We Don't Want Everything For Free. We Just Want Everything

from the kids-today dept

Recently, I gave a Sita Sings the Blues talk to a roomful of 15-to-17-year-olds. Near the end I explained Free Culture and my stance against copyright, which led to some interesting discussion. Turns out most of them are manga fans, and familiar with publishers’ complaints about scanned and translated manga shared freely online. They all read them anyway (except one, who prefers to read entire manga in the bookstore). I asked them how they would choose to support artists they liked (once they had some disposable income) and they said:
  1. Donate buttons – with the qualification that they want to know as much as possible about where the donation is going. They said honesty and transparency are important.
  2. Kickstarter – They all knew about it (which was notable because none of them had heard of Flattr) and valued pitch videos that explained how the money would be used.
  3. Custom drawings
  4. Merch
  5. Physical copies
  6. Live Shared Experiences, including ballet, museum exhibits, and concerts. The event aspect was important; they wanted to be able to say, “Remember that one time when that awesome show was here…” They agreed seeing things in person is a more powerful experience than seeing things online, and worth spending more on. One said she would buy CD at a live show because “it reminds you of the show.”
  7. One said he would support artists by promoting their work to his friends.

Semi-related, I took an informal poll of how many would prefer to read a book on paper vs. an e-reader. The vast majority said paper, but what they really seemed to want was dual formats: paper copies to read comfortably and collect, and digital copies to search and reference. Makes sense to me. Only two of them had iPads, and none used them for “enhanced eBooks.”

My favorite quote of the afternoon, from a 15-year-old girl:

“We don’t want everything for free. We just want everything.

crossposted from ninapaley.com


Filed Under: artists, copyright, culture, free, honest, support, teens, transparency

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  1. icon
    Karl (profile), 25 Mar 2012 @ 3:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The mythical "exposure" model?

    Yeah, it's so "mythical," that record labels paid criminal investigations for paying for this kind of exposure. It's called "payola," and it wasn't just limited to radio play.

    Maybe that's why many promotions departments in labels actually send music to music-sharing blogs, such as Dajaz1, fully aware that it will be shared. Or why Viacom employees uploaded Viacom content to YouTube, and did it in such a way as to make it appear it was "grassroots" (e.g. by uploading from coffee shops under a fake profile).

    If the "exposure" model was mythical, there would be no such things as advertising agencies. In fact, there would be no such things as record labels - since "exposure" is quite literally the only thing they ever had to offer. Artists didn't (and don't) sign because they just want records pressed. They signed because that was the only way to get their songs on the radio, onto billboards, on display in record stores, etc.

    Widespread availability of media helps not only your specific media (the song you wrote, the movie you made), but creates value for all media (songs in general, movies in general). The more that music (say) is ubiquitous, the more importance it has in peoples' lives, and the more valuable it becomes. The entire theory behind advertising is that it creates value in the marketplace; that value can then, in theory, be exploited to turn value into income.

    Not sure that helps out when there is nobody left to buy.

    That would be a good point if it were true that piracy causes people to buy less. That's not true, and no reputable study anywhere has found that it is. They've found the opposite: that people who pirate are also the people who pay the most for media. People don't pirate "instead of" buying, they pirate "in addition to" buying.

    Now, the shift from physical to digital certainly has caused a shift in consumer purchasing habits. They buy MP3 singles from Amazon or iTunes rather than full-length CD's, for example. It costs less for a single MP3 than a full-length CD, so record labels make less money. But that doesn't mean people make fewer purchases. In fact, the number of purchases has gone up - drastically - since file sharing became commonplace.

    And the money that people save by buying MP3's vs. CD's does not vanish. It is a consumer surplus, and it is spent in other areas - often within the same industry. The money that people save on CD's goes to, say, seeing live shows, buying merch, or what have you. That's why the overall music industry is growing, and people are spending more money on music, than they did before file sharing became popular. The same is true for all the other content industries: they're making more money... even in an economic downturn.

    But, leaving aside economics for the moment:

    what exactly is piracy doing that is so damn good?

    - The infrastructure that allows piracy has also produced legal business models that unquestionably help both artists and consumers (YouTube, Soundcloud, CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, etc).

    - Both the aforementioned business models, and often "pirate" sites themselves, lower the barrier to entry for artists who are not part of a corporate media industry. Because of digital distribution, indie label market share has steadily increased.

    - Most importantly, without the specter of digital piracy, it's unlikely that traditional media industries would have entered the digital market in the first place. (Even now, they are only reluctantly doing so.) Without piracy, the labels would never have worked with iTunes, for example.

    But, leaving aside the benefits to artists that file sharing causes, it unquestionably benefits society in general.

    - It is increasing access to the arts, especially among people who can't afford to pay for it. Essentially, it's acting like a global public library.

    - It is creating a consumer surplus, which can then be re-invested into the industry (or the economy in general).

    - Most importantly of all, it is inseparable from a culture that values open access to expression of all kinds. (You can't have the Arab Spring without also having file sharing.)

    I'd say that it's a damn good thing for humanity that file sharing is here to stay.

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