obvious comparisons.

Bas Grasmayer (profile) says:


We’re saying the exact same thing though. I’m not sure why you’re so intent on disagreeing with me, since we appear to be on the same side. Our rationale must be equally insane ๐Ÿ˜‰

“Why would the service pay for the license if the music wasn’t involved ?”

Exactly! The content is what makes the license worth paying for.

License is the product/service for which a financial transaction is made.
The content is what gives that product value.

If music was the product, how could there be so many different ways to pay for music?

Hope that makes it more clear. If you still disagree with me, please try to explain without using examples, so that I can understand where our views differ. My goal is to help artists make money, so if I can help you do that, let me know.

Anonymous Coward says:


Music IS the ONLY product I am interested in from musicians. I don’t care about their “acts”, I want the music. I wont pay for a concert, I won’t pay for some overpriced special edition DVD or whatever. I have no interest in buying a game for the music. I have no interest in their acting abilities. I feel that I should pay for what I want directly and that is the music.

Obviously, you see the artists as the marketable good. I don’t care about their personality, their looks, their antics – I’ll buy the music; thats all I want. They can keep their fancy packaging, their videos, etc… If I want those things I will go to someone who specializes in making those things, they will be of much better quality.

Anonymous Coward says:


I am not interested in the products, I am ONLY interted in the music. I don’t go to a mechanic and tell him I’m not paying him for fixing my car, but I would be happy to buy a T-shirt from him! That’s why stealing music from a musician and then telling yourself, “It’s OK, I will buy a T-shirt to make up for it.” is also wrong. You are asking musicians to become T-shirt vendors, or live performers (not all musicians are live musicians – there are tons of studio musicians who are ofthen more talented than the touring musicians – but simply cannot commit to being on the road for months on end). Musician = one who creates music. It’s that simple! Pay musicians directly for what they do best – make music.

Bas Grasmayer (profile) says:


Same. I personally don’t care that much about special edition DVDs either.

So I buy music through Beatport and other places, but ‘buying music’ omits detail. What I actually buy is the copy of the music. I don’t own the music, I own the copy.

So when in the article I speak about donation and commission being the only way to pay for music, I mean it in the most literal sense. And let’s face it, donation and commission are not the way most end consumers like us spend money on music.

Anonymous Coward says:


You just made the point. The “news” isn’t the product, the story written about the news is the product. Just like guitar chords aren’t the product a composed song is the product.

I will never pay to go to a concert, buy a band Tshirt, purchase a video game because of the soundtrack, etc… If an artist wants to make money they better charge me for their music. If they don’t value their music and offer it for free (legally) I will accept their generous offer and they will never see a dime from me. I will pay for what I value (the music) but I will not pay them to be a celebrity.

TimothyAWiseman (profile) says:

I have to partially disagree

I agree with some of your underlying points, but I have to disagree that music is not a product. It certainly no longer needs to be a product, but it still can be.

When I buy a track off of Amazon from say Nightwish, my goal is to buy the ability to listen to that music as often as I wish. It certainly feels and seems like I am buying if not the music then a copy of the music which is really no different from buying the music. It is not an MP3 file I am buying, but the music that happens to use MP3 as its packaging.

FMF says:


Why would the service pay for the license if the music wasn’t involved ? When I listen to the radio…nobody is talking about licenses. They talk about the kickass music that people want to hear.

Once again, you are only proving his point. The service wouldn’t pay for the license if the music wasn’t involved. The music adds the value to the license, but the license is the product, not the music.
Radio proves his point quite well, actually. Nobody pays for the music played on the radio, not directly. Listeners pay with their time, the time that they stolidly listen to advertisements in between songs. Advertisers pay radio stations money for that time. Radio stations pay money for licenses to play the music. Nobody in this chain is paying for music itself. However, music is what drives this engine, making the radio station valuable to the listeners. Music in this example is most definitely not the product, but it makes the product (listening time) valuable.

Endtimer (profile) says:


“The sad part about the whole thing is that at $0.99 per song the industry makes a killing as the bandwidth to transfer said song costs next to nothing.”

