I just finished watching a great Charlie Rose interview with the amazing Marc Andreessen (Founder of Netscape, now Founder of white-label social network platform Ning, among many other things). Marc is one the brightest people in this turf, and I definitely recommend that you check out what he has to say about the Future of Newspapers, and the Content / Technology space in general (Charlie Rose show link).
In the interview (see my short, slightly time-warped but still crucial excerpt below), Marc talks about the urgent need for all content to be blessed with an ok-to-use-license on social networks and social media. I totally agree with Marc on his key message: nothing can be achieved by removing your content, or by making the legitimate use of content so incredibly expensive and complicated that few companies can actually afford it. Recent examples abound: WMG and Youtube, Youtube & the PRS, Amazon’s Kindle2 versus the Authors Guild, Pandora’s difficulties outside of the U.S., CBS and Boxee, my very own Sonific.com … and the list goes on. When content is removed from sites that deliver audiences of 200 Million+, then it’s the creators and the users that lose, flat-out – no buts and ifs. Why do you think Facebook (which is starting to drive traffic in exceedingly huge numbers) does not have a music or video service? You guessed it: there is no reasonable deal to be had with the representatives of the music, film, and TV companies.
In my opinion, we currently have a severe IP-Gridlock situation: content creators, owners and their representatives (and these are very often more of a problem than the actual creators, in my experience) are still basing their monetizing strategies on scarcity, on the right to refuse the deal, and on 50-year old copyright laws, regulations and traditions.
These laws – as crucial as they were back then – afford the rights-owner the exclusive right to say yes or no to pretty much any kind of new Internet-based use of their music, films or TV shows, and therefore a common misconception is that – as it has been for the past 50+ years – more control actually equals more income. And it kind-of did – back in those days when refusal could sometimes be a very effective way of enforcing a higher payment.
Well, this was then, and the future is… already here. Adhering to this strategy of refusal and monetary revenge (‘now that you’re a big company we’ll take all we can get’, see Youtube vs PRS) is a huge mistake and will beyond a shadow of doubt devalue your content very quickly, in the next 2-5 years (depending on your specific domain).
In music, this pivot point has already been reached: if your content is not available (i.e. findable and listenable) on Last.fm, Youtube, Myspace, Spotify, Facebook, QQ and so on, it quite simply won’t exist for the 1.5 Billion Internet users and the soon-to-be-online 3.5 Billion mobile phone users. That means you are losing out on reaching a huge audience, and on doing so in the most cost-effective ways. It means that new routes to monetizing – those so-called new generatives– cannot be tried and co-invented. It means that innovative and honest entrepreneurs are stifled and silenced while your content is still being dished up in other places, for free, anyway, and without your permission. It means that all the mad mole-whacking won’t get you paid – it’s just the lawyers that make a good living this way. It means that a new ecosystem cannot emerge because you are still insisting on doing business like it was done 20 years ago: with large advances, completely under your exclusive control, your way… or the highway.
So here is a wake-up call if you’re still thinking that blocking the use of your content will get you more money: it simply won’t work. Period. You can’t fax a cat. Really.
As to the music business (recorded and publishing), this much is obvious: either the industry will start to dial back on Economic Egoism and their obsession with Total Control, or 4 Billion Internet users will simply route around them like a river routes around a rock. To make matters worse, governments will certainly step in to force an end to a clearly dysfunctional system that criminalizes 100s of millions of people while returning zero new revenues to the creators.
What will work is COLLABORATION, Trust and Mutual Respect in defining the new ways of how $$$$ can be generated for content creators – and there are plenty, once we question our outdated assumptions.
Lastly, kudos to some companies and organizations that seem to be heading in a more positive direction:
- the new Featured Artists Coalition refused to be part of any scheme that penalizes Internet users
- the UK Guardian has launched an open API that makes all of its content available for 3rd parties