[LINK] Is copyright dead? [WAS: Special Report: The Future Of File Sharing]
stil at stilgherrian.com
Sat Jun 6 09:53:19 EST 2009
On 06/06/2009, at 9:24 AM, Lea de Groot wrote:
> In what way does a creator require investors?
> Interested to learn :)
I've just had a great conversation about this very issue on Twitter.
Here's my take, which may be completely tangential to anything Chris
Gilbey might be thinking.
If someone's aim is "make music", if they're muttering things like
"It's all about the tunes, man", then they do not need any investment.
Nor do they need a "music industry" or recording or distribution or
any of those things. Nothing's stopping them. They just need to get on
I contend, however, that when most performers say they want to "make
music" they really mean "make music in front of a lot of people and
get shirtloads of money and live a rock god lifestyle". Or the
equivalent for their genre of music. That is, it's about fame and
Or, at the very least, they want to spend the bulk of their time
making music, rather than some other "work" for a living, so they need
someone else to pay them for it.
The economics of the industry has been such that to achieve this you
needed to cover the not-insubstantial costs of recording,
distribution, marketing and promotion. That was such a cost, factoring
in the risk, that of the $20 retail cost of a CD the actual musicians
got around $1. Ball park. And in the days when your CD (or cassette,
or vinyl, or shellac) was competing with everyone else's for finite
radio airtime and finite retail shelf space, a lot of effort went in
up front. Unless you were otherwise wealthy, that meant having a
recording company put in the money up front -- i.e. it needed investors.
(As an aside, most recording contracts were structured such that ALL
of the recording company's costs had to be paid off before the artist
started seeing anything at all. While a promising artist being "given"
a $250k contract might sound good, the investors want to give it all
their best shot. They need a fantastic music video, so there's $100k
gone. They need to travel and promote and get wardrobe and have
designers and their gigs need to have spectacular sets. They need to
be seen to be living a successful lifestyle -- all on the advance
credit from the record company. It's quite possible for an artist to
have had Top 10 singles and sold many, many recordings and still,
themselves, have nothing at all to show for it.)
The economics have now changed. Rather than the physical distribution
chain consuming 95% of the money and the artist getting 5% (and
remember that even a hooker only pays 50% to the brothel-keeper!),
it's possible to stick your song onto Apple's iTunes store --
currently the US' biggest music retailer -- only charges 35%, from
memory. Or set up your own file-selling shopping cart and take 100%.
OK, that doesn't figure in marketing and promotion. But if you just
want to live, as opposed to become a rock god, then you don't need
Kevin Kelly has posited the concept of "1000 True Fans". http://stilgherrian.com/internet/1000_true_fans/
The people who "love your stuff" and will spent $100 a year to buy
each tune, get the t-shirt and the poster, get the special DVD boxed
set. A thousand fans paying $100 a year is $100k gross income, enough
to live on. And social media technologies let yu stay in touch with
those fans rather efficiently.
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