Kevin Smith's Approach To Competing With Piracy: Give Away A Ton, Then Sell Stuff That Can't Be Pirated

from the voila dept

We’ve written about filmmaker/entertainer/podcaster/author Kevin Smith quite a bit here on Techdirt — and for a very good reason. He seems to absolutely understand how to adapt to the modern internet era — and thrive in doing so. As he likes to say, he’s much more focused on being where the puck is going, rather than where it is (or where it’s been). Along those lines, we’ve mentioned in the past that he’s publicly stated that he believes piracy leads to converts, and those new fans are likely to support him down the road.

Recently he expanded a bit on how he “competes” with piracy. In a all around awesome AMA on Reddit the inevitable question came up about his thoughts on piracy and he busted out a simple explanation for how to “compete” with piracy (even if compete is the wrong word here): he connects with fans by giving away a ton of stuff for free, and then gives them a reason to buy by making things that he wants to sell special, unique experiences that you really can’t pirate.

Here’s my approach…

I try to give away as much as possible. At, we’ve got thousands of hours of my best work, as well as the funniest shit you’ll ever hear: My true life’s work. And we give it away free.

Tomorrow, we celebrate the First Birthday of S.I.R. – SModCo Internet Radio. To celebrate, we’ll be launching S.I.T. on YouTube – SModCo Internet Television. All of it is free.

So when I do present my audience with something that requires payment? I try to make it more special. That’s why I toured with Red State, rather than simply stick the movie out there in theaters alone. Anyone can access any movie digitally once it’s in theaters; I accept that. But they can’t digitally access me unless they’re in the room.

Instead of trying to fight change, I like to adapt and figure out how to thrive in an ever-changing global economy. And as much as I like to head where the puck is going, you sometimes have to play the ball where it lays.

Having followed Kevin’s career for quite some time, it’s pretty clear that he’s completely internalized these concepts. It comes natural to him, and it’s great to see.

Of course, we’ve been preaching from the same basic book for years, with the point being that you can use free to your advantage. It does not mean (as some people falsely accuse) that we think “everything should be free!” It’s all about understanding what things are useful when they’re free, and what things you can reasonably charge for. There are a large and growing number of artists who have figured this out — with Kevin Smith being a great example. It’s just too bad that some others are so freaked out by this that they seek to ruin it for everyone else.

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Companies: smodco internet radio

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Comments on “Kevin Smith's Approach To Competing With Piracy: Give Away A Ton, Then Sell Stuff That Can't Be Pirated”

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RD says:

Cue denouncement in 3....2....1.....

Of course, this will never work for anyone who isn’t already as famous as Kevin Smith. If Kevin Smith wasn’t a product of the studio system all you freetarding pirates hate like you hate America, he would never be successful with such an approach. He would never be able to pull this off without copyright protecting his work. He would never be able to create anything if copyright didn’t exist, because copyright is the single enabler of creative works.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Cue denouncement in 3....2....1.....


Kevin Smith is loosing trillions in lost sales because of his freetard mentality and his piracy apologist attitude. The only reason he can even do this now is because the studios GAVE him money for the pittance of work. Anyone could do what he does. How he ever got a “job” is beyond me.

If every one did what Kevin Smith did, how would be get enough money for taxes to FEED and PROTECT the Children. Anyone who agrees with Kevin Smith is a loser in some basement who wants to eat children and make kiddie porn, is an unemployable drain on society, a NON CHRISTIAN which makes them a NON AMERICAN and should be treated as a terrorist. That is why I am supporting Senate Bill S-42 in favor of getting rid of all these CHILD HARMING people who WANT EVERY THING for FREE and THOSE ENCOURAGE THEIR USELESSSTYLE.

And that is how you troll.

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Cue denouncement in 3....2....1.....

Nay, the finest in trolling relies on nothing which can be disproved and nothing which can be easily discounted as pure hyperbole or opinion.

Epic level trolls can change peoples opinions, minds, and lives.

The best a disprovable/hyperbolic/opinion-only troll can do is give somebody momentary pause while annoying them.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Cue denouncement in 3....2....1.....

“Product of the system? Really?”

That’s definitely what the trolls RD was mocking would say. They would argue that, yeah, Clerks was made on a shoestring with no studio involvement, but since the marketing, distribution, editing (removing the downer ending), soundtrack acquisition, etc. was all done by Miramax then it’s a product of the system. That anything Smith does now is riding the wave of that success and it’s all down to the old system.

It’s silly, and ignores most of the points actually being raised by Smith himself (he did it that way back them because he had to, new filmmakers today have no such restraints), but that’s the way of those people.

jlew (profile) says:

Re: Cue denouncement in 3....2....1.....

Troll or not, half of what you say is reasonable. The bit about copyright being the single enabler of creative works is a little silly. How about AN enabler of being compensated for a creative work? But if Kevin Smith didn’t reap some benefit from the system initially, nobody would want his stuff – free or otherwise.

rubberpants says:

The trick to combatting piracy is to add long, unskippable warnings to the beginning of all DVDs and Blu-rays which will only be seem by people who actually bought the movie.

I predict the end of computers being used to copy and transmit information.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I know more than a few people who rip the DVDs & Blu-Rays they own for the sole purpose of getting rid of that unskippable garbage. They also tend to prefer to get rid of the menus, previews, and “extras” so they can just pop the disc in and immediately start watching the movie.

Because of the DMCA, they are breaking the law in doing so, even though they aren’t engaging in piracy. Why is the FBI & ICE encouraging people to break the law?

Malor (profile) says:

I’d expand on this sentence just a little:

It’s all about understanding what things are useful when they’re free, and what things you can reasonably charge for.

I’d add “… and how much you can reasonably charge.” Copying bits doesn’t have a lot of value, but it does have SOME, especially when they’re curated bits from a trusted source.

There’s a price somewhere above free that should work for the great majority of customers. They can copy bits themselves, so that price can’t be terribly high, but it doesn’t have to be zero.

RD says:

Re: Re:

“There’s a price somewhere above free that should work for the great majority of customers. They can copy bits themselves, so that price can’t be terribly high, but it doesn’t have to be zero.”

Yes, and that price is $1 per song (iTunes) or $9 for unlimited movie streaming (Netflix).

All the movie and music industries need to do is keep the prices to something reasonable like these and LET PEOPLE INNOVATE THE SERVICES THAT OFFER IT. Stop suing them for making it WORK and stop trying to charge 1-10 TIMES the value of the ENTIRE service for licensing your media.

yofa says:


kevin smith is a genius. and here’s why. people will always spend only a certain percentage of their money on media/entertainment. what you’re competing for is a percentage of that set percentage. if they’re truly fans, they will spend on that t-shirt, action figure, collectible or what-not. if they think you’re a greedy money-grabbing asshole, they will avoid you (metallica).

kevin smith’s approach makes him appear to be less of an asshole, so people are more likely to buy his stuff, which can be sold at higher profit margins.

i like it. the traditional media companies don’t get it when they come up with math that speculates billions of dollars of losses to piracy, not taking into account that that money doesn’t exist in the first place. people aren’t going to go starving just to get their hands on more media/entertainment. and you assholes are losing your percentage of the set percentage to good guys like kevin smith. bravo!


yofa, angry video game nerd doll owner

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