Musician Chris Randall: Music Has No Monetary Value But The Connections It Forms Are Priceless

from the your-reputation-is-your-currency dept

Guitarist Chris Randall, formerly of Sister Machine Gun (and founder of Positron Records, along with running plug-in creator Audio Damage) has an epic post detailing his thoughts about the music business (and the recording industry) and the monumental changes it has gone through over the last decade. He pointedly declares that his post (in PDF form, due to limitations of his site) is not a manifiesto. Randall calls it “more of a mission statement, really,” and it does exactly that, with many stops along the way.

The underlying current of the piece is that music (along with other forms of art) cannot honestly be discussed in terms of monetary value. The sale price of an mp3 or an album has very little to do with how the fans value the music. No one talks up how much they spent on something when discussing their connection with a band or singer. Instead, they talk about more ethereal concepts, like where they were when they first heard a certain track or who turned them on to a certain band. Randall gives a personal example, as seen through the artist's eyes:

The funny thing about music is that people can tie a certain song to a specific event in their life that occurred when they heard that song; the two become inseparable… I first noticed it in 2004, on the last real tour I did as a performing artist. The first day of the tour, I was in the audience waiting for the opening band to go on, and someone came up to me and said “it’s so cool you’re here! The first time I heard you was…” and then went on to describe a particular life experience that was occurring when he first heard a song I wrote. There were over sixty shows on that tour, and a night didn’t go by that I didn’t hear that speech, or a variation of it, at least once. It quickly became a running joke, The First Time I Heard You, and soon after that it became a conversation I dreaded. It was a heart-rending thing to hear, night after night, because I thought they were saying “you used to make things I liked. Now you don’t, but I’m here out of nostalgia.” It took an epiphany to realize that the First Time I Heard You conversation is is meant as a sincere form of flattery. “You are an ARTIST. You created something that MADE ME FEEL. This is IMPORTANT and I need to TELL YOU so you know that we have a CONNECTION.”

This led Randall to the following conclusion:

That epiphany, and a realization that the act of creation can and should be entirely decoupled from the business of commerce, is what I want to talk about. In fact, let's boil it down to a pithy aphorism: the coin of this realm is reputation, and our imagination is an ATM.

Many artists and (especially) artists' “representatives” have argued that the current market for all things artistic is unsustainable, a race for the bottom fueled by cheap technology and piracy. That their efforts have done little to reverse the process hasn't made them any happier and it certainly hasn't made their few, minimal attempts any smarter or any more effective. Randall went through the whole process as an artist, having the “rug yanked out from under him,” and joining the chorus of disaffected artists cheering on the destruction of their former employers. This cheering, while admittedly fun, did little to actually change anything. Major labels kept acting like major labels, signing everyone they could talk into a contract. Meanwhile, the internet changed things for those wired into it, with little effect anywhere else:

There was a brief period where it was kind of fun to watch the entire music industry collapse in on itself, like a dying star. Can we get more of Metallica suing people for liking them, please? But Seans Fanning and Parker didn’t make Napster because they were moved by the plight of the working musician. They did it because they could, and the act itself, the act of petulant children bent on destruction, was nothing more than a path to greater things for them, increasing their reputations. The music industry, for its part, was eminently destroyable, as it had created an economy of artificial worth, by virtue of its “throw all the spaghetti at the wall and see which noodles stick” business model.

Napster effectively made music free, and yet, for several years, record labels continued to overspend and overvalue their own music:

That’s fine, and business is business, but the problem is that all those bands think they are special flowers (and the labels are in no small part enablers of this thinking; they spend a lot of time and effort making those artists feel like special flowers), and if their record cost $500,000 to make, then it is worth $500,000… Simple economics: a product’s worth is what someone will pay for it, for the most part, not what it cost to make. Hence the utterly false values ascribed to music today.