That’s a very limited way of looking at it. The bandwidth to transfer the file is only the last ingredient in the very large recipe of how itunes works. They also need servers to hosts the files, programmers and technicians to keep the servers up and running, they need to pay royalties to the record labels or artists (I’m not sure sure royalties is the right word but whatever) as well as the physical building to hosts these servers, and all the other little expenses.

Plus, in the case of itunes there’s all the podcasts and itunes U and ping services they host for free, which while you may not use millions of people do use that your songs also pay for. Obviously, itunes is still hugely profitable despite all these things, but to try and claim that they’re grossly overcharging per song based solely on the price it costs for bandwidth is a gross oversimplification.

roymond (profile) says:

You've got it backwards

All that other crap brings more value to a good artist’s music, not the other way around. I don’t love an artist because of his tee shirts and lighters. It’s his music that I pay for, and for most of them, it’s the music they love to make a living making.

I could make a dig at DJs, but I actually know a few that value artists rather than cut down their craft.

This article has nothing to do with how music should be marketed/sold. It has to do with how people expect artists to just pump out great music for free. Then tell them to create a merch line to fund it. Ridiculous!

darryl says:


a thing produced by labor: products of farm and factory; the product of his thought.

a person or thing produced by or resulting from a process, as a natural, social, or historical one; result: He is a product of his time.

the totality of goods or services that a company makes available; output: a decrease in product during the past year.

Chemistry . a substance obtained from another substance through chemical change.

Mathematics .
the result obtained by multiplying two or more quantities together.

intersection ( def. 3a ) .

the totality of goods or services that a company makes available

Funny reality once again does not match the crazy statements made here on TechDirty…

When you have to resort to having to redefine the meaning of words to prove a point, you know you have lost before you even started !!!

Bas Grasmayer (profile) says:


If you purchased those songs and album, then why don’t you own those songs?

You own copies. Those are tangible, arguably, though marketing professors might classify them as services because of the limited ownership one has over digital copies. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Service_(economics)

Since you’re calling me out, let’s discuss healthcare and teachers then.

A doctor is paid for a specific service; that would be like a fan commissioning an artist, one-to-one.

As for teachers, there are many different types of teachers. Some create content; most don’t. Most are paid to recite other people’s content. They are paid directly for their service. You could compare that to a live performance of a cover band.

But really, to make these analogies work, we’d have to get a lot more detailed. And frankly, I don’t feel like writing a 5-page essay about the similarities between healthcare/music or education/music, to defend a point which doesn’t need to be defended through such abstract comparisons.

If you want to go ahead with it… Please do. I expect 1,000 words by 5pm tomorrow.


Bas Grasmayer (profile) says:


This article is not about making ‘stealing music’ seem okay. This article is about helping artists innovate and understanding that they can make more money beyond selling copies. Copies will always be part of the mix of products released by artists.

So the question is: have you ever paid a musician directly for making music?

That sounds like donation or commissioning.

I think the direct payment you’re talking about is actually an indirect payment, by purchasing copies of the music.

Lauriel (profile) says:


I noticed you completely avoided the education and healthcare questions because you couldn’t find clever ways of avoiding the obvious comparisons.

Sorry, what obvious comparisons? I’m a teacher. I get a flat rate, regardless of how many students in my class, or how many lessons I plan (and yes, some of those lessons manage to incorporate the occasional element of creativity).

I don’t have licensing fees per student or lesson, I don’t get any fee if they use that lesson themselves down the line. How ridiculous would that be? Every teacher you ever had would be skimming off your wage.

Teaching does, in fact, correlate with Bas’ point – you pay the teacher for a service (their time, experience and skills), not for the product (classes and lessons). If a teacher came to you and told you that they were selling lessons, and that your further use of those lessons came with an EULA or licensing deal, what would you say?

Bas Grasmayer (profile) says:

You've got it backwards

“All that other crap brings more value to a good artist’s music”

If it’s crap, then how does it add value to the music? I don’t think there are many people that think Metallica’s music is better due to the merchandise. But the merchandise wouldn’t be valuable if it weren’t for the music.

As for this:

“This article has nothing to do with how music should be marketed/sold. It has to do with how people expect artists to just pump out great music for free. Then tell them to create a merch line to fund it. Ridiculous!”

