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September 14, 2003
Copying, Cutting and Pasting, and Synthesizing

Here's a thought, what if because of the way the internet works, and file sharing of content, the music industry morphs into something that essentially becomes a loss-leader, an advertising and marketing machine, into something that instead of recording bands, finds bands with already recorded materials on their home recording computer systems, and so the industry simply acts as a promoter, giving away low-res recorded teaser mp3 music? And maybe those giveaways come from sites that sell advertising, or maybe low fees ($.25 an mp3) get listeners out of having to submit to the ads? What if the real money to be made was from concert tickets ($175), tShirts ($30), cd's with music videos and ephemera ($10)? Artists don't see royalties from record companies anyway, and so what if, in getting artists paid, the audience just keeps paying them for the stuff they actually do make money on, and the rest of the dinosaur music company business has to change to accommodate the disruptive nature of the internet?

What if the new "record companies" essentially become the PR/Ad/promotion guys who, instead of paying bands and recording them, get "hired" and paid by the bands to market them by giving away and placing their music in the right spots? What if the copy, cut and paste, and synthesizing steam engine of the internet just kept on amplyfing the ways people use media and how they want to understand and consume it in the new Internet Regime?

It means the record companies don't get to control every unit and the business in general, but frankly, I think they've lost control anyway.

Of course, this idea disregards the old business models music companies employ, where they sign acts in exchange for rights to all the musician's work, the radio and webcasting agreements and business models, the current copyright regime, etc., as well as other business media models for movies, literature, cable and TV. I'm throwing this out not because I think, realistically, the laws will change to support these ideas anytime soon, but because I think the reality of the internet, and the way people use it, reflects aspects of this new model right now. And so if record companies want to survive, they'd better think about this. It may be that the first one to the new PR/Ad/Music Distribution punch is the one that wins.

Speaking of forward thinking acts, Ed Felten mentions that more RIAA lawsuits are on the way.

Posted by Mary Hodder at September 14, 2003 09:22 AM
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