Wednesday, February 23, 2005

No Finger’s Gonna Save This Dike

Hollywood and the music industry keep trying to stick a finger in the hole in the downloading dike and it’s not going to work, but it is going to mess very heavily with public access until they give it up. The history is, what people can do without a whole lot of moralizing, they will.


We stop at red lights in the middle of the night when there’s no cross traffic because it’s the right thing to do and it contributes to social order and we don’t feel right flashing through. Most of us return a wallet found in the street for pretty much the same reasons.


But hardly anyone thinks twice about downloading a song or a video for (I think) a couple of reasons. First, they’re put off by paying sixteen bucks for a CD that costs twelve cents and only pays (maybe) a buck to the artist. They’re further put off by the horror stories told by every artist, film or music, of the heavy handedness on the part of the studios. Second, they don’t really see purchase as an option, don’t look at it personally as an either-or. There’s just no compelling social contract with the film or music industries to stop at their red light in the middle of the night.


Film and music is art until you put it in a plastic case and then it becomes commodity. Promoters can (and do) get $50-$60 for good seats at a concert because there’s the star power of art right up there on stage. Even though that’s an outrageous ticket price, it’s set by the market and as soon as the market objects (by not showing up) the prices are sure to fall. That’s a social contract of the most elemental type, what I’m willing to pay for what you have to sell.


Sixteen bucks is an equally outrageous price for a CD and the market out there is telling the film-music industry it’s no longer interested now that there's an alternative. Film-music’s response is not to drop prices to fill the metaphorically empty stadiums, their answer is to sue their customers and they think that makes sense. Wake up guys, downloading is here. The technology exists and isn’t going away. The answer is re-pricing and repackaging the product.


The artists know that and make their dough on tour.


Jimmy Thudpucker knows and, as usual, Doonesbury is out ahead of the pack.