Plenty of new services have arrived which seem to push the “value” of music down even further. Lots of criticism has been leveled at Spotify for its “low” payouts. Artists have noticed that streaming services' per-play rates aren't going to be much help if you've sunk thousands of dollars into recording an album. This isn't the listening audience's fault, though. This is still just a matter of artists valuing their art above what the market will actually bear. Randall points out that, if anything, Spotify's per-play rates are too high, if compared to the public's valuation of the music in question:

Something happened to me a little while ago that makes me think the Spotify valuation is high, if we’re using currency as our means of valuation. SomeoneI know, who is in the military, was recently deployed to Iraq. While she was there, a friend of hers gave her a portable hard drive with 250,000 songs on it…

To her, this hard drive was “cool,” and furthermore “a neat present.” That it contained roughly 1/8th of all the commercial music ever recorded by Western civilization didn’t change the fact that, on a visceral level, the worth of it to her was essentially the cost-of-replacement of the physical drive itself, because she could always get another copy. If you want to affix an actual monetary value to music, that value is now, and ever was, a function of two things: the true cost of the medium it is stored on, and how easy that medium is to duplicate. The quarter million dollar fine the U.S. government could theoretically levy as punishment for copying that hard drive reflects the false economy the labels have created, not the actual value of the music itself.

To be clear, I am in no way implying that art doesn’t have intrinsic value. But that value is not quantifiable in dollars. If we extrapolate the cost of that hard drive to the individual songs, we can say that each song cost roughly 4/100th of a cent. While this is about 2/3 of the payment for a typical Spotify stream, the money went to the drive retailer and the manufacturer that made it, and none whatsoever went to any artist, publisher, or label.

So, if it can be argued that the monetary value of music is zero, how does any artist hope to make a living? Randall argues that the first step is to realize that music's power to create emotional experiences is “priceless” (in the good sense of the word) and work from there. The true potential lies in the connection, not the value ascribed to someone's songs by an outside force.

As an artist, if you choose to fight this battle over monetary value, know this: you will lose. That is a foregone conclusion. In fact, you have already lost. All of that nonsense with numbers and who’s getting paid and whether life is fair or not is all inside baseball, and the average person (the one ultimately footing the bills, it must be said) couldn’t give two shits. To them, pieces of art are tied to memories and experiences; they are either trying to recapture the emotions they felt when they first experienced the art in a particular context, or trying to create new emotions to go with new contexts. They are willing to spend a certain amount of money, for altruism’s sake, if it’s convenient.

This is where the artist needs to step in and connect. Not only are they fighting against a zero-dollar valuation, they're also competing for the hearts and minds of potential audience members (and customers) who are blessed with more choices than ever before. Barriers-to-entry are all but gone and the world is filled with people creating because they suddenly find that not only are the tools more powerful, but the options for dissemination are nearly endless. If you can get past the “valuation” issue, you can do great things, and quite possibly, make some money as well. But first you've got to do some letting go.

[I]n my honest assessment, the opportunities are far greater now, and the rewards as ample or perhaps even more so. It’s easy. Just forget about money. Seriously. Let it go. You’re not getting paid? Join the club. Robert Johnson and Scott Joplin were the founding members. Muddy Waters, HP Lovecraft, and Jackson Pollack each got an achievement award. David Crosby gets the Bad Life Decisions Honorable Mention. You’re in good company. You should be proud.

Randall points out that he's not trying to make the case that creating art in hopes of making a living is the wrong angle to take. As he says, there are still several creative people collecting paychecks, including session musicians, graphic designers and various positions in the game, computer and television industries. He also makes it very clear that he's not, for lack of a better term, One of Us. [broad emoticon wink at TD regulars]

Neither do I want to come off as a neck-bearded freetard. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are not many groups of people I disdain more than the Doctorow mashup crowd and their inspired thinking that art + art = better art, and everybody has the right, nay, the responsibility to make their own Mickey Mouse movies. If that’s the sort of thing that floats your boat, so be it, but on your head.

