by Mike Masnick
Mon, Nov 30th 2009 3:57am
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Nov 11th 2009 1:18pm
from the that's-how-it-works dept
Musicians deserve more money than they get. Most train harder and for longer than brain surgeons in order to do what they do, and then they earn less than checkout operators for what they do. I strongly believe that more money should go to more musicians more often than it does....Bingo. That's the point I've been trying to make for years on this, but said much better than I could express it. He then goes on to make another point I've tried to make in the past, which is that if you compare the situation today to what it was in the past, there are so many more opportunities to make money. In the past, it was nearly impossible to make money on music because there were so many gatekeepers.
Making music is not (usually) a job of work. It is a creative act. You don't have the RIGHT to make money from your music. You only have the opportunity.
If you make music speculatively - that is, you create it in the hopes of making money from it, then you are a music entrepreneur. As such, entrepreneurship rules apply.
You may invest a good deal of energy, effort and expense in your creative ideas. You may make a lot of money. You will probably make none. But nobody OWES you money just because you put the work in.
If your business model is to grow and sell oranges, then it's no good picking the oranges, then leaving them on the footpath outside your house with a price tag on each one. It doesn't matter how great your oranges are, or how hard you've toiled in your garden. Someone WILL take your oranges. Some will get kicked to the side of the road. Some will get stepped on. But it's not because people are immoral and don't understand or appreciate fruit properly.
If you wish to be reliably rewarded for your music, then get employed to make music as your job.
The odds are stacked against you. History is littered with musicians who are disillusioned, embittered and broke. This was true before the internet just as it's true now. The internet is neither your saviour, nor your enemy.And he concludes by pointing out (as we have in the past as well) where the real "sense of entitlement" comes from:
Let me make that bit clear: prior to the internet, most people spent NO money on music. If they bought a record in a year, it was a gift for a nephew (and it was usually rubbish). Some people spent a lot of money on music, because it was tied up with cultural things like identity that they were really invested in.
Back when you needed a record label to just be heard, it was a lottery. The odds were bad, the lottery tickets were expensive, and most of the prizes - if you did happen to win - were just awful. Now you don't need to play that game - but you need to be smart and you need to understand what the rules of the new game are.
You CAN, of course, get signed to a record label (and that lottery is still in play) but you can also be an entrepreneur. I recommend the latter - but not because it guarantees you money.
But the simple fact is that you don't become a successful entrepreneur by making things that people will not pay for, insisting that they should, and then complaining that their morals are to blame. They may not share your morals, but that's not even the point.
It's not their job to understand your needs. It's your job to understand theirs.
You become a successful entrepreneur by meeting people's needs and wants, solving a problem for them and doing it in a way that allows you to make money.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. Even if it was true that all the people you wish to target with your art are immoral thieves who you would never invite into your home - why would you insist on trying to change their behaviour as part of your business strategy?
You may make great and interesting music, and put on an amazing show with amazing costumes.... But decrying a sense of entitlement among those who won't pay you for what you insist on doing is back to front.
The people with the weird sense of entitlement are the ones who stamp their feet and say 'look at all this hard work I put in - where's my money?'
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Nov 6th 2009 4:10am
from the good-luck,-buddy dept
His ultimate goal -- to maintain or increase revenue for Comcast -- makes perfect sense, and is positively what a cable COO should be focused on. From there on out, though, he's off in the weeds. How about offering this new generation new and innovative services that are worth paying for? That's challenging, of course... but how challenging will it be to change the next generation's behavior "to respect subscription revenue." Yikes.
How many consumers, in any market, are focused on "respecting" vendors' revenue streams? How, exactly, does he propose to effect this sea change? And why not just develop products that consumers will willingly pay for, rather than trying to change consumer behavior in such a fundamental way?"