I’m not sure we’re talking about the same article here. I haven’t stated such a thing anywhere. However the reality is, after more than 10 years of fighting digital piracy, very often artists are forced to ‘compete with free’. I want to help artists do that.

That does not mean creating a merch line to fund their music. Merch lines are usually not thought out very well, IMO.

bratwurzt (profile) says:


“Actually, Trent is paid license fees, residuals, etc. You know, all those horrible trappings of copyright law and licensing that you hate so much.”

Come on, what’s with all the character assassination attempts on Mike? Is it that hard to have a debate without all your ad hominems? I am quite sure (i.e. I strongly believe ๐Ÿ™‚ ) that this blog is voluntary read by fairy intelligent people – people with technical knowledge that can’t be shaken like a simple belief (why? try reading about the differences between gnosticism and theism)

I’ll simplify – propaganda does not work here (this goes both ways). This blog is a fine example of “filter out the trash” – mistakes will be pointed out and supported with facts – at least eventually. Trolls just make this process more obvious – spotting the trash gets easier.

I’ll compare this with file-sharing in current consumer culture:
With filesharing, people (like me) can view a movie/listen to a track without directly paying for it. Because of this movies and music get a lot more exposure and analysis/judgment of artistic value gets more voices/votes. With it we weed out the trash. Ok, not simple enough, I admit.

Let me put it into practical terms – movie studios with bad movies used the first weekend to make money. They fooled people with trailers and marketing and before internet came along that worked quite well – people saw the movie but word of mouth travelled a lot slower than internet chatter. So a lot of people lost 2 hours of their life for a shitty movie AND gave money for it.

Now we don’t have to AND better movies get made because of it. It’s a win-win situation (and by win-win I mean the people won twice).

Michael says:


“Musician = one who creates music. It’s that simple! Pay musicians directly for what they do best – make music.”

Your argument’s premise is flawed: If you purchase an album distributed by a major label, you’re not really supporting the artist, you’re supporting a major corporation profiting off of the artist’s work and hoarding it all under the wing of copyright.

DigitalDao (profile) says:

I guess he actually ment "Commodity"

People who understand and respect copyrights should be getting Bas’s point right away.

When you buy, for example, a CD, you are not buying a collection of songs. You never own the songs. Whoever holds the copyrights for those songs is the one who owns the songs. So when you by a CD you’re not buying songs – you’re buying the packaging (the CD). You’re willing to buy the packaging because it allows you to listen to songs that you like, but you’re buying the package NOT the songs.

And then the implication of that point…

Many of you are pointing out that the package really isn’t something you value. It’s sort of something you put up with to get to the songs. Nobody wants to buy and listen to a blank CD. What you value is the music. Bas is not disagreeing with that.

What’s he’s trying to say, I think, is that a package that you pay for that just serves to deliver music is an inferior value to a package that you not only don’t pay for, but that is also available on demand with no fuss. That’s what competing with free means, and there’s no distribution model for selling copies of music (the package) that can compete with that from a customer value standpoint.

However, you can use music to make other things people WANT to buy more valuable, and you won’t have to worry about non-commercial infringement because the package people are buying is something they actually want, with value added by music they want, too. That’s how an artist can make money off of their music without having to compete with free.

I think a lot of you guys are agreeing with his point but balking at the implication.

roymond (profile) says:


Well, yes, you bought a copy on a device or a file or an optical object. Further, you have licensed the right to perform said copy in a number of ways for private listening, etc.

And in this way the semantics are confusing, because for most people, the content is the product. In their minds they just bought the music, and in a practical sense they own it. It isn’t an issue until they distribute it in the wild, and it is this point at which they throw up their hands and cry foul…”who expects me to read the fine print?” Is copyright broken because people have misinterpreted it?

If the article is purely about how artists should exploit their own content to a greater degree, then yes, of course they should. But you’ve distracted many readers by worrying about how we define content vs product.

Bas Grasmayer (profile) says:


I was in a mentoring session at the music biz conference, where I gave a couple of record label holders advice… and for them separating the definitions of content vs product turned out to be eye-opening and really helped them think beyond only selling copies. So while not immediately relevant (and perhaps even confusing) for some readers, I think the people who are actively involved in ‘selling content’ will benefit from this distinction. ๐Ÿ™‚

Anonymous Coward says:

I guess he actually ment "Commodity"

you are purchasing the actual songs, the content, that is why you buy the CD with the songs on it.