Randall offers this alternative plan for struggling artists: the currency of reputation. Build a solid one of those and people will throw money at you. He points out the astounding success of Amanda Palmer's Kickstarter project. Did she need all that she collected to move forward with her career? Very definitely, no. But people showed up in droves and helped her, as Randall puts it, “cash in some of that reputation for real-world money.” The same thing for Penny Arcade, who “chose to cash in their reputation that they earned through years of slogging it in the trenches.” Your first step as an artist is to start “banking” reputation.

These Reputation Credits, an arbitrary unit of my own devising, are a reflection of how earnest you are in tending your public-facing persona… [I]f you contribute to the human cultural experience, you do earn them, and the more you contribute (or, perhaps, the higher the quality of your contributions) the more you earn. You can then turn these in for real-world dividends that can, for instance, pay the rent or buy sushi.

And how, exactly does on do that? By utilizing these four steps, many of which echo a familiar mantra around these parts:

Make art.
Put it in front of as many people as possible.
Engage the resulting audience.

The more you do this, the better you’ll get at it, the more Rep Credits you’ll have, and the further they’ll go when you need to spend some of them. People want to be entertained. They’ll go all honey badger on some good entertainment. Give it to them, for fuck’s sake, and stop bitching about money. That’ll come in its own good time.

There's a ton of great writing and insight in Randall's wordbomb. (It runs over 4,400 words.) I encourage you to take a look at the whole thing. It's not often a musician will offer up this sort of clearly-laid-out perspective on the last decade+ of the music world.

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Comments on “Musician Chris Randall: Music Has No Monetary Value But The Connections It Forms Are Priceless”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I don’t really get what you’re trying to say.

You only don’t get it if you’re a complete fucking moron.

But in (the likely) case that’s true, he’s saying it’s easy for lots of people to say “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Unless he gives away his music and monetizes himself differently, he’s a complete fucking hypocritical douchebag.

Robert (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Interesting. What’s more interesting is the lack of explanation of what the labels have done in the past (and present).

Even more interesting the inference that because an advertisement is for mail-order-bride it must some how be involved in human trafficking.

I just find it interesting the focus is on The Pirate Bay and the advertisers on said site and whether Aimee Mann would approve. No other sites and advertising are mentioned.

At least the post isn’t too angry and full of raw emotion like many on that site.

Out of curiousity, what if Led Zepplin didn’t like Rock n’ Roll being used for a Cadillac commercial because of GM’s history? What could LZ do? They are not a touring band anymore, so what influence could they have on their label for agreeing to something like Cadillac?

(Note: The discussion here is not who’s ads are likely more worse, GM’s problems Vs human trafficking – it’s on the principle of “artist does not approve”).

Robert (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Good point and so nicely pointing out that I did not know Led Zepplin actually owned their publishing rights.

So replace Led Zepplin with some other band who’s music was used in a commercial against the band’s wishes but not against the label’s wishes? Get my point?

The point of touring was, if the band was not touring and not generating any additional revenue beyond the occasional purchase (ex What if Baltimora didn’t want Tarzan Boy used in Listerine commercials?), what could the artist do then?

That’s the point.

What if the label agreed for the music in the movie but the artist did not? In the case where the label owns the music, what can the artist do?

My point was to not just bash The Pirate Bay at any chance but instead to focus on misuse of the artist’s music all together.

If you’re going to rant about misuse of artist music or using an artist to sell advertising that the artist would not approve of, why limit it to a) the Pirate Bay and b) insinuations of human trafficking?

Robert (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Since we’re on the topic of LZ and their obsessive control over their music, why is it the ripped off so many other blues artists (sometimes blatantly) without paying them a dime?

Seems even LZ is a bit like Apple “Great minds steal ideas and we like that, except if you do it to us we’ll come after you with lawyers and take everything away.”

But I digress.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I suggest you read more about Willie Dixon. I was friends with his son. LZ made him a very wealthy man and he was good friends with the band after they settled his suit.

