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 @ 9:35am

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

    Not propaganda at all. Gamers are affected because if Youtube is taken down, then their way to gain an audience is affected.

    Human rights groups are similarly affected because there are currently no clauses in how their personal websites might be affected if they use any infringing content.

    There have already been studies into the DNS server issue and having Sandia Labs look into the issue and explain how this destroys their 10 years of hard work is rather telling. Further, this doesn't stop piracy. At all. People will just move from .com and .net extensions. So you're effectively trying to stop illegal downloading with an ineffective technique that does nothing for the problem.

    Windmill > Quixote

    The censorship of the net is already occurring. Less due process claims have occurred in these take downs along with a stretching of USC 17 and USC 18 respectively. People can't fight back for at least a year and a half after a claim and the process is taxing to them financially. The very same things can be said for the problems of civil asset forfeiture. It doesn't stop demand for drugs and innocent people are more abused as police go after the dime baggers for their departments instead of tackling real crimes.

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