HOWTO: Thrive as a Musician Without Suing Your Fans
TechDirt's Mike Masnick is at the Midem music industry conference in Cannes this week. He put together a fantastic memo to the International Association of Entertainment Lawyers: "The Future Of Music Business Models (And Those Who Are Already There)".
Masnick writes that the mainstream entertainment industry's formula for contending with the Internet — desperately trying to invent "new copyright laws or new licensing schemes or new DRM or new lawsuits or new ways to shut down file sharing" — is counterproductive.
However, there is another solution. Stop worrying and learn to embrace the business models that are already helping musicians make plenty of money and use file sharing to their advantage, even in the absence of licensing or copyright enforcement.
In simplest terms, the model can be defined as:
Connect with Fans (CwF) + Reason to Buy (RtB) = The Business Model
He lists a dozen artists who've done well for themselves through various permutations of this model. Everyone knows about the efforts of big names like Trent Reznor and Radiohead, but Mike also draws attention to less-famous success stories like Josh Freese, Jill Sobule, Corey Smith, Jonathan Coulton, Moto Boy, Amanda Palmer, Matthew Ebel, Moldover and K-Os.
As you look through all of these, some patterns emerge. They're not about getting a fee on every transaction or every listen or every stream. They're not about licensing. They're not about DRM or lawsuits or copyright. They're about better connecting with the fans and then offering them a real, scarce, unique reason to buy -- such that in the end, everyone is happy. Fans get what they want at a price they want, and the musicians and labels make money as well.
These stories stand in stark contrast to the problems that major labels' copyright-enforcement efforts can cause for their artists. Just last week, we noted how even talented and popular bands like OK Go and Death Cab For Cutie have seen their promotion actively undercut by their own labels' copywars.
The memo is a great roundup of clever new business models that music fans and and aritsts alike will find worth reading.