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Expectation of Fair Pricing, Not Free

At Dear Author, a post stating that not all content should be expected to be free; rather it must be provided, free or not, in a realistic understanding of consumer needs and expectations, which might mean changing the way you do business.

What content providers must realize is that a changing business model wherein revenues are no longer captured in the same way does not mean that content is not without value or
that people will not pay, in some way, to use that content. I think many people recognize that in order to have worthwhile content, we must pay in some way for it. Consumers have reduced the value of the album, but have not determined that music itself is without value. Consumers might believe that digital books have reduced cost given the costs of production, distribution and warehousing; but it is not our belief that books are without value altogether or that all books must be provided for free. I think what consumers are looking for is a fair trade. Content creators provide the best content they possibly can and for a fair price allow the consumers to utilize it in the way that it fits into their lives.

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Comments: 7

  1. music fans _love_ the bands. wear their t-shirts and everything.
    those same music fans hate the recording companies, who have
    ripped ’em off by selling expensive albums with few good songs,
    because they thought they would always be in the driver’s seat…

    so when music fans had the chance to “rip” in return, they _did_;
    now recording companies are looking for change in the sofa…

    meanwhile, the bands who’ve found out how to go _directly_ to
    their fans, bypassing the middlemen, are pulling more cash than
    they did in the past, since they don’t have to share the proceeds.

    the exact same thing will happen with authors. because it’s even
    easier for a person to make a text product than a music product.

    readers _love_ authors. hold them in their hearts and everything.
    the authors who go directly to readers will make more than ever.

    authors don’t have to become businesspeople. indeed, it will be
    better if they offer their art for free, as a _gift_, and count on the
    strong bond formed with their audience to lead to reciprocation.

    it’ll be the start of a revolution that remakes this greedy system
    of ours, which has pushed our planet to the edge of extinction…

    the writers and poets, musicians and artists will lead the change.

    you’re absolutely right, you capitalists. this “free” revolution will
    upset your financial apple-cart (what’s left of it after wall street
    has stolen most of what you _thought_ you had), it surely will…


  2. @bowerbird — meanwhile, the bands who’ve found out how to go _directly_ to their fans, bypassing the middlemen, are pulling more cash than they did in the past, since they don’t have to share the proceeds

    Which bands? How many are pulling in more cash without an intermediary? And how much is ‘more’?

  3. david said:
    > Which bands?

    the people at techdirt dot com can answer that better than i can.

    they’ve been keeping track, and run blog entries on the topic
    on a regular basis. i suggest you subscribe to their r.s.s. feed.

    > How many are pulling in more cash without an intermediary?

    well, how many bands pulled in cash _with_ an intermediary?

    i hope you don’t confuse an _advance_ with actual _income_,
    since bands have to pay back that advance out of “earnings”.
    (and guess who gets to “compute” their “earnings” for them.)

    accountants for the recording companies are some of the best
    thieves in the accounting business today. some people actually
    say that they’re better than the accountants for the movie biz…
    of course, since the prints have been wiped, no one can know.

    again, i’m not the best person to give you guidance on this,
    but if you want the classic explanation, do a google search
    for “steve albini” and “trench” and “runny, decaying shit”…
    steve does a very good job of explaining how it all “works”.

    and recently, many high-profile musicians — even legends —
    from the past have come out and said that they have _never_
    received _any_ royalties at all, not even when they were huge.

    so, is this _really_ what you want to compare things against?

    > And how much is ‘more’?

    that depends on your definition of “is”…

    another _tremendous_ resource in the music revolution is
    bob lefsetz. his newsletter/blog is an absolute joy to read,
    with his great experience, expertise, knowledge, and vision.
    bob disdains the pitter-patter language, to tell the _truth_.

    so — if this is a genuine question, and you’re really honestly
    curious about where the music world is moving in the future
    — i would strongly suggest that you subscribe to bob lefsetz.

    anyway, lefsetz recently ran an entry about a musician who
    gives away his music, and yet still made $4 million last year.

    funny thing was, i’ve never heard of the guy, and i wouldn’t
    be the least bit surprised if you’ve never heard of him either.