Otherwise, you would be just as happy to get home and find your new CD was totally blank.

You buy the song, you DO NOT buy the rights to that song.

That is the simple difference you people seem to have so much trouble with.

You go to a concert, you pay for it, and you receive nothing physical, you are paying for an experience.

You are paying to HEAR and SEE the music being performed live.

No you dont have the rights to copy that song, or to reproduce.

You dont have that right because you have not paid for that right.

What you have paid for is the content, the experience or hearing the song or watching the movie.

As for the ‘other’ definition of product.

and the ‘4 p’s’ yes, I know about that, yet you have provided no explination why that matters.

what are the 4 p’s ??


In this case the product is the song as performed by the original artist.

that song could be packaged in many different forms, it can be promoted in different ways and packaged in different ways.

But the product is still THE SONG, not the CD, or the jewel case, or the cover.

Bas Grasmayer (profile) says:

I guess he actually ment "Commodity"

The 4th P is Place, not packaging. Packaging would be part of Product in the marketing mix.

And I think I explained why it matters: it’s significant that I’m using the marketing definition of product as opposed to the dictionary definition.

Your first line, to me, really sums up the difference between content and product:

“you are purchasing the actual songs, the content, that is why you buy the CD with the songs on it.”

The content is what makes the product valuable and worth exchanging money over.

Dsm says:


This is where I tell you to stfu. You claim the music is anything and everything but licensed intellectual property. Just because music floats freely over the Internet doesn’t give you the right to steal it, any more than the contents of someone’s wallet you may find on the sidewalk. The rest of your comments revolve around a jealousy/socialism/occupy puke soup that’s completely irrelevant.

Anonymous Coward says:


so if Evis knocked on your door and said to you “I want MY record back” you are legally bound to give it to him ?

Sorry but elvis does not own the CD’s in your record collection.

YOU own it, what elvis has got that you do not is the legal right to make copies of the content.

Why cant you work that out ???

What did you buy, you purchased a copy of a song perfomed by an artist, off the person who has the legal right to make said copies.

You have exactly what you paid for, A COPY, not the RIGHT TO COPY..

Anonymous Coward says:


it’s all semantics is it not, you (a person) buy’s what they believe they are buying, not what you try to tell them what they are buying.

you’re just playing with semantics, and trying to redefine common words, to try to generate FUD “fear, uncertainty and doubt”.

THEY ARE BUYING MUSIC, they are buying something, that plays for them music (of their choice), if there were not buying music (specific music) they would be just as happy listening to a blank CD !!!

DO you know many people who purchase CD’s with MP3 files on it that contain NO SOUND or images ??? (ie a blank CD ?)

When they go to a music shop, they purchase the MUSIC, and the media that music is on, is progably digital information pressed onto a CD ROM.

They do not buy it because it is a CD but they DO buy it because that CD contains the music they wish to purchase.

THEY OWN THAT CD and the information contained on it, what they do not own is the right to take that information and burn it onto another CD and sell it.

They have purchased the right to own that music, but not the right to make copies or the “Copyright” of that music.

But ofcourse you know all this, as no one who claims to know economics would get something as basic as this wrong !!

Anonymous Coward says:

I guess he actually ment "Commodity"

The content is what makes the product valuable and worth exchanging money over.

interesting observation !!! so without the content the ‘product’ has NO value.

This is counter to your original argument.

So by your own admission a product that has not content is not a product at all, therefore has no intrinsic value !

it is only a product when it has content to make it a product.

you equally would not call a mobile phone that is just the empty case a ‘mobile phone’, yes it looks like a mobile phone, but with no ‘content’ or no electronics inside the case it is something, but it is not a phone.

It will become the product of a mobile phone when it receives CONTENT, (the electronics) to make it a product, to add that value you speak of.

Anonymous Coward says:


marketing mix’ is not a definition of the terms in that mix, they are not defining the word product, or price, or promotion or the other one.. ‘place’..

what I posted is the definition of what a product is, the 4 p’s is a definition of a method for marketing as you said..

so you really just ‘made up’ your own definition of what a product is, right !!!

