May 4, 2010
I have an idea. I’ve been sitting on it for a while. I’m not sure, but I think I have one possible solution to the whole downloading/value of music conundrum. The idea seems to be right under everyone’s nose, but I don’t think anyone has seen it yet. This is an idea I’ve been tempted to go ahead with and try myself, but I’m not really in a position to do it right now. So I thought I’d share the idea before the clouds move in…
I, like a lot of people, believe that intellectual property and especially music (like all other artforms) has value. I also know that it’s very hard to stop the dissemination of intellectual property once its in a digital form.
So, what if a song was treated like, say, a painting? What if it was sold by the artist just once at a high value? The artist gets paid up front (for once) and after that, nature takes its course.
Imagine the possibilities… If a musician sold a song to a single buyer, he or she could also include in the sale the sheet of paper the lyrics were written on, the strings from the guitar played on the song, the socks worn during the recording, hand-made artwork to go with it… The sky’s the limit!
The song leaking would then become the buyer’s problem, not the artist’s. So that buyer might simply take the glory of being the one to offer the song to the world. Or maybe the buyer could try to turn around and sell it – make the money back or maybe even make a profit. If the artist felt particularly bold, he or she could sell a chunk of the publishing to the buyer.
Wouldn’t it be risky for someone to buy work they haven’t heard, you may ask? Well, maybe. But it wouldn’t be in the artist’s interest to try to sell shitty material. Screw a buyer like this once, you’ll never get a second chance and your reputation would be ruined. But I also think a full-length album would be a safer bet/better value.
What about new, unknown artists? This plan wouldn’t work for them – at first. A new band would have to give music away for a while to prove themselves and build demand. THEN they could try selling their material.
What about the press? If a plan like this caught on, it would mean the old-fashioned music press/promo system we know now would cease to exist (which is almost the case already anyway). The press wouldn’t be used to generate hype ahead of the release of new music. It would just be used to discuss it after it began to circulate.
Who would pay lots of money for a song? Someone who wants to play a rather meaningful roll in the career of an artist they love. Or someone who thinks they can turn a profit from it (some crafty kid out there might even figure out the fool-proof plan that has eluded the labels so far). Or someone who can organize other fans to pool their money…
Think of it this way – if Radiohead announced they were selling an EP of new material on eBay and the minimum bid was set at $5,000, do you think someone in the world would buy it? For sure, right? In fact, it would probably end up going for more than that, I’d guess. And do you imagine that Radiohead fans around the world would eventually hear those recordings? One way or another, surely we would.
A plan like this would put all the power in the artists’ hands. If it caught on, all that would suffer would be things that seem to be dying right now anyway. I think we can all agree that the way things are going now can’t be stopped. This idea embraces the way things are, but takes care of the artist.
It’s just an idea. Maybe it will never happen. I’ve been thinking about it for a while now. I haven’t thought of a reason why it wouldn’t work. If you can think of one/some, let me know.
Death by download.