Actually I suggest you start reading something other than this blog. You’re seriously un-informed about the music biz from reading the drivel Masnick posts here.

Robert (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Key words “after they settled his suit”

And I learned about that through other sources, not this blog.

And not knowing LZ has control of their rights (good for them) is not the end of the world.

But you bring up a good point: If you are uninformed about a particular business, you should shut up. So that means RIAA/MPAA/trichordist/etc.. should shut up about the tech business (no, programming in Cobol and teaching at a college about “economics of music” doesn’t count as being a tech-head) or advertising on websites or intellectual property (I mean seriously, you’re an artist, not a lawyer so shut up already).

Right? Isn’t that what you want? So FACT and IFPI and Author’s Guilds and whatnot should shut up since they’re not in the ISP business or web business, or any tech business, they’re in the entertainment business.

You can’t have it both ways buddy. And that attitude of “you don’t get it” doesn’t help. Am I arguing against you, repeating the same arguments like some AC’s do with “So how much does The Pirate Bay give to artists?” Nope. I don’t.

But when AC’s repeatedly rant “Tell him to give it away if it needs to be decoupled” instead of understanding the context… yes, they get responses telling them they are not getting it.

And Jason also gets it, but not in the way you think he does. Some say “digital copies have no value” but that’s not what they mean, they mean it didn’t cost as much to make it (compared to a CD or DVD when you factor in transportation and a physical store) so the manufacturing value is virtually zero. The cost of making copies is virtually zero. (So why does iTunes charge the same price as a DVD? Not sure there, so I usually buy the DVD, at least I get more for the same price).

Jason argues that to assume the digital copy is WORTH $0 is false and that’s true, because people still buy when free is available. He’s also right in that it is FLUID, something you have not acknowledged.

Decoupled, in the use of the original post, is not “free” and does not mean “can’t sell.” So Jason was correct in that explanation as well.

You seem to cherry pick on this subject, which is OK, but you’re losing the bigger picture.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Apparently you think record labels own a band’s songs?

Only in a few instances- usually when an artist doesn’t have faith in themselves and sells their songs for a large amount up front.

And when a contract is signed the question regarding use in commercials is decided then by both the band and label. The band almost always has the right to agree or disagree to the use of a song in a commercial.

Robert (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Can you elaborate on ” band owns their own songs”?

Can a band release their own greatest hits?

Can a band refuse a label releasing their own greatest hits?

Can a band walk away with the full rights of their music despite the contract saying otherwise? Quit a few people in the music biz have come forward saying what you’re saying is the other way around.

Can a band simply switch labels, after all they own the songs?

Can a band be refused to release their songs if they own them? (Yes they can – Eric Johnson’s Sever Worlds was his debut, but Tones was released because his label would not let him release Seven Worlds )

I am struggling because from what I have read, unless you’re super successful you do not own the rights, your label does – but what rights specifically? Publishing? Distribution? Mechanical? It depends on the contract.

Case and point, Matthew Good negotiated to get the full rights (where he says he “owns” it) to material from Underdogs and before. The material afterward is not owned by him, but his label.

So what does “owning” it mean?

I would not generalize and say “no band owns their music” and I would not, as you have done, say that almost everyone owns their music. Because I’ve read far too much that counters that.

Given there’s little transparency in record contracts, I doubt we’ll ever be able to go beyond anecdotal evidence.

Raybone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

For all your arrogance in claiming knowledge of the Music Industry and disparaging others lack of such, you are showing some amazing ignorance. If I was as rude and snarky as you, I would at least make sure I am correct in my statements. It is a fact that most label contracts are set up with the label owning all the rights. If you want to back your talk with a real education I suggest reading ‘Hit Men” by Fredrick Dannen

and All you need to know about the music industry by Donald Passman

Lowestofthekeys (profile) says:

I think there’s too many bands that go through major labels to avoid the hassle of engaging their audience themselves.

