Since I've been asked to give some ideas of how artists
might go about making money in the absence of copyright,
which makes the old business model of selling little
disks of information obsolete, I'll lay out a few ideas
here. I'll limit the scope of discussion to musicians,
which is what brought up the subject (different models
might work better for things like books and software).
- The most obvious: live performance. Music can be copied.
People can't (yet). Your physical presence is therefore
unique and valuable. Back before FCC-monopolized radio,
this was how most musicians made money (even some of us
on this list are old enough to remember when it was the
height of crassness to have recorded music at a party).
The Grateful Dead--the most financially successful musical
group in history--proved that this model works.
- The second most obvious: work for hire: write songs for
people who pay you to write songs. Folks like Mark
Knopfler and Jon Williams get millions for a movie
soundtrack. Write commissioned pieces for commercials.
Sell product placements in your lyrics. (Neil "Ain't
singin' for Pepsi" Young contributes to the poverty of
musicians by giving them an idiotic ethic that making
money is bad).
- Personal appearance: even non-performing appearances can
be a revenue source for someone well-known enough. Famous
musicians make money endorsing products, appearing on talk
shows, speaking at conferences, etc. You can even sell
small bits of personal access to fans, say by charging to
answer email or phone calls about your music.
- Merchandising. Just as your physical presence is unique
and valuable, so is your name and reputation. Sell T-Shirts
and mugs and posters on your website. Sell memberships to a
fan club with benefits like a newsletter, entry to private
clubs or special seating at performances, limited-edition
and autographed merchandise. Sell "authorized" recordings
that come with autographs or extra perks like discounts on
performances, access to private clubs, etc. Sell autographed
pictures and lyric sheets.
- Hipness/Timeliness: Even if the music can be copied, it can
only be copied /after/ it is released, and there is value in
being first on the block or "hip". Even an album that every-
one knew would be downloadable from the net January 2 would
sell copies on January 1, especially if it were arranged as
a premiere event, or as a perk for club members.
- Adaptation: Don't forget that without copyright, artists are
also more free to draw upon previous work to create collages,
adaptations, and other derivatives of other work. Specialize
in doing Disco or Reggae versions of pop tunes. Make MIDI
transcriptions of other tunes. Translate lyrics into other
languages. Make new arrangements for small bands to perform.
- Convenience: Even when information is cheap, /finding/ it is
not. Consumer attention is valuable, so make the most of that
by making it easy for people to buy authorized recordings on
the authorized site and other easy-to-find locations. Give them
lots of versions of everything at good prices. Capitalize on
their attention by selling advertising on the website and in
your liner notes and on your merchandise.
- Voluntary contributions: I don't personally think much of this
method, but a lot of people seem to so I'll mention it: solicit
contributions based solely on goodwill. Things like "Street
Performer Protocol" make this easier. This is the business
model for public television, for the most part.
That's a pageful off the top of my head; I'm sure there are more.
So the next person who brings up the "artists will starve without
copyright" meme will be fined the total of Micheal Jackson's
interview fee, Barbara Streisand's performance fee, Jon Williams'
movie soundtrack fee, and the total revenues from Back Street
I'll anticipate a few possible counter-arguments:
- "Those methods won't work/won't make enough money"
They'll make different people different amounts of money, that's
true. I am indeed proposing a major change in the laws, and
that will affect a lot of people; some worse, some better. But
the same can be said of any change in law or technology. Some
people will be better off and some worse. Machines put a lot of
people out of work, as does ending a subsidy program. But the
benefits to the economy and society as a whole weigh strongly in
favor of ending subsidies and automating production. For every
one put out of work, two or three get hired in other jobs by the
new expanded economy. The benefits to the economy and society
as a whole of totally unfettering all communication of information
I can't even begin to calculate, but I can't imagine a greater
single thing we could do to encorage development of culture and
- "Artists shouldn't sell out"
Tough. Snobbery costs money. If you don't want to do what it
takes to earn money in the free market, you deserve to starve.
In a free market, money is earned, by definition, by doing things
/other/ people want, and will pay for. Some of us are lucky
enough to do things we also enjoy doing, but that's a luxury.
People want music around, so they will figure out ways to get it
and ways to pay for it. But if that way is to offer a songwriter
money to do a commercial, and ey turns the offer down, ey has no
right to complain that ey is poor, or that ey can't make enough
money doing what ey wants.
-- Lee Daniel Crocker <email@example.com> <http://www.piclab.com/lee/> "All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past, are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Oct 02 2000 - 17:34:24 MDT