Kevin Smith's Approach To Competing With Piracy: Give Away A Ton, Then Sell Stuff That Can't Be Pirated

from the voila dept

We've written about filmmaker/entertainer/podcaster/author Kevin Smith quite a bit here on Techdirt -- and for a very good reason. He seems to absolutely understand how to adapt to the modern internet era -- and thrive in doing so. As he likes to say, he's much more focused on being where the puck is going, rather than where it is (or where it's been). Along those lines, we've mentioned in the past that he's publicly stated that he believes piracy leads to converts, and those new fans are likely to support him down the road.

Recently he expanded a bit on how he "competes" with piracy. In a all around awesome AMA on Reddit the inevitable question came up about his thoughts on piracy and he busted out a simple explanation for how to "compete" with piracy (even if compete is the wrong word here): he connects with fans by giving away a ton of stuff for free, and then gives them a reason to buy by making things that he wants to sell special, unique experiences that you really can't pirate.
Here's my approach...

I try to give away as much as possible. At SModcast.com, we've got thousands of hours of my best work, as well as the funniest shit you'll ever hear: My true life's work. And we give it away free.

Tomorrow, we celebrate the First Birthday of S.I.R. - SModCo Internet Radio. http://smodcast.com. To celebrate, we'll be launching S.I.T. on YouTube - SModCo Internet Television. All of it is free.

So when I do present my audience with something that requires payment? I try to make it more special. That's why I toured with Red State, rather than simply stick the movie out there in theaters alone. Anyone can access any movie digitally once it's in theaters; I accept that. But they can't digitally access me unless they're in the room.

Instead of trying to fight change, I like to adapt and figure out how to thrive in an ever-changing global economy. And as much as I like to head where the puck is going, you sometimes have to play the ball where it lays.
Having followed Kevin's career for quite some time, it's pretty clear that he's completely internalized these concepts. It comes natural to him, and it's great to see.

Of course, we've been preaching from the same basic book for years, with the point being that you can use free to your advantage. It does not mean (as some people falsely accuse) that we think "everything should be free!" It's all about understanding what things are useful when they're free, and what things you can reasonably charge for. There are a large and growing number of artists who have figured this out -- with Kevin Smith being a great example. It's just too bad that some others are so freaked out by this that they seek to ruin it for everyone else.

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  1. identicon
    yofa, 9 May 2012 @ 4:28pm

    genius!

    kevin smith is a genius. and here's why. people will always spend only a certain percentage of their money on media/entertainment. what you're competing for is a percentage of that set percentage. if they're truly fans, they will spend on that t-shirt, action figure, collectible or what-not. if they think you're a greedy money-grabbing asshole, they will avoid you (metallica).

    kevin smith's approach makes him appear to be less of an asshole, so people are more likely to buy his stuff, which can be sold at higher profit margins.

    i like it. the traditional media companies don't get it when they come up with math that speculates billions of dollars of losses to piracy, not taking into account that that money doesn't exist in the first place. people aren't going to go starving just to get their hands on more media/entertainment. and you assholes are losing your percentage of the set percentage to good guys like kevin smith. bravo!

    signed,

    yofa, angry video game nerd doll owner

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