I’ve seen a similar trend with how businesses operate social media. They put the work into creating content and connecting it to their network of social media outlets, but then the expectation is that people will just come to them. They’re unaware that they have to take initiative and like Randall brings out “engage their audience.”

Michael says:

Chris’ view is that aspiring artists should avoid the major labels’ antiquated business model in favor of self-promotion. However, I disagree that music has no monetary value. If it didn’t, nobody would purchase it, yet they do.

The trick to being a successful musician is to make the people value your art. Your music ought to be good, of course; you probably won’t have much luck if your work sucks. (Even if I could acquire it for free, I don’t want any music by Lady Gaga, Ke$ha or Justin Bieber.) Being a cool, interesting, engaging person doesn’t hurt. But the *only way* anyone is going to discover you is if you place your art where people can easily access it. After all, how am I supposed to know whether your music is good or bad?

Whether you like it or not, face the facts: if your music is valued by people, it’s inevitable that somebody somewhere is going to upload it at some point. Right or wrong, that’s just the way it is. So, in the event that you’re a bitter, angry person itching to punish and sue, I suggest you quit music altogether and consider pursuing a career working for the RIAA.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So, in the event that you’re a bitter, angry person itching to punish and sue, I suggest you quit music altogether and consider pursuing a career working for the RIAA.

Maybe we could use the list of artists signed with the RIAA members as some sort of how bad the artist is? It’s much like the rogue countries (the 301 report), the ones at the top of the list are probably the least rogue ones. So the ones at the top of th RIAA charts are actually the worst ones? /joke

The eejit (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Indeed. See, for example, the differing reactions of Muse and NiN to people uploading their music. That’s one of the fundamanetal beliefs of the blog. It’s less, “take what you can, give nothing back” so much as, “If you build it, they will come.” Which refers to a group’s reputation.

You can tie this in to current events: if you can discredit someone in one aspect of their life, you can taint all they represent by association, as well. As well as, if you havew a positive reputation amongst your industry, then you will be given considerably more leeway than if you have a bad reputation (see, for example, the contrasting perspectives of Valve and Activision in the gaming industry).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Sorry, but I don’t need dolts like you to opine on whether or not I got the man’s point. Especially when you (probably purposely) missed mine.

Read what he wrote again:

“a realization that the act of creation can and should be entirely decoupled from the business of commerce”


“It?s easy. Just forget about money.”

Great, so I’m sure from here on out Chris will have no problem giving away all the music he releases.

Let’s see if he does that.

Or is he just another mediocre musician that is bitter about his output being ignored and being considered a marginal person in music history?

His hard drive analogy was hilarious too.

You know what else is replaceable, Chris? You.

Some guy doesn’t pull out and boom! We got ourselves another human.

oh wait, you don’t think that applies to people?

It doesn’t apply to art either, you stooge.

Robert (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“decouple” and “forget about the money” does not mean give it away for free.

It means stop worrying and focusing on trying to monetize copies, which also does not mean “give it away, don’t charge people.” It means stop trying to focus your attention on monetizing copies, instead focus on the experience of the fan, the connection with the fan, and give the fans what they’d like.

That’s what you can monetize. You monetize ways to give the fans what they want. That’s where you’ll make more money than selling copies.

That’s the point he was trying to make.

Your comment “Just give it away for free” means you didn’t understand Randall’s point.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

stop worrying and focusing on trying to monetize copies, which also does not mean “give it away, don’t charge people.” It means stop trying to focus your attention on monetizing copies


“stop focusing on selling copies, which doesn’t mean don’t sell them, just stop thinking about selling them.”

uh huh, gotcha.

Robert (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Ah, you’re just trolling because you’re bored.

No problem, I thought you were just confused, but now it is clear you’re intentionally being difficult and failing to understand just because:
a) you’re paid to
b) you’re bored
c) you’re disgruntled and full of a sense of entitlement and can’t handle anyone showing you “the way”
d) all of the above

I am pretty sure it’s d).

