Say That Again

by Mike Masnick




MPAA: The Grateful Dead's Success Was An Abomination Against Nature

from the one-way-to-look-at-things dept

One of the more annoying things we've found when discussing how the entertainment industry needs to adapt and change and embrace new technologies in place of their old business model, is the repeated claim that it's impossible to make money if the content is given away for free. Impossible is a pretty absolute statement -- and all you need is one example to disprove it. However, as we've shown, there are many, many examples of entertainers who have learned how to make more money out of giving away their content -- which seems to disprove the whole "impossible" bit. However, the industry folks don't seem to know how to respond to that, so they just keep saying it's impossible.

Witness this bizarre exchange between John Perry Barlow and the MPAA's Dan Glickman debating the future of the entertainment industry. Barlow notes that he made an awful lot of money as a songwriter for the Grateful Dead, which encouraged its fans to make tapes of its shows for free. Glickman immediately responds by saying: "It is ridiculous to believe that you can give product away for free and be more successful. I mean it defies the laws of nature." The problem, as always, is that Glickman has incorrectly defined his market -- which is a scary thought if he's supposed to be the leading spokesperson for that industry. He thinks they're in the business of selling content. That's not so. It's too narrowly defined. The entertainment business is in the business of entertaining -- and that can include many things that still involve giving content away for free for promotional value. We've discussed plenty of examples in the recording industry -- and Barlow's success helps prove that. In Glickman's own movie industry the examples are even more obvious. They should be selling the experience of seeing a movie, not just the content. However, when Glickman says things like the idea that giving away things for free is against "the laws of human nature," we wonder if this means he's never received anything for free in his life. Does he turn down the free soda offered with the slice of pizza in the corner shop? Free dessert with dinner? Why that's just crazy talk! Those restaurants must be run by anti-capitalist extremists. Their actions in giving away free food are against the laws of nature, and they must be on their way out of business.

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  1. identicon
    Tim Arview, 9 Jun 2006 @ 1:47pm

    Well, actually...

    Not disagreeing with the concept here. You have a good argument.

    However, I would like to point out some things just for clarification.

    First, you say that Glickman said "It is ridiculous to believe that you can give product away for free and be more successful. I mean it defies the laws of nature." And then you say "Glickman says things like the idea that giving away things for free is against 'the laws of human nature,'..."

    That's not what he said, Mike. His argument is not that "giving product away for free" is against the laws of nature, but that success from giving product away for free is.

    Second, for those debating the "give all their clothes away for free" argument, he said all their clothes. This isn't the same as a promo pack or other such marketing gimmick. His argument is that you can't make money if you don't have sales.

    Again, I am not arguing with your premise, Mike. In fact, I agree with you. However, you should be careful when making claims like this that are certainly popular, that you don't start a witch hunt.

    Just my opinion.


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