Thoughts on File Sharing – an addendum

Via the very wonderful Andrew Collins blog, I’ve just found out that there’s a 45p admin fee for the Radiohead album, so added the following edit in the middle of the previous post –

[EDIT – they’re also, crucially, charging a 45p admin fee. Crucial because it covers their costs of hosting and download, and also perhaps even more so because YOU HAVE TO PUT YOUR CARD DETAILS IN… actually I’m going to go and write a new post about this…]

Let me expand on the bit about card details a little, as it pertains to online sales. Online sales patterns are definied entirely by ease of use. The more clicks and details people have to put in, the more people fall away part way through the process. My shop application is terrible for this, because it requires you to take, ooh, about 90 seconds to get through to the checkout. That, in the world of the interwebs, is about 70 seconds too long. I’m talking with various geek friends about creating a paypal only three click download store. My guess is that my download sales would at least quadruple, because for people who use their paypal account regularly (so the email and password filed auto-complete) it really would be three clicks to the download.

Zencart – the application I use for all this stuff – is really cool. It’s feature heavy, means I can have group discounts and free shipping over certain amounts and all kinds of fancy schmancy stuff. But because of all of that, it also requires a fair amount of info to run. If I knew more about PHP and could be bothered, I’d have transfered my entire site into it – it has the option to integrate with phpBB, the software that runs my forum, so I could’ve had a one-stop registration for mailing list, shop, forum, and made it much easier for peoples to interact and shop all in one (if you’re a musician thinking of a major redesign, and the person doing it knows php well, it’s worth considering!) I’ve seen a few sites that feature that level of integration, though they looked more bespoke than that.

But anyway, the point is, that Radiohead are getting people’s financial details is a really smart move, and also means that the difference between paying 45p for it (about 90c US) or paying £7 is one number change in the buying process. Vital in these click-lazy times.

Oh, and apparently, The Charlatans are giving away their new album via the XFM radio website. I wonder how much XFM are paying Alan McGee, who runs the bands label, Creation, for the right to host the tracks? Even if it’s the 45p admin fee that Radiohead are charging the public, you’re looking at a heck of a lot of very cheap publicity for the Charlatans, XFM and Creation Records with the media-hungry McGee at the helm. [EDIT, apparently they aren’t signed to Creation – Creation no longer exists! (nice one Steve, way to go with the up to date information) – they were/are signed to Sanctuary, and McGee is managing them… Same deal, given that he still needs to get paid for being their manager, but worth an edit… /]

McGee’s posit, that recorded music is now just a vehicle for getting people to gigs, is great for a band like the Charlatans, who’ve been around for close to 20 years and have a substantial live following. For smaller bands, or bands who’s style of music costs lots of time and money to make but doesn’t translate well to the live arena, it’s like handing them a P45 and saying ‘sorry, you’re no longer allowed to make money from this industry, go get a day job and muck about with fruityloops in your spare time…’ – less time to make music, less time to think about music, less energy and focus to produce music of substance.

BTW, I’m not suggesting that people with day-jobs can’t make great music! Even with the model as it is, it often liberates them from having to play music their don’t believe in in order to live, allowing them to focus on what really gets their creative juices flowing, however uncommercially viable. Cecil Taylor washed dishes through the 60s til he was finally able to make money playing the music he loved, Nels Cline was working in a record store til he joined Wilco a couple of years ago.

So we need to keep talking about this – where do we go from here? More comments?

2 Replies to “Thoughts on File Sharing – an addendum”

  1. I play up to 120 gigs a year, and make my entire living in music. I don’t think file sharing, or whatever you want to call it, is inherently any more wrong than plucking a fig off of a tree; we “own” our creations only to the extent to which we write laws governing their use. To me, the only thing that matters in this regard is whether a musician wants to devote energy towards stopping illegal downloading or towards encouraging his or her music to propagate. I believe that the latter course is a reasonable choice for our times. Musicians existed for millennia before recording, and can continue to do so with or without recordings. Like the age of fossil fuels, the era of gigantic profits made from mass dissemination of recorded music will have only been a blip in human history.

  2. Thanks for the thoughts Mark – definitely ones worth considering. Musicians won’t stop existing without recorded music sales, that much is obvious, but it’ll be interesting to see what – if you’re suggestion pans out – will be the next paradigm by which musicians are able to make money.

    In the days before recorded media, there were also no recording costs incurred. What copyright law does (in a pretty heavy handed and clumsy way) is make it possible to plan an income stream to pay for the time, energy and resources it takes to make a record, as well as the time it takes to get good at making records.

    if recorded music does just become a calling card to be propagated without direct remuneration, much of the art of recording could be lost to the ages… unless studios and production teams basically become ad-agencies, helping bands to record music that advertises their gigs.

    You may well be right. It’s not a prospect I relish as of now, given that I don’t want to be forced into making music that is consumed in that way, so I’ll keep pondering creative alternatives…

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