The quotes really are quite stunning. Burke basically seems to be saying the focus needs to be on figuring out ways to get consumers to change, rather than changing to match what customers want. A business model based on going against what consumers want doesn't seem likely to last that long.
from the bingo dept
Protecting a copyright often seems to fly in the face of good business.Bingo. This is an argument we've been making for over a decade. There are many in both business and law who seem to assume that because you can enforce a right, it means that it always makes business sense to enforce that right. And yet, as we see over and over and over again, it's quite often not the case at all. In an awful lot of cases, very strong arguments can be made that the reverse is true and that protecting your copyright actually does a lot more damage than good.
Thu, Sep 10th 2009 1:53pm
Closed: 16 Sep 2009, 11:59PM PT
Earn up to $200 for Insights on this case.
The usual economic indicators suggest things aren't getting worse as fast as before, and the more cautious forecasters are offering some less-than-optimistic predictions of a long road ahead for recovery. Several analysts (in reports from McKinsey Quarterly, Harvard Business Review and the like) point out that business has fundamentally changed and that the current downturn is not simply part of a regular business cycle. On the upside, though, the preceding decades have developed an incredible collection of enabling technologies that businesses may have only scratched the surface of -- which have laid the foundations for future long-term economic growth.
In this environment, employees look for real leadership and direction from their corporate executives. So this case sponsor, HP, is looking to inspire forward-looking discussions with essays aimed at executive level managers. We're looking for insightful articles that may help guide executives towards success during uncertain times. What does an executive need to do or need to know to be more effective nowadays? What does the future of business look like? How can an organization thrive under pressure? What innovative technologies or services will help companies stay competitive? What techniques can be used to motivate and promote innovation? How can workflows be optimized to be smarter, more efficient and productive? These are just some example starting topics to give you a general sense of what we're looking for -- we're not expecting point-by-point answers. We encourage unique (and even entertaining) submissions on related topics.
The best insights will be used as posts on an HP website that will be announced later. Please submit essays that are at least 500 words in length.
UPDATE: The sponsor is more accurately "HP Enterprise" -- so the target audience is specifically executives and decision makers (CEOs, CFOs, COOs, etc) at large companies.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Aug 26th 2009 5:38am
from the a-good-discussion dept
JLJ points out that a similar debate appears to be happening in the webcomics community, with Scott Kurtz, the author of PvP discussing the swinging pendulum between handing over nearly all control to a syndicate or marketing partner to a completely DIY model, and then hopefully back to some happy medium.
I think that's definitely what's happening in the music space -- but the nice thing is that it's not just a pendulum, but a spectrum, so that different artists can pick and choose what makes the most sense for them. Sometimes you come across artists who really want to be involved in the marketing and connecting and the selling. And sometimes, they don't. But the point is now they have the choice. And, even beyond that choice, within each aspect of the spectrum, there are many more options in terms of who to partner with and how to structure the deal. In the old system, you had a very small number of record labels or comic syndicates -- and, as such, they held all the power and could structure deals that were bordering on indentured servitude. But, with so many more options these days, the creators are actually taking back control. There's competition in the marketplace, and even if a creator wants nothing to do with the business and marketing side at all, it doesn't mean they have to sign a life sentence over to a business manager. And that's a very good thing for content creators.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jul 31st 2009 5:46am
from the go-King-go dept
Saying that if photographers all refused to do stock photography they'd all get paid more is like saying that if restaurants all refused to give customers napkins without charging they'd all make a bundle on napkin sales. It's like saying that if local bands refused to play for drinks at dive bars, they'd all make good money playing music.Indeed. What Kaufman describes is the same sort of economic illiteracy that we run into in conversations all the time. People feel that because they don't like the way things work, they need to either blame those who are happy with the way things work or to blame those of us who are simply explaining the economics of supply and demand to them. It's a blame the messenger sort of thing. If I could create a world where photographers and journalists could magically make tons of money, I would. That would be great. But, that's not the world we live in, and pretending it is (or pretending you can simply start charging high amounts and people will keep paying) doesn't help matters. Instead, figuring out ways to understand the economics at play, and then looking for ways to take advantage of those basic economics, seems to make the most sense. This is not about what "should" happen or what people would "like" to happen. It's about what is happening, and learning to take advantage of it.