    nonetheless, by giving away his music for free on the web,
    he’s built an enthusiastic audience of fans who’re connected,
    and will come see his shows when he appears in their town…

    this approach will _not_ work for everyone. if your music
    sucks, and you cannot gather fans, you won’t make money.
    but if your music sucks and you cannot gather fans, then
    you wouldn’t have made money in the old system either…

    meanwhile, i just got turned on to “ghost” from “wintersleep”,
    a band out of nova scotia. i have never been to nova scotia
    in my life (well, i might have spent some time on a runway
    there once, during a flight to europe, but that doesn’t count),
    but because this band put up this great song on myspace,
    where i could listen to it (and hijack it if i want to, and i do)
    for free, you can bet i will be there at their next show in l.a.

    obscurity is a bigger problem for most artists than “piracy”,
    and i have said that for about 20 years now. and the web
    helps artists (of all stripes) solve their obscurity problem…

    but if you’re a musician who doesn’t believe me, go ahead
    and cast your lot with the recording company middlemen.
    trust me, they are vampires who are really in need of a fix.


  4. Giving music away as a loss-leader to get people to attend your performances is a smart move for musicians, alas it doesn’t work that well with books.
    It worked for Cory Doctorow but he’s a pioneer and if there are twenty, two hundred or two thousand guys and girls doing the same thing, they won’t be in a position where big publishing is picking up their work (and sell it for them). Also they might not do that many well paid speeches…
    I agree that they don’t need an intermediary, but they still need to get paid. The internet and especially blogs have created a everything-for-free-culture where it is really hard to earn money never mind the size of your organization or what you actually charge.
    I fear that people who are rather getting something for free than to shell out twenty bucks are also reluctant to pay two bucks…
    I’d hate to see the “e-book revolution” to go to the dogs because of this. Too bad, no micropayment-scheme ever got off the ground.

  5. We skipped straight to nano-payment schemes (adverts)

  6. martin jenny said:
    > alas it doesn’t work that well with books.

    david asked me about music, so i answered about music.
    if you wanna ask me about books, i’ll answer about books.

    and if you just wanna try and tell me “it’s all impossible”,
    then i’ll shrug and walk away… why should i care if you
    miss the point? i myself believe every single one of us
    — including you, martin jenny — has something to say,
    something important enough to merit writing a book —
    though i’d suggest most people make it a _short_ book,
    something more along the lines of a short-story, really
    — but if _you_ do not believe in yourself strongly enough
    to make the effort to tell your story, ain’t much i can do…

    i will say this, though. if _money_ is your _objective_,
    then you probably shouldn’t think of writing a book.
    or playing in the n.b.a. or becoming a ballet dancer.
    or a poet. or an actor. or president. or a news anchor.
    the competition is just too fierce. even the people who
    have success at the lower levels don’t make much money.
    and most people fail, even at the very lowest of the levels.

    200,000 or more books are published each year in america.
    do you really believe you can compete for the ever-scarce
    amount of money that all of those books are now chasing?
    (if so, you’ve got enough _imagination_ to _be_ a writer!)

    if you wanna make money, you should become an accountant.
    or a lawyer. or a doctor. heck, the average _plumber_ makes
    more money than the average _writer_. you could look it up…

    because people do not _persist_ in being a plumber if they
    don’t make any money from it. but writers? they _persist_…
    a true writer will persist at writing even if s/he is _starving_.
    people in it for cash can’t compete against such persistence.

    moreover, in the new world i’m talking about, where the
    poets and writers and artists and musicians lead the way
    to a gift-based mode of humanistic economic exchange,
    your _karma_ will be crucial. if you’re in it for the money,
    you are almost certainly going to fail… and fail miserably.

    the ones who will make money will be the ones who simply
    do not care about money, who do what they do for _love_,
    the ones who are simply incapable of doing anything else.

