[LINK] Is copyright dead? [WAS: Special Report: The Future Of File Sharing]

Stilgherrian 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  
with it.

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.


Stilgherrian http://stilgherrian.com/
Internet, IT and Media Consulting, Sydney, Australia
mobile +61 407 623 600
fax +61 2 9516 5630
Twitter: stilgherrian
Skype: stilgherrian
ABN 25 231 641 421

More information about the Link mailing list