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Making Both Ends Meet · Monday November 16, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

In Transformative Vs Incremental Change Steve Lawson produces a good summation of the crisis facing the recording industry, and why this isn’t a crisis for the artist, but an opportunity (one that publishing corporations do not want artists to take).

When you take an industry that has 4 big costs – recording, manufacture, distribution, promotion – and remove 3 of them, that changes everything.

Costs have been removed from the picture, but this only represents a loss in revenue to the publishing corporations – not to artists. Artists can now take advantage of this all being done for free – instead of signing to a label in order pay them their rates that were inflated in the first place.

Both ends were overcharged. The fan was overcharged for a copy, and the artist was overcharged for the label to produce, promote, distribute, and retail their art.

Now that the extortionate costs have been removed, what will happen when both ends meet directly?

Advertising is completely broken. Recording tech is better and cheaper than it has ever been, fans are more and more willing to talk about and share your music, and far more happy to buy physical product from you than from a third party. Website merch is easy to do, either in short run, big order or even one-offs.

The record industry before the internet was built on the assumption that to have a chance of making it ‘big’, you needed to have deep pockets to risk the kind of gambling collateral needed to have a shot at being in the 0.1% who ended up rich. The labels funded their gambling by owning the services they were charging you for, by keeping you in debt so they didn’t have to pay you, by keeping product prices artificially high, and by perpetuating myths about what it was that we all wanted and needed, as both artists and consumers.

Everything has changed. If you look at the current possibilities as an incremental change to the industry – that is, if you see the infrastructure as still being the same, and see MP3s as ‘invisible CDs’, you are truly truly screwed. It’s awful. That’s why the industry says ‘the sky is falling’. They aren’t willing to let go of that old infrastructure.

If you see the real changes, throw all the cards in the air, and realise that instead of hundreds of artists making millions of pounds, we can how have millions of artists making hundreds of pounds (and a straight, shallow line on the curve up from there), we’re all in good shape.

Ibutton77 said 3233 days ago :

I think the mechanism behind popular support for copyright that makes the pill you mention here hard to swallow is the old adage that you cannot punish the rich without punishing the dream of the common man.

Even the poor will defend the rich in many capitalistic endeavors, even when the endeavors are outdated or immoral and even when the poor are the ones carrying the litter. They expect they’ll get to ride it next, and many feel as though they deserve to step on the next generation for payback when they got stepped on by the last generation. It’s like fraternity hazing, and it gels people together in a way that is difficult to extricate rationally.

Just imagine smokers, for a moment. US culture has done a strangely successful job at ousting tobacco from the spotlight of fashion. But it was a tough road getting here. Smokers would band together and despise nonsmokers. I’ve heard of places of work where those who did not take smoke breaks with the crew were overlooked for promotions. The lesson I learn here is, “Those who do not share in my follies highlight my own folly”.. like the small child calling out the Emperor on his (lack of) new clothes.

This will be a difficult nut to crack for anyone who has already “inhaled” regarding intellectual property. People who have already invested in potential content monopoly by paying now to record that which they expect to make back later have heavy interest tied into their “back catalog”, which has speculative marketing value so long as you rape culture using copyright, but without copyright it becomes already-published material potentially available for free from anyone who already has a copy. All of that “value” the individual used to “own” and bled so much to create is now no longer fungible. Sure, new works can turn coin at first sale, but old works cannot flow through that turbine.

We need to help artists in positions such as this understand the marketing value of older works. Anyone who seeks to take early advantage of post-copyright business models should “convert” their back catalog from having monetary value into having marketing value.

Follow the example of Monty Python folks, and distribute your works online! Significant monetary value no longer exists in the materials which you have already released to the public. So sacrifice your vain hopes in said monetary value for real dividends in marketing value! :3



 

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