Anyway, no more feeding for you, enjoy having the last word as it falls on deaf ears.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You are a moron. And you missed the point by several miles. You can give away your music and still make money from it, that’s his point. And you can even make money by SELLING what’s available for free.

It’s amusing, my friend has a nephew that’s in his early 13’s and he went to show the kid his vinyl and cd collection. The boy was horrified in shock: “I don’t believe you actually paid for music. I find it inconceivable.” His parents are avid buyers of music. And yet he goes to shows regularly, has dozens of t-shirts from his favorite group and just doesn’t help on kickstarter stuff because he still has no money. Fight against that, my friendly troll. I’ll sit and laugh of your futile efforts in changing a societal norm ;))

Robert (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

No, the newsflash is that you don’t understand what people are saying. Your logic (though sometimes flawed) illustrates that point.

TD commentors have been trying to get you to see that, but you simply choose not to and that’s further evident by your ad-hominem attack when you’ve been proven wrong.

Your logic does not apply to this particular situation.

But I suppose if you’re stuck in a logic block, and you seem to be, you don’t have any transitions available for you to enter a different state. Or, different analogy, you’re in a semaphore dead-lock. Or a singleton dead-lock (maybe you like Java over embedded C).

Either way, you need a system reset (aka go sleep on it and come back and re-read before you comment).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Let’s try this again:

If this jackhole is really so butthurt and thinks recorded music should be decoupled from monetisation as I plainly quoted above, then he needs to put his money where his mouth is.

Otherwise he’s just another bitter, hypocritical douchebag.

Are you bozos going to ignore that yet again?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

“thinks recorded music should be decoupled from monetisation as I plainly quoted above, then he needs to put his money where his mouth is.”

No, you quoted correctly (although highly selectively, almost as if you didn’t wish to address the full point). You seem to have completely misunderstood the meaning of the words you quoted, however.

“Are you bozos going to ignore that yet again?”

I do wish there was an ignore function here sometimes, but only for name-calling children incapable of grasping the most basic points.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

And I’m telling you that you can make money out of stuff that’s available for free. I’m a fan of Nightwish. I had all their music in mp3 (courtesy of my friend plus a blank cd) before I started buying their physical albums. But it seems you cannot accept the fact that the guy can monetize on what’s already free even if it’s selling the very same thing that’s available for free.

We are not ignoring that, atually we find it amazing he can sell music even though it’s free.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Or is he just another mediocre musician that is bitter about his output being ignored and being considered a marginal person in music history?

Why do these arguments from people who are supposedly pro-artist always seem to bash other artists? There’s some exclusive “cool club” for the people who made the old way (and are having trouble keeping those revenue streams up).

Anyone who failed in the old way just wasn’t cool enough (or were dumb to sign a bad contract).

This is less about rights and more about people self worth being eroded as they might be realizing that they aren’t as cool and special as they were led to believe.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

iTunes, Amazon etc are selling a convenient and easy way to get music and onto your preferred devices more so than just selling music itself.

Of course, that’s always been the case with records, cds, tapes etc.

That said, if you have any thoughts on how one would derive and quantify a value of music outside of the service aspect of music delivery, we’d be interested to hear and discuss it.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

The world economy

I’ve written quite a bit on the economics of art, gift economies, etc. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s impossible to talk about how to make a living at art, or even how to survive as an artist, without looking at the overall economy. I think people will always make art, and people will always consume art, but having enough money to spend on art is another matter. If disposable income goes down (and I think that is the trend as people need to put more aside for the necessities and for stuff like college tuition), music and art may be areas where people don’t have the money to spend. That doesn’t mean they won’t get art (it could come from free user-generated content, from legal and illegal free art, and so on), but actually buying art, art experiences, and paying artists will lose out to food, fuel, housing, health care, etc.

