Creative Destruction

May 3, 2006

Kill the DJ

Filed under: Art,Economics — Adam Gurri @ 11:36 pm

I apparently touched a nerve, and Brutus has responded, not once, but twice.

The first post was very eloquent and informative, but I think that it was this passage from the second post that really got me thinking:

Promotional copies of music and software, or copies with limited content or functionality, have always been a tool of intellectual property owners to increase their market share. The argument has been advanced by Adam Gurri that all copies should be promotional copies so that emerging artists and foundling software companies can build their market shares. That's wishful thinking from the perspective of an end-user who wants it for free, but it's naïve to believe that giving away work early in the development of one's market leads to later enrichment.

Tonight, I spent some time putting together a playlist with songs from Download.com,  and I now think that I am closer to Brutus' position than to the one I previously articulated.

When thinking about music as a business, it's important to remember that songs have been given away for free for as long as there have been radio stations to play them.  So the question is: why would the record labels willingly allow such mass-freeloading over the airwaves?

Simple: you give a song or two, and then people will want to buy the whole record, or CD, which has songs that you can't hear for free.

If Download.com is going to supercede anything in my life where listening to music is concerned, it's radio, not purchased albums.

Download.com is essentially a mass database of singles.  There isn't a thing you can get there which isn't but a small part of a larger album you've got to fork over the bucks in order to get.

The convenience of it is that, unlike the radio, there is a lot of diversity there.  Radio stations bore the hell out of me because if you listen to one for more than a week, you generally become familiar with their entire cycle of songs.  Download.com not only has a massive amount of different songs and artists, it gets more every day.  Along with information to help you find out more about the ones you like, and facilitate the purchasing process.

Also, it cuts out the damned, loudmouth DJs.  I can go in, pick up a dozen singles, put them on a playlist on my iPod and I'm set for my commute.  I can even mix in songs from the albums I have bought; the middle man has been murdered in his sleep and it is about time.

I concur with Brutus about intellectual property; if music is to be offered freely, it should only be when it is at the consent of the musician. 

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11 Comments »

  1. One big difference is that radio doesn’t have content on demand. If you hear a song you like on the radio and you want to listen to it again, you either have to buy the album (or single), or just wait for the station to play it again.

    If people are buying albums primarily for the hit songs they hear on the radio, then having those songs available for free on demand may significantly reduce the demand for albums.

    Comment by Brandon Berg — May 4, 2006 @ 1:07 am | Reply

  2. That didn’t deter me – I’d have the radio playing next to me with a cassette loaded, and as soon as the first bar of a song I wanted was played I’d start recording.

    Plus, of course, cassette copies of all my friends’ albums, and vice versa. I owned many, many more albums on tape than albums I had actually bought, and so did everyone I knew.

    Comment by Ampersand — May 4, 2006 @ 5:02 am | Reply

  3. If people are buying albums primarily for the hit songs they hear on the radio, then having those songs available for free on demand may significantly reduce the demand for albums.

    Well, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I never buy albums for the hit songs. I buy them because the hit songs make me interested in what else there is that I can’t otherwise hear.

    Comment by Adam Gurri — May 4, 2006 @ 9:13 am | Reply

  4. Download.com has almost nothing to do with the ongoing data revolution. The way I see it, record companies, Film producers, publishers of anything that can be copied onto a computer are all much closer than we imagine to irrelevance and extinction. Law abiding user-friendly little web portals like download.com, though, have nothing to do with their demise. The “revolution” as I termed it, is coming from Bittorrenting (whatever the hell that means) wherein you can download a kind of tracer for any given “bit” of “intellectual property” from an online search engine say like any of these: http://www.searchlores.org/undergro.htm
    Then you use a program (like this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azureus) which activates the tracer file and finds the actual data file (even disembodied parts “bits” of that file) as it (they) exist(s) on anyone’s computer anywhere in the world so long as they are broadcasting another tracer file. I know it sounds complex to the uninitiated, but this stuff blows Napster and Kazaa out of the water, because it doesn’t rely on one single network of users (everyone who uses kaaza). It is able to track and download the file from anyone who has it and is broadcasting it in any form. This all sounds a bit hackerish, I suppose, but this isn’t some little rotten corner of the big noble internet. Believe it or not, (This is from C-net news)”Already, according to network infrastructure company CacheLogic, more than 60 percent of Internet traffic is being taken up by peer-to-peer swaps.” And it’s only growing. Furthermore, there is nothing anyone can do about it. Nothing! You can’t put the company out of business, because there is no company. Sure there is Azureus but there are also 200 other shell programs that can gain you access to the open p2p network. And Azureus doesn’t do anything more illegal than a web browser. It enables access to internet content being broadcast by individuals. The only way to stop it all, as I see it, is to prosecute any and every individual who is downloading or uploading illicit content (probably an unrealistic goal numerically speaking). Behold, the time of revolution is at hand! Whoa onto you oh Bit-torrent!

