Getting It: In A World Of Digital Abundance, Sell The Scarcities

from the dickens-of-a-good-idea dept

A recurrent refrain from the copyright industries is that you can't make money from digital goods if they are freely available online. To which Techdirt has been pointing out for years that not only are there many ways of doing precisely that, but lots of people are already coining it as a result. One of the Guardian's columnists has noticed one of them - that in a world of digital abundance, you can make money by selling associated scarcities:

Earnings from recordings have been plummeting for a decade, while from live they are rising ever faster. Warner Brothers release albums free online to publicise forthcoming concerts. In Britain HMV is closing 40 shops while tickets for a Rihanna concert can cost 330 [$500], and for Coldplay 180 [$280]. A seat for Madonna is more expensive than her entire recorded output. A top American performer would reckon to earn between 80% and 90% of revenue from live performance. In the US alone, touring revenue that grossed $1bn in 1995 rose to $4.6bn last year.
The article then goes on to list other manifestations of this trend, such as Tony Blair's $160,000 fee for a speech "in the flesh"; a doubling of attendances at museums and galleries; 90% audience levels at the UK's National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company; and the fact that even "humble" authors find "appearances at literary festivals (those that pay) can compensate for dwindling book advances and, in the case of poets, eroding copyrights."

But one of the most telling examples is the following:

Performers such as Stephen Fry have taken to reading their books in public, Dickens-style
Dickens undertook his American reading tours in part because piracy of his works was rampant there, so he made little money directly from the many published copies. But amidst this unwelcome abundance, he was still able to sell the ultimate scarcity his presence to earn handsomely from the reputation his pirated works created.

The same is true for countless other writers, musicians and artists before Dickens, who lived when there was little or no copyright, and whose works could thus be copied freely. In other words, people have been using abundance to sell scarcity not just for years, but for centuries. Maybe it's time today's copyright industries got the message.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+

Filed Under: abundance, business models, economics, scarcity


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  1. icon
    Jay (profile), 7 Dec 2011 @ 8:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Tell me again, why are we let a dying industry ruin the internet?

    *sigh*

    Piracy is not protected free speach.

    Neither is piracy theft but taking down a website with little or no due process proceedings is prior restraint (ie censorship) on the domain owner.

    DNS registries are updated continuously 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Changing a DNS entry will not "break the internet".

    Is this the new talking point? You don't recognize how changing a ton of DNS entries at random moments makes the entire system less secure? It's akin to having to purposely fragment a drive, making a system more chaotic for no reason.

    Sites that rely on user submitted content are almost always user-policed anyway. YouTube will take down content that is reported as offensive, they can add a report button to the page to alert staff of a copyright violation as well. They could make reporting infringing content part of the user agreement.

    Try that with a community like 4chan or Reddit. Try that with having Disqus police all of the comments on all of the sites that use their technology. You seem to believe that the implications of policing aren't a daunting task. Maybe you should read a little more why people don't like SOPA/PIPA.

    There are things that are wrong wtih SOPA/PIPA but the fear mongering needs to stop. Complain about the legitimate concerns (like the fact that there is protection from damage claims for companies that falsely accuse) and stop the exagerations

    And people are raising concerns. Just because you don't want to see them and pedantically believe others exaggerate the fears is no one's fault. Reality suggests the problems of draconian copyright enforcement will take away free speech rights of American as well as foreign citizens around the world. These concerns have yet to be addressed by SOPA supporters, showing the deceitful way they hope that "reducing piracy" will lead to more sales.

    It won't. At least, not a lot more. All it does is further display the class warfare and enforce the belief in a high court/low court in American society.

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