What I would like to see is an expansion of creativity so that people, no matter how broke they may be, will make their own art, and not necessarily need to buy it to have it. The separation between artists and fans will blur to such an extent that we will all be artists. There won’t be a collection of fans there to support the artists because there won’t be a distinction between the two. Whatever is done to generate food, housing, health care, and so on will likely be done as the primary whole, with art just being an integral part of life, like breathing.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: The world economy

If people are too broke to buy chairs, they will get by sitting on the ground. There will be chair makers and they will sell to the wealthy; the poor will make do.

The wealthy will have their private concerts and hire people to make music. Everyone else will have friends over and make their own music.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The world economy

No they aren’t.

Your analogy is hilariously retarded.

People buy all kinds of chairs, all the time.

They want them and they pay for them.

Because they know if they try to take them without permission, they will have to face the wrath of the law.

Don’t go through life being a willfully blind bonehead.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 The world economy

I’m not sure if you realize I didn’t start the chair analogy. I was merely responding to it. Someone else compared chair makers to musicians.

I just pointed out that when the average citizen is broke, he/she doesn’t support either musicians or chair makers. The idea that musicians and chair makers will find ways to sell their products assumes the world economy has enough money floating around that people will buy those things. I don’t think we’re headed that way. With global income inequality, there are the wealthy who can buy whatever they want and then there’s everyone else using what funds they have to cover the necessities.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: The world economy

Are these the folks who are going to chip in to keep their favorite musicians afloat?

Family Value: When Grown Kids Return Home – “Three in 10 parents of adult children said that at least one of their children had returned home because of the economy, according to a Pew survey last December of about 2,000 adults. And almost two-thirds of 25- to 34-year-olds have friends or family members who have moved back home over the past few years because of economic conditions.”

Jason Spitz (user link) says:

"NO" monetary value?

The original blog post, and this analysis, are interesting and thoughtful. But I disagree with the idea that “Music has zero monetary value”. You could argue that ALL digital media has “zero monetary value” because it’s all just data that can be replicated infinitely if you have the right tools (so scarcity becomes irrelevant). To say music has “zero value” is simply incorrect, as evidenced by the fact that lots of people DO pay for music. I would argue that music has FLUID monetary value — it’s worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it.

Folks who refuse to pay money for music CAN obtain it for free, but there are costs associated with that behavior: namely, time (it takes longer to find quality torrents than it does to buy, plus it’s less convenient) and risk (getting sued, getting cut off by your ISP, downloading malicious files by accident). (of course, there’s also streaming services and YouTube, which each have their own set of limitations…)

Folks who WILL pay for music often pay at varying price points. Pricing is fluid, and often depends on the retail context and the customer’s priorities. Do you value convenience and simplicity above all else? You’ll probably buy through iTunes (and pay iTunes’s pricing). Do you value lower prices and slightly less convenience than iTunes? You’ll probably buy through Amazon, especially if the album you want is a “deal of the day”. Do you value high-quality audio? Several sites cater to you, and they’ll charge a premium. Do you want to make sure the majority of your money goes directly to the artist themselves? Buy through the band’s online store. Not to mention Bandcamp, which offers a “pay what you want” model that often gets purchases of twice the suggested price.

Point is, people DO buy music — therefore, it does not have “zero monetary value”. Artists should not give up in defeat and say “My music has no value, so I shouldn’t bother trying to sell it.” Music DOES have value, people ARE willing to pay for it. There IS money to be made…especially if you can give fans a compelling reason to buy.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: "NO" monetary value?

but there are costs associated with that behavior: namely, time (it takes longer to find quality torrents than it does to buy, plus it’s less convenient)

Actually it’s faster on most filesharing sites I use.

risk (getting sued, getting cut off by your ISP, downloading malicious files by accident)

Out of dozens of millions of file sharers out there only a few dozens were actually prosecuted successfully. Risk is virtually zero. And how can one see any risk if they think it’s natural and ok to share?

