Another example of ‘free’ as a business model from the music industry

By September 17, 2008free, Music

This time it is former Stranglers front man Hugh Cornwell.  As reported on Techdirt he is recognising the economics of abundance with respect to digital goods by:

  • Giving his latest album away as a completely free download
  • Offering people to pay for physical versions – e.g. CD, DVD or vinyl
  • Selling a related experience, consisting of a movie of making of the album shown at a movie theatre which he attends and hosts a Q&A session at the end – access to artists is an important scarcity here

Finding the ‘scarcities’ i.e. the things that you can still charge for will be increasingly important for all artists whose work can be reproduced digitally.  Music is at the fore front of the change due to the small size of the files, but other areas will follow, including, I suspect video.  I totally recognise the need for artists (be they musicians, directors, or actors) to get paid, but they will need to do so within the logic of how the market operates.

Please refer to this post I wrote in March for a review of Wired’s Kevin Kelly‘s list of nine ways to monetise your work in this new environment.

  • Something I think glossed over with the free model is that a lot of people see and say yes I can make money but I won’t make as much of it as the old way. This isn’t strictly true but it does have truth to it.

    Artists are likely to make a steadier income but not reach wealth of previous blockbuster artists. But more artists will make a decent amount of money rather than it all being concentrated into blockbusters.

    Labels are the biggest losers as their existence is predicated of the existing business model. In the new business model much of value they brought – manufacturing, distribution, marketing – is now very much in the reach of the artist themselves.

    The new models are here to stay as the deflation of costs can’t be undone. But it is worth recognising that incomes and wealth will also be changed. Arguably the large incomes paid to blockbuster artists were a distortion in the first place and that the props and barriers that supported those distortions have gone.

    Perhaps the scariest thing for artists is the realisation that the market may not value their work as they value it. Having said that the economics of free tend towards increasing overall value rather than decreasing.

  • Something I think glossed over with the free model is that a lot of people see and say yes I can make money but I won’t make as much of it as the old way. This isn’t strictly true but it does have truth to it.

    Artists are likely to make a steadier income but not reach wealth of previous blockbuster artists. But more artists will make a decent amount of money rather than it all being concentrated into blockbusters.

    Labels are the biggest losers as their existence is predicated of the existing business model. In the new business model much of value they brought – manufacturing, distribution, marketing – is now very much in the reach of the artist themselves.

    The new models are here to stay as the deflation of costs can’t be undone. But it is worth recognising that incomes and wealth will also be changed. Arguably the large incomes paid to blockbuster artists were a distortion in the first place and that the props and barriers that supported those distortions have gone.

    Perhaps the scariest thing for artists is the realisation that the market may not value their work as they value it. Having said that the economics of free tend towards increasing overall value rather than decreasing.

  • Having spent most of my working life in the music industry as a Manager, who nurtured a handful of acts who went on to be internationally successful and many more whose music I still love today, but nevertheless didn’t get their big break, I’m ambivalent still as to whether we are making progress or dumbing down creative quality across the globe.

    On the one hand some of the DAT’s I have of acts you’ve never heard of are still some of the best I’ve ever listened to and the new platforms are providing easier routes to get those to wider audiences to mutual benefit. On the other hand though, I think what people forget is that without the machinery, money and skill of most of the big Record Labels that are currently being Lehmanised, I doubt most of the revered artists of ours, or our parents generations, would have happened virally by social networking had it existed then.

    Given that no pure socially networked album release will ever recoup a million dollars of recording costs and several million in marketing from advertising, I personally think we bite the hand that feeds us at our peril, by de-valuing what Record Labels do. Sure some of them are blood sucking b****s, take my word for it, but actually most provide a filter against the overwhelming sea of average and as long as millions of people still check in at the same time every day for Sex and The City, Friends or Eastenders etc. then I also feel we are still a long way off people not wanting ‘blockbuster artists’ as Simon calls them and do hope that once all the idealists have finished watching their anarchy play out, they’ll once again look for quality, scale and exclusivity for the very best musicians. After all, what happens to all those kids who wish they could be famous if their best hope is 5000 Facebook fans and whatever CPM fraction that relates to in royalties, based on those current business models.

    Anyway, that’s what we’re planning ahead for as some of you know…

    Watch this space – jan [at] http://www.famebook.com

  • Having spent most of my working life in the music industry as a Manager, who nurtured a handful of acts who went on to be internationally successful and many more whose music I still love today, but nevertheless didn’t get their big break, I’m ambivalent still as to whether we are making progress or dumbing down creative quality across the globe.

    On the one hand some of the DAT’s I have of acts you’ve never heard of are still some of the best I’ve ever listened to and the new platforms are providing easier routes to get those to wider audiences to mutual benefit. On the other hand though, I think what people forget is that without the machinery, money and skill of most of the big Record Labels that are currently being Lehmanised, I doubt most of the revered artists of ours, or our parents generations, would have happened virally by social networking had it existed then.

    Given that no pure socially networked album release will ever recoup a million dollars of recording costs and several million in marketing from advertising, I personally think we bite the hand that feeds us at our peril, by de-valuing what Record Labels do. Sure some of them are blood sucking b****s, take my word for it, but actually most provide a filter against the overwhelming sea of average and as long as millions of people still check in at the same time every day for Sex and The City, Friends or Eastenders etc. then I also feel we are still a long way off people not wanting ‘blockbuster artists’ as Simon calls them and do hope that once all the idealists have finished watching their anarchy play out, they’ll once again look for quality, scale and exclusivity for the very best musicians. After all, what happens to all those kids who wish they could be famous if their best hope is 5000 Facebook fans and whatever CPM fraction that relates to in royalties, based on those current business models.

    Anyway, that’s what we’re planning ahead for as some of you know…

    Watch this space – jan [at] http://www.famebook.com