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
    TtfnJohn (profile), 7 Dec 2011 @ 9:40am

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

    Oh hell, Do you think the rest of the planet will fall in line with SOPA should it pass? I don't think so. Not for as much as a second, I don't think so.

    And let's assume, for sake of argument alone, that DNS servers can determine which are and are not rogue sites automatically and not block legitimate ones (almost impossible) and has no extra costs to pass on to ISP subscribers in the United States, the reality is that TPB will still be listed on DNS servers located outside of US territory and possessions.

    So much for that idea. TPB will continue on as it has as will other sites. By sheer numbers alone. And by sheer numbers alone that is where most infringement takes place.
    So the United States isn't TPB's major market. The rest of the planet is. (Mostly due to the perception, valid or not, that American closed source software is far too expensive as are US entertainment products like songs and movies.)

    Any attempt will to enforce SOPA on the rest of the world will be, rightly, considered as (yet another) attempt by the United States to apply this law extra territorially. And, rightly, loudly objected to as the United States would rightly object to Kenya attempting to enforce its law in the United States.

    That is the danger when fracturing of the Internet is talked about. The United States could have one "Internet", whatever countries agree to sign on in whole or in part to SOPA will have another and then those who have resisted the temptation will have what we have now.

    Even if these Internets can speak to each other (for now) there's still a fracturing taking place. Eventually they'll stop being able to talk to one another and all the creativity, business, culture and trade that the Internet has enabled will start to end.

    Leaving out the host of other problems with SOPA/IP Protect that alone is very serious. Mix the other problems back in again they're toxic.

    In the end the United States pays. Costs are increased, The entire reason for it -- stopping infringement fails as it will not only because of what's outlined above and not only that but the simple fact that humans really don't like being TOLD what to do particularly when it all amounts to welfare for two rapidly failing industries.

    The worst case scenario is that the USA has it's own internet that can't talk to others lest it be polluted by the still alive and very healthy TPB. Compliant countries such as Canada and Mexico will have their own Internets but somewhat more open. Canadians will nod our heads, go sure, then set up private DNS systems that route around what offends us and Mexicans will do what they do best and ignore it and the rest of the world will have theirs.

    All of that is why the tech industry is screaming blue murder. (Ok, in Microsoft's case whispering it but entities like Microsoft and Adobe are the few tech companies that can outspend the entertainment industry when it comes to "purchasing" politicians.)

    Put simply, and on every level, these bills will be toxic should they pass. But toxic to the United States not to TPB who will handily survive.

    What cheering you do hear for these bills is coming from places like India and Brazil, and to some extent, China, who are just loving this.

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