    > The internet and especially blogs have
    > created a everything-for-free-culture
    > where it is really hard to earn money

    again, your focus is wrong, so you can’t see things clearly.

    the internet has created a place where _community_counts_,
    a place where an artist can gather together a collection of fans.

    and once you have gathered together _your_ collection of fans,
    it’s not “really hard to earn money”. on the contrary, it’s _easy_.

    i’ll give you three examples.

    seth godin gave away his first e-book. it’s still up, for free.
    (and you should look at it, because it’s an excellent example
    of a book that’s _designed_ as an e-book, not a print artifact.
    most people don’t have a clue how radically different that is;
    but seth did, and now other people can observe it quite easily.)
    his free book combined with a blog that seth nurtured smartly,
    to earn him a reputation that has delivered lots of money to him.
    go ahead, google “seth”… i just did, and his site is the top hit…
    that’s what your _community_ can do. (i hate to use the word,
    because it’s now been polluted by the leeches who want to sell
    you something. perhaps instead i should be using “readership”.
    the point is, if you want to have people who want to read what
    you write, you have to hook them by giving them stuff to read.
    they won’t just materialize out of thin air to be your audience,
    not if they have to pay a surcharge for the privilege in advance.)

    likewise with bob lefsetz. i had never heard of him before, but
    somehow i got directed to one of his blog entries, and i loved it.
    so i read more, and i loved those, and now i’m a lefsetz _fan_…
    and — just exactly like i did above, when i talked about him —
    i rave about his work whenever i can get a chance to bring it up.
    that kind of “word of mouth” is what you need, as an author, and
    the only way you’ll get it today is to put your work out for free.
    and yes, so far, bob lefsetz hasn’t received one penny from me.
    but i can tell you right now that _bob_ will get money from me
    (based on the gift of his words that he’s already given to me)
    before a _stranger_ gets any from me for sight-unseen words.
    the longer you wait to catch up to bob, the farther back you are.

    one more example, this one being the guys over at “37 signals”.
    one of them, jason freid, was a speaker at the recent toc thing.
    these cats built a software company using their own principles,
    chief among them _simplicity_. they had a blog, where they’d
    regularly espouse on these principles. the blog got a following.
    from that following, they started a series of conferences, which
    created a virtuous circle of increasing the size of their following.
    so the guys decided to create a book, based on the blog entries.
    they basically lifted out some entries, did a little bit of polishing,
    turned it into a .pdf, and began selling the .pdf at a price of $20.
    remember, this is stuff you could _read_for_free_ on their blog.
    the .pdf just served as a convenient _summary_ of those posts…
    the .pdf sold in tens of thousands, making a half-million bucks.
    (probably up to a million by now, but i won’t bother checking.)
    but get this, some people started asking them for _hard-copy_.
    now, those readers could have just printed out the darn .pdf,
    but i guess they wanted an actual _bound_ copy, so 37 signals
    started offering a bound-copy, at a cost of around 25 bucks…
    (i’m telling this from memory; all numbers are “approximate”.)
    thousands of people have bought the bound-copy now as well.
    and many of those customers were people who’ve been reading
    the blog all along! they had already _received_ the info for free!
    let me repeat that, please: they had _already_ read the content!
    but they turned around and paid money for a different package!
    moreover, 37 signals eventually put the actual book online too,
    so you can read it for free, in its “edited” form, so you don’t even
    have to plow through the blog to read all the entries individually.
    but they are _still_ making plenty of .pdf and hard-copy sales!
    the _free_ versions are not “cannibalizing” commercial versions;
    they’re just part of the mesh, a mesh that ends up driving sales.
    but wait, i’m not done, there’s _another_ remarkable anecdote.
    as part of their commercial package, the 37 signals guys offer
    a “site license” for the .pdf. it costs more (maybe double, $40?),
    but it “allows” you to make 10 copies of the .pdf for your “site”.
    ok, now people aren’t _idiots_; they surely realize that they can
    make copies of the .pdf even if they don’t buy the “site license”.
    but nonetheless, a startling number of “site licenses” were sold.
    people could have “cheated” quite easily — some surely did —
    but a number were _super-honest_ and bought a “site license”.
    i don’t see how these assorted facts can fail to boggle the mind
    of the piracy-obsessing capitalist, but i guess those capitalists
    have become experts by now at sweeping facts under the rug…

    so there you go, martin, 3 examples of how you can use “free”
    material to _build_a_readership_ of fans who will support you
    — financially and emotionally and artistically — down the line,
    all of ’em being direct outgrowth of the miracle of cyberspace.

    i have more examples. indeed, i could go on and on and on…

    do you want me to? :+)


  7. I agree that content creators provide the best content they possibly can do but the good return of their work considerably inspires them to do better and to deliver on time.