Why Discussing New Business Models That Work Is A Good Idea

from the not-a-responsibility,-but-helpful dept

Jack Zeal has a really interesting post over on Rick Falkvinge's InfoPolicy site, in which he argues that it's not "our" job to "fix" the broken business model of those who rely on copyright. He talks about having yet another discussion with the typical copyright system supporter, in which they make one of those "but without copyright..." arguments, and he starts pointing out alternative business models. However, he's come to believe that strategy is pointless because, effectively, it's not our job to fix your broken business model. And, to some extent, he's right. It's not our job to do so, but as someone who's been taking part in these discussions for a very long time, and who has spent an awful lot of time and effort highlighting successful new business model opportunities, I still think it's incredibly helpful and useful. I'll explain why by responding to each of Jack's points. To be clear, I don't think Jack's argument is a bad one, and I can understand the frustration, but I still think our focus is more productive long run.
If we propose specifics, we leave ourselves vulnerable to the “but what about A or B? Those couldn’t work with business model C!” It’s an unending cat-and-mouse game. The classic example is the old “How to finance a blockbuster-caliber movie?” trope. Nobody ever considers that maybe the current system is the reason movies have to cost that much, do they?
So? That's always true. People can always bring up a "what if?" and it's easy to then point out that there are similar "what ifs?" with the current system. To be honest, I've often found the "what if" discussions useful in thinking through even more new business model ideas, which is kind of cool.
If we offer generalities, like “Merchandise and sell experiences instead of commodities”, they tend to be shot down in snarky sound-bites, like “So bands will have to sell T-shirts instead of records?”
There are always going to be some people who misunderstand or (more likely) misrepresent your arguments. The "sell lots of t-shirts" trope is so common we used to sell an actual t-shirt that said "looooooooots of t-shirts" on it. And it was a decent seller! Point being: you'll never convince everyone -- especially those who have no interest in being convinced. But, having been at this for a long time, I can assure you that for every person misrepresenting such arguments, there are many others who are recognizing the truth of the opportunities opening up around them. I can't even begin to tell you how many content creators contact me talking about how they used to believe the old party line on copyright (or, more commonly, that they believed there was no hope for making money these days), but that they ended up becoming inspired by reading through some of the many examples of business models that worked.
It keeps the conversation on the content industry’s terms. They can be the “victims” needing a “rescue” strategy. It’s sure a great shift of attention from the rest of society being denied access to information and the natural rights to communicate and share
I'm not sure about this at all. In talking to and working with numerous content creators working through business model challenges, I just don't see this. The discussions about business models are never about "rescuing" anyone -- just straight up brainstorming about cool things that can be done.
It’s needlessly speculative. Indeed, it reminds me a lot of the earliest “home computer” books dumped out by the thousands in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The authors spent hours arguing that we’d all be managing recipies or doing computer-driven teaching, and then VisiCalc happened and people forgot all about recipe-management. No doubt it will be the same. Someone finds the “killer model” for post-monopoly revenue generation, but it’s probably not gonna happen until there’s no other choice but to find one. And much like the cuddly toy in the caption image, some of the suggested models aren’t gonna fly in the real world.
Well, to be clear, we've always said that there isn't a magic bullet business model that works for everyone -- and that the "new business model" involves experimenting with a number of opportunities, much of which depends on the content creator themselves, their audience and the relationship between the two.

So, for us, the highlighting of new business models serves a number of different purposes. First off, it's just plain helpful to lots of artists. And that seems like a good thing. Second, it debunks the claim that copyright is the only business model, which seems to be an implicit (and sometimes explicit) assumption by many, unfortunately. Third, doing so quite often inspires others to try more cool new things themselves. And that can only be a good thing. Much of this is about experimenting and recognizing that there isn't just one way to do things any more. That can be scary and a big challenge for many artists, but it also means that there's tremendous opportunity.

Finally, whether or not it's "our job" to highlight alternative business models, if you don't, none of the claims above go away. People will still attack and complain that there are no business models that work without copyright. A decade ago (after about five years of highlighting problems with the system) I finally started focusing more regularly on highlighting positive examples, and on the whole the experience has been much more beneficial than negative. It's resulted in a lot more interesting conversations with content creators from super stars to kids just starting out -- often leading to cool new experiments and more opportunities. It's also resulted in some really interesting conversations with execs from the legacy industry really looking to help adapt to the changing market. If I was just talking about the problems of copyright, none of that would likely have happened.

A friend of mine who is a successful CEO had a rule at his company, which was that no one was allowed to highlight a problem without also at least tossing out a possible solution, even if it was just to kick off brainstorming. That might be extreme, but it seems like a handy tool. If you're only complaining, it's easier for people to write you off. If you're also highlighting possible solutions, there's a lot of benefit. Also, frankly, it's often a lot of fun to talk about cool things that people are doing.

Filed Under: business models, copyright, discussions

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. icon
    PaulT (profile), 8 Dec 2012 @ 5:44am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Still haven't grasped the actual arguments, have you? Your analogies just prove that you don't know what other people have been saying.

    For what it's worth I'd certainly share all my money with you. If it were infinitely copyable like digital files, and I got to keep my copies like the copyright owners do.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.