Anonymous Coward says:



that link you point too is interesting, did you expect anyone to actually read it ?

show me anywhere on that excelent analysis, where they have provided a definition of the word “product” ?

The first sentice states “Products come in several forms” it then goes onto define (some) of those forms, but the definition of ‘PRODUCT’ is not questions, the reader is expected (rightly) to understand what the word product is.

The first graphic says it all does it not Bas ?

Better still, the second graphic, that is in a way a definition of what a product can be.

It does not match your proposed definition of what you claim to be ‘product’ at all.

perhaps you should go back and actually read the link you provided, you might just learn something !!!

Anonymous Coward says:

what ‘product’ are you buying when you get on a bus ? you pay your $1 dollar, does that give you the right to keep the bus, or to tell the driver to get out, and for you to take that bus anywhere you like ?

that would be stupid, you have paid for a limited us of a service that company provides, because you paid them something, does not mean you have purchased the company, or have a right to do what you like with that bus…

is your education standard that low these days ??? or is it deliberate stupidity ?

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop ยป

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Older Stuff
16:10 David Braben, Once Angry At Used Games, Now A New Business Model Embracer (33)
18:40 Artists Embracing, Rather Than Fighting, BitTorrent Seeing Amazing Results (10)
15:41 Vodo's Big Brother Bundle Shows How Bundles Can Improve The 'Pay What You Want' Concept (12)
23:06 Price Elasticity Can Work: Dropping Ebook Price To $1 Catapulted Year-Old Book Onto NYT Best Seller List (58)
16:03 The Good And Bad In Chaotic eBook Pricing (35)
05:18 Game Creator Finds That Knockoffs Can't Match His Awesome Game (33)
23:09 The Value Of Kickstarter: Connecting With Fans On-The-Fly (18)
10:02 Massive Growth In Independent Musicians & Singers Over The Past Decade (101)
23:54 Cool New Platform For Supporting Artists: Patreon, From Jack Conte (23)
05:46 A New Hope: How Going Free To Play Brought Redemption To Star Wars MMO (48)
11:16 There Is No Logic To The Argument That Zach Braff Shouldn't Use Kickstarter (105)
06:00 When Startups Need More Lawyers Than Employees, The Patent System Isn't Working (55)
03:14 Hitchhiker's Fan-Site Started By Douglas Adams Shows Why Authors Shouldn't Panic Over Derivative Works (27)
09:21 Patents As Weapons: How 1-800-CONTACTS Is Using The Patent System To Kill An Innovative Startup (54)
07:19 How EA's 'Silent Treatment' Pushed The SimCity Story Into The Background (55)
13:30 Deftones Guitarist: People Who Download Our Music Are Fans, They're Welcome To Do So (29)
13:10 Macklemore Explains Why Not Being On A Label Helped Him Succeed (29)
03:45 Successful Self-Published Ebook Authors Sells Print & Movie Rights For $1 Million, But Keeps Digital Rights To Himself (43)
11:53 Musician Alex Day Explains How He Beat Justin Timberlake In The Charts Basically Just Via YouTube (52)
00:09 Publishers Show Yet Again How To Make Money By Reducing The Price To Zero (42)
20:13 Flattr Makes It Easier Than Ever To Support Content Creators Just By Favoriting Tweets (61)
16:03 Case Study: Band Embraces Grooveshark And Catapults Its Career (21)
19:39 Amanda Palmer On The True Nature Of Connecting With Fans: It's About Trust (131)
16:03 Kickstarter-Funded Movie Wins Oscar For Best Documentary (89)
13:41 It's Fine For The Rich & Famous To Use Kickstarter; Bjork's Project Failed Because It Was Lame (20)
17:34 Connecting With Fans In Unique Ways: Band Sets Up Treasure Hunt To Find Fan-Submitted Sounds In New Album (10)
07:27 Just As Many Musicians Say File Sharing Helps Them As Those Who Say It Hurts (131)
20:00 Skateboard Legend Stacy Peralta Demonstrates His Latest Trick: Cashing In By Going Direct-To-Fan (13)
23:58 Wallet Maker Shows Everyone How To Make Their Own Awesome Wallet (16)
11:27 $274 Million Raised Via Kickstarter In 2012 (8)
More arrow