    Comment by Peter Van Valkenburgh — May 4, 2006 @ 7:45 pm | Reply

  5. By the way, regarding albums vs. singles, most of the music on these bit-torrent networks is a complete package of all the music files in an album. That’s right kids you can download the whole album. Some of them even have the album notes and art included! Don’t ask me how I know all this. And let me add that I’m a law abiding citizen.

    Comment by Peter Van Valkenburgh — May 4, 2006 @ 7:48 pm | Reply

  6. Bit torrent users are actually much, much easier to track on a large scale because of the very nature of the system. Still, I believe that people’s feet are going to be held to the fire on this one about as much as I believe that they’re going to actually be deported for not having all their papers.

    Doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be immigration laws, though.

    Maybe that’s a bit too far off topic, but do you get where I’m coming from here?

    Comment by Adam Gurri — May 4, 2006 @ 11:27 pm | Reply

  7. Ampersand:
    All this tells me is that you’re not on the margin. Yes, there are people who would never buy anything they could record off the radio or get as a third-generation audio tape. But there are also people who will buy an album just because they like the cover art. Somewhere in between are those who would rather buy a CD than go to the trouble of making a low-quality copy off the radio, or who don’t know anyone who has the album and consequently have to buy it themselves. These are the kinds of people whose purchasing habits are likely to be affected by the availability of free, high-quality downloads. I don’t know how common they are or how much it affects their purchasing habits—I’m just pointing out that the analogy breaks down with them.

    Adam:
    See above. There are bound to be people on the margin who are willing to take a chance on the rest of the album only if it’s what they have to do to get the few tracks they know they like.

    Peter:
    You don’t have to go after everyone. You just need to nail enough ordinary people to put some fear of God into the rest.

    Comment by Brandon Berg — May 5, 2006 @ 3:05 am | Reply

  8. Brandon: Very interesting. Thanks a lot for the comment, it’s a much more detailed picture of how the situation pans out, I think.

    Comment by Adam Gurri — May 5, 2006 @ 10:36 am | Reply

  9. Radio and digital copies aren’t the same sort of promotional tools. Once something is available at download.com or elsewhere, it produces no direct revenue, though it may stimulate secondary sales. For radio, though physical media are usually sent to stations gratis, record companies collect royalties for performance and broadcast. The picture gets further complicated, however, by payola, which resurfaced recently as scandalously as it had in the 50s and 60s. (In truth, it probably went underground in the interim.)

    I’m not familiar enough with the Bitorrent technology to comment on it, but I’m familiar enough with file-sharing programs such as Napster, Kazaa, and Limewire to know that MOST popular music is available to a diligent searcher. Jazz and Classical aren’t nearly so well represented as owners would rather have high fidelity media (even at a cost), which mp3 and avi certainly aren’t.

    Comment by Brutus — May 5, 2006 @ 11:34 am | Reply

  10. Radio and digital copies aren’t the same sort of promotional tools. Once something is available at download.com or elsewhere, it produces no direct revenue, though it may stimulate secondary sales. For radio, though physical media are usually sent to stations gratis, record companies collect royalties for performance and broadcast. The picture gets further complicated, however, by payola, which resurfaced recently as scandalously as it had in the 50s and 60s. (In truth, it probably went underground in the interim.)

    I’m not familiar enough with the Bitorrent technology to comment on it, but I’m familiar enough with file-sharing programs such as Napster, Kazaa, and Limewire to know that MOST popular music is available to a diligent searcher. Jazz and Classical aren’t nearly so well represented as owners would rather have high fidelity media (even at a cost), which mp3 and wav certainly aren’t.

    Comment by Brutus — May 5, 2006 @ 11:34 am | Reply

  11. […] Adam at Creative Destruction presents Kill the DJ. […]

    Pingback by the skwib » The Carnival of the Vanities (#190) — May 10, 2006 @ 9:44 am | Reply


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