Friday, January 08, 2010

this decade in intellectual property

Irish music superstar Bono has done some looking ahead into the coming decade in an op-ed published in last weekend's New York Times. Running a bit against the populist grain of established musical stars who celebrate all file-sharing (legal and illegal) as just a new and democratic way to increase a fan base, Bono looks beyond his own unassailable popularity and dares to worry about those musicians who might still need to make some money directly from their intellectual property.

A decade’s worth of music file-sharing and swiping has made clear that the people it hurts are the creators — in this case, the young, fledgling songwriters who can’t live off ticket and T-shirt sales like the least sympathetic among us — and the people this reverse Robin Hooding benefits are rich service providers, whose swollen profits perfectly mirror the lost receipts of the music business.

This reminded me of an interview I heard on NPR over a year ago, in which established indie musician ani difranco expressed similar concerns. No artist wants to be called out as anti-fan (as much of the free-content lobby position revenue-conscious creators). I wrote about the difranco interview in an earlier posting, and part of it bears repeating here:

... however freeing to the average music consumer, illegal downloading had "put [difranco's indie label] Righteous Babe in a bit of a pickle." After all, in their established anti-corporate indie business model difranco's CD sales were used to help subsidize the creation of the less well-known, newer, struggling artists in the RB stable. And with what sounds like the utter collapse of Righteous Babe CD sales, they have not quite figured out how to recover the lost revenue. It should be noted that difranco is a new mother, who wants to spend as much of her time now looking after her child, and not filling concert halls. Where's the RB revenue going to come from?

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