Friday, September 14, 2007

A culture of free as in free beer, trust, and ethical payment

The other day I was checking out the developer preview of Songbird's music player, and had a few ideas. Right now you can use it like a browser, reading blogs and downloading mp3s from those blogs. In about 5 minutes I had found great music from búscate un novio and fuck me i'm twee (I've been listening to a lot of girly pop/punk lately.)

I'd really love to change the whole model of music distribution. Rather than buying the rights to do whatever I like with a song, I'd like to download it and listen to it without feeling like a criminal. I'd like it to be licensed under Creative Commons in some sensible way. And then I'd like my music players to include a tip jar.

If I like a song, I'll tip the artist, or the consortium of artists, or whoever does their distribution. For example, I'd like a guarantee that the original artist gets a particular percentage of the tip. Even if I knew they would get 50%, that would make me more likely to tip than I'd be if I had zero information.

Skyrocketing downloads, as music consumers felt the confidence that they weren't doing anything illegal, would fuel the music industry. We'd tip a song, or an artist, more than once. When I made a mix CD for someone and put my favorite song on it, I might tip again. Over the many years of listening to a song, I might tip its creator many times... generating more money for the creator, and for anyone in the middle like Songbird could be, than a simple "pay 99 cents for it" model.

I'd see in my music player that I'd tipped 3 times for a particular song or album. I could sort my music on paid-for or not, which would encourage me to want to pay more artists and feel good about my own habits.

Further, I could earn a reputation as an ethical consumer. My own profile -- on Songbird, or on some public site -- maybe on a badge I stuck on my blogs -- could proclaim that I've tipped musical artists 1052 times, or dollars worth of tips, in the last 5 years.

This information could build relationships between consumer and artist, or label or consortium. Kathleen Hanna would know that I'm her loyal fan to the tune of $30 over several years, and might send me announcements, concert information, free stuff, tshirts, or free new music.


This might also avoid the morass of micropayments. Create small payment structures for specific industries, instead of a grand scheme of people passing around the same .001th of a cent whenever they read a web page.


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1 comment:

elkaye said...

I agree with you when you said “I'd really love to change the whole model of music distribution.”
Seeing the RIAA and similar organizations attempt to deter consumers from “stealing” via threats of legal action isn’t really doing much for their