Point is, people DO buy music — therefore, it does not have “zero monetary value”.

It has zero monetary value. What they value is the artist and thus they buy it as means of supporting the artist.

There IS money to be made…especially if you can give fans a compelling reason to buy.

What gives music value is the compelling reasons. Otherwise it has absolutely zero value.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: "NO" monetary value?

It has zero monetary value. What they value is the artist and thus they buy it as means of supporting the artist.


People love to listen to song recordings they like.

Always have, always will.

That’s why they purchase them.

That’s why you’re so desperate to rip them off.

It isn’t because of some token benefactor moment. LOL

When you pretend that up is down and black is white you look like a fucking idiot.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: "NO" monetary value?

“People love to listen to song recordings they like.

Always have, always will.

That’s why they purchase them.”

It’s also why they borrow CDs, listen to the radio and legal streaming sites for free, watch videos on YouTube, watch MTV (in places such as I live where they still play music, of course!), play music at parties or the many other ways in which people consume music without direct payment and/or without breaking any law. It’s also why people pay money for gigs, merchandise, and all the other things that aren’t a copy of the music. It’s also why people do things that you hate, such as make mixtapes and DJ mixes, learn how to play cover versions and – gasp – share music with their friends in other ways.

But, you overvalue the one avenue which happens to be the one you prefer, and miss the fact that people consume music in many, many ways that don’t fit your narrow preferred reality – ways that can easily be monetised if you focus on the whole picture. This is why you fail, and fail constantly, to understand the actual points discussed.

“That’s why you’re so desperate to rip them off.”

You might learn to talk without making false accusations. One day.

“When you pretend that up is down and black is white you look like a fucking idiot.”

Agreed. So why do you keep doing it?

Androgynous Cowherd says:


Seans Fanning and Parker didn?t make Napster because they were moved by the plight of the working musician. They did it because they could, and the act itself, the act of petulant children bent on destruction, was nothing more than a path to greater things for them, increasing their reputations.

But it was not an “act of destruction”; it was just the opposite: a positive-sum act.

Ruquay Calloway (profile) says:

Reputation Credits - sounds like Whuffie to me

Randall was quick to name Doctorow among those he disdains (I assume Doctorow is part of his own “mashup crowd”). Perhaps, when declaring Reputation Credits to be an “of his own devising”, he didn’t realize that Doctorow himself was talking about this very idea (under the name Whuffie) nearly a decade ago.
Randall’s first act should be to bestow a few of those Rep Credits upon Doctorow.

Cwitch (user link) says:

This article makes perfect sense. Most instances cited here are quite applicable in the real world. Being a producer & an artiste from my part of the world, i can relate. Personally, i think any person(s) who does’nt understand what has been said here, either has’nt had enough musical experience to relate with the treated subjects, or simply has a low level of education.
So, if you are tryin to learn from this, pls approach it with an open mind rather than being ignorant about it.

By the way, why would anyone want to listen/argue with an ‘anonymous coward’?

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m sorry, but he lost my respect as soon as he said how much he hates mashup artists. Oh, yeah, sharing is all well and good, but building on someone else’s work to create something new? That’s just wrong. Obviously most of us here on the Internet deserve to go to jail for life and pay fines that total more than we make in a lifetime, because we’re disgusting, thieving criminals who take other people’s hard work and twist it into something grotesque. Well, Mr. Randall, I’ll be sure to never use any of your work in a YouTube video, which means no ad revenue for you (too bad).
(For the record, I’m not against file-sharing, but it just pisses me off when someone claims that transformative works aren’t a legitimate form of expression.)

Wade says:

His reasoning seems a little flawed to me. Because music has become easy to steal, it’s now worthless? If the government turns a blind eye to auto theft, are cars going to be worthless too and all the manufacturers should just be happy to share their work and have faith that some kind hearts will throw them a few dollars once in a while just because?

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