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
    faithless follower, 10 Jun 2006 @ 6:48am

    creative business models

    There are some artists who are doing quite well by giving away their product. Jane Siberry offers all of her music as free downloads, with a "suggested" price of $1 per song. You can download free and pay later, or pay nothing and the song becomes a "gift from Jane". The interesting thing is, only 17% download and never pay. The rest DO pay for the tracks, and the average price per paid track is $1.14, MORE than the suggested price.

    I think many artists could survive quite well on a "tip jar" existance. Give away the product for free, but provide a PayPal link to the artist's tip jar. Many artists would earn millions per album just in tips, and they wouldn't have to split it with a crooked record company.

    Or, an established band could get paid BEFORE releasing an album. Suppose U2 said, "We've got this great new album recorded, and we'll release it free to the world as soon as we get $3 million in donations. "We'll also give $1 million of that money to the World Hunger Fund". They'd easily collect the $3 million in a few days or weeks.

    In all of these scenarios, there is no middleman, and none needed. THAT'S what scares the RIAA. They are trying to legislate scarcity, when there is no longer a need for scarcity. Society (and the artists) are better served if everyone has free access to the music.

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