It's also like saying that if news organizations stopped giving away content on the Web, people would pay for news content online. It's absurd.
The posters in that forum who are making that argument are failing, or refusing, to understand basic economics, if not human nature. All photographers are not going to refuse to do stock photography. The ones who do refuse will simply be opening up the market for those willing to sell their pictures cheaply, either because they're not in it for the money or because they can make a profit on volume.
And those arguing that Time should have paid more for this stock photo because it sometimes pays more for other photos, or because it has a lot of money, are forgetting a little thing called supply and demand.
We should note, though, that because Time prints so many copies, it is likely it had to pay iStockphoto for an unlimited-run license, and that its cost was more like $125 than $30. Still nowhere near thousands, and we should also note that Lam, the photographer, was thrilled with his Time cover at a price of $30, and plenty of his colleagues were thrilled for him.
The same pricing dynamic is in play in journalism. The price is not set by how much time, effort, talent or experience went into making the product, and it's not set by how much money the customer has. It's set by supply and demand. The supply of stock photography is very large. The supply of general news content is huge.
If Time hadn't found Lam's stock photo of coins in a jar for $30, or $125, it would have found a similar photo for a similar price. If news consumers can't get their news online for free from their favorite news organization, they'll find it for free somewhere else.
What happened with Lam's photo is not a failure of the system, not a case of photographers eating their own and not a matter of big, rich Time magazine taking advantage of the little guy. I doubt those photographers would expect Time, because it has such a big budget, to pay $3 for a postage stamp or $20 a pound for the office coffee.
What happened with Lam's photo is simply the way the industry works. Time paid what it paid for that image because that's about what it was worth.
When the barrier to entry is low, the supply of goods is large and the alternatives available to the buyer many, the price is going to be low. Wishing it were otherwise, as the photographers are doing in that online forum and as opponents of free content do in Future of Journalism nerdland, will not make it otherwise.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jul 13th 2009 9:55am
from the an-important-question dept
We've noticed this a bit ourselves, with some of the moves the company has made in the last few years showing a distinct change in tone. Whereas there was a point that Google seemed to be defending legal battles on principle, when the company capitulated with the record labels about YouTube, with the Associated Press and, most recently, in its (still in court) book settlement, a different story emerged. In all of those cases, the deals made Google stronger -- while making competitors weaker by not standing up for some key principles. Google started to use its massive cash coffers not to defend key principles, but to dump the problem off on smaller players. Of course, I believe this has already started to come back to haunt the company. The fact that publishers knew they could get a book settlement out of Google was because it had given in on the YouTube and AP deals without standing up for fair use.
Either way, it became quite clear that Google was no longer Silicon Valley's defender. It was Google's defender. And, of course, some will argue that's exactly as it should be. Google has no responsibility to stand up for the principles of others. At the same time, many will claim that Google would be silly not to use its money to harm competitors. But these all showed a particularly un-Google-like view of the world. It was that "don't be evil" stand that made people trust them. It was that belief (real or perceived) that Google was entirely focused on making the world better for everyone that built up that trust. These moves (and some of the moves Anil discusses in his piece) may make the shareholders happy in the short-term. But they end up harming reputation in the long-term.
As Google is fighting accusations of antitrust, the message it keeps trying to spread is that competition is only a click away. The company would be wise to remember that itself, because sometimes it doesn't actually act that way.
That said, I don't believe the company is acting "evil" or that it should be accused of any sort of antitrust violations. But the company has certainly acted a lot less "Googley" lately, and Anil is correct in saying that it appears a lot of folks internal to the company don't really recognize that (or want to believe it). It's definitely hard to keep that kind of culture and attitude as a company gets bigger (and, as some of its earlier employees sail off). And, to its credit, Google has certainly been able to keep a "good" reputation for a lot longer than other companies (and longer than many suspected Google could keep it). But that message has been drifting, and Google would do well to recognize how the external world is perceiving it.
