Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Property on the high seas

Piracy is a big thing. It’s revolutionising the way we consume media, almost. Well it would be if we weren’t being held back by out of touch record executives and publishing companies. The digital revolution allows us to produce infinite amounts of media. The only limit is the storage available and an internet connection. We have successfully removed most of the barriers of entry consuming art, and we condemn this?

I am no way saying the artist doesn’t deserve money, that the costs of production should be funded by charity. But there are alternative funding methods over the standard pay for product (which most of the time we don’t actually own) yet we are continually condemning the pirates who seek to “steal” from the artists. Buying a record typically gets the artist 10%-20% of the album price. You are paying for the advertisement, the opportunity for the artist to record it and the opportunity for them to be recognised as good by a record company.

Yet you can record music for cheaper than ever before, a good HD camera and editing software will set you back less than £500, there are free game creators creating amazing products (see Spelunky for one of the best, it’s a stupidly huge made on gmaemaker), self-publishing is incredibly cheap for novels and it’s easier than ever to find good content through forums, youtube and social media.

So tell me again the amazing job the publisher does? That huge amount of money they take for their incredible service they provide. It’s outdated, it’s dying and good riddance, yet they continue to limit distribution channels for other methods. Torrenting is the number one method of pirating yes, but it is the fastest file transfer system which put it there in the first place. I’m not claiming it is morally right to illegally download files, but by associating torrenting=piracy you’ve illegitimated a fantastic way of artist who can’t afford a download server for their content a stigma against the way they distribute. I’m nervous this will be turn into a rant, so I will swiftly move on.
It’s all very well claiming I want cheap/free content, but how would I improve the current system:
-          Content should be simultaneously released, it’s the World Wide Web and this has plagued TV shows and games hugely. If you’re going to make some regions wait months to get content, you can’t blame them that they will stream/download you’re content which you’ve failed to make available
-          Make it cheap. The cost of production is high. Once it exists it has basically no cost. Why are we still being charged for John Wyndham’s works at £5 each, he’s not only dead but it costs nothing to give me a copy of the book.
-          Sort out copyright laws. Infinite extensions aren’t funny, Tolkien I’m looking at you. Warner Brothers has a record of suing projects seeking to use the huge amount of law (which is all copyrighted, even the notes which have merged from his son and several high profile fans and are not original work). The two most famous examples are a free mod for TES: Skyrim and the famous Southampton pub The Hobbit. Copyright needs to expire on death or after a fixed point in time so everyone else can enjoy the art.
-          Give us ownership. If I want a song on all 5 of my ipods Apple you can’t stop me, you sold it to me, it’s now mine.

This stuff works. But the important part is offering a service better than the pirates, something to be paid for. While it has been argued this goes above and beyond what the artist should be doing, but if you can offer (see Steam blog post for how great this all is) an extra service on top of the content you will get more viewers. I realise this is going on a bit now, but Spotify is a fantastic example. Unlimited content on the cheap is a step in the right direction. It allows a monetisation on casual listening without giving up ownership of the song. Also look up Valve in Russia, it manages to crack a hard market covered in piracy by allowing non credit card payments and setting up servers to enable fast download of it’s games. The consumption rate exploded. Similarly in China and gathering pace in the rest of the world are Free to Play games, you pay for a sexy hat or in the worst examples extra power in games and the core experience is free.

Apologies for the amount of game related posts, it’s where my interests really lie but you can apply this to most media markets

Till next time


1 comment:

  1. While I agree with most of your points, I fear that the executives will always have a grip on things. Take gaming for example. Cheap and amazing games, such as Team Fortress 2 or mods for games that give hours of entertainment just don't get the coverage they deserve due to the publishers of big games and their powers. Games like the newest Call of Duty and FIFA (as much as I enjoy it) will always make the publisher money because they can afford to saturate the market with advertisement and therefore sales. I recall the major fallout and resultant high profile job losses between Activision and the developers of Modern Warfare 2, yet Modern Warfare 3 was a best-selling game, the reason for this being that it is a brand that most people recognise. Until the independents and little guys of the different types of media can break through the 'e-bubble' and get themselves known to everybody in every house, the publisher and its powers of advertising will always ensure that they are the go to people to get your stuff sold, and they therefore they will own the lot.


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