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, 18 Aug 2006 @ 12:23pm

    Watered down...

    I am the frontman for a semi-successful regional rock band and I can tell you that while "free" is still the way to increase your fanbase and get more money from touring, the unfortunate thing is that "free" is getting watered down a great deal. Myspace, Purevolume, and other music promotion websites allow the artist to share their music with thousands of fresh ears everyday. We have benefitted a great deal from these sites, the issue is that due to the inexpensiveness of recording technology, any 12 year old with a computer and a microphone can call themselves a "band," purchase a friend-adder, and try to get the world to listen to their music. This in-turn takes away a lot of the fan-retention rate from the free disc or digital recording. People get tired of listening to every single free sampler, live show, or link to an mp3 that's been thrown there way. While I agree that the digital world has been tremendously successful at putting a great deal of power back in the musician's hands, the drawback is that anyone can call themselves a musician and use the same resources as some of the biggest bands regardless of talent or creativity, which creates a greatly watered down market. DMB, the Dead, and Phish came at a time when "free" was really something special and therefore truly exploited it as a marketing stragegy. Its becoming harder and harder these days to get people to try new music, even if it is free.

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