Longtime Googler Matt Cutts responded to Anil's analysis in what I'd consider to be an open letter to other Googlers to take Anil's words seriously, rather than angrily (or just dismissing it as idle criticism). Hopefully that message gets through.
from the time-warp dept
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Apr 9th 2009 11:30am
from the if-you-want-to-fail... dept
Eric J. Johnson, a professor at Columbia Business School, said he had been amazed by media companies repeatedly adding free online services, like on-demand video. "Before you add something to your site, you should say that if consumers really want it, that should be part of a package that you could charge for."That's looking only at one side of the equation and is doing so in a dangerously short-sighted way. Rather than saying "hey, if people want this, we should charge for it," why not actually look at the larger ecosystem? Why not recognize the added value that can be added if it is free and how that can enable other business models? The problem is that professors like Johnson are basically pushing the idea that a media company is a "content company," rather than a company that's building a community. It focuses on the belief that the content is the final product. It's not. It's never been the final product. If you have open and available content, that allows users to make it more valuable by sharing it, spreading it, annotating it, commenting on it and building off of it. You can't do that when you put it behind a paywall. Content behind a paywall is less valuable to most people. So why would people pay for content that is less valuable?
The problem is focusing so much on the product rather than on the real benefit. Having the content free enables so much else. And if you focus on charging, all it does is open up an opportunity for others to step in and provide that value, and sap away the "paying" users. Focusing just on the pay question and ignoring the value side of the equation is a recipe for trouble.
So, rather than the NY Times "debate," perhaps check out what the site Hypebot did, which was note that the "debate" is already over. It's not about whether or not there should be "free" content, but that the economics and the market are clear: it will be free. So, with that in mind, it put together a whole series of thoughts from different folks about ways to embrace "free" as a part of larger business models. There's plenty of good stuff to read there.
Glenn Peoples, at Billboard, also picked up on the discussion, which is great, though I'd like to challenge one thing he wrote, complaining about Chris Anderson's take on "free":
Anderson did not draw enough distinction between marginal cost -- which in the case of digital distribution is zero -- and average cost. When Anderson writes that "the marginal cost of digital information comes closer to nothing," what he means is the marginal cost of distributing that digital information. There are significant costs in recording music. The cost of creating a brand and inducing awareness, other considerations Anderson understates, are both unavoidable and considerable. An insignificant cost of creating and distributing one more digital file does not reflect the amount of investment to be recouped.While I don't want to speak for Chris, he and I have certainly talked about these things, and I believe that Peoples is misstating Chris' point on all of this. As we've discussed here before, no one is ignoring the cost of creation or the cost of those other things. We're simply stating the economic fact that none of those things matter in terms of final price. This isn't how we want things to be. It's how economics works. Price is influenced by marginal cost. That's it. Price is not influenced by fixed costs (or average costs). That's not because of what Chris says or what I say. It's how a market works, no matter how anyone thinks things should be.
That doesn't mean you ignore the fixed costs or the average costs. Obviously, you do need to pay attention to those for the sake of making sure there's an ROI where you need it. But that's where you look at your overall offering rather than focusing so narrowly on just the content. So if you can take the content (as you can) and make it free, and use that to drive up interest and value in other scarce products you can sell, then that's where it matters. And, as for the question of "the costs in recording music," we (here at Techdirt) have certainly addressed that at great length: the creation of content is in fact a scarce good. And you can charge for it -- and many have. Jill Sobule is a perfect example of this, getting people to pay to create a new album. Other models work as well, including having brands help pay for the creation of music. There are lots of models that work -- and they don't conflict with or negate the fact (not opinion) that the content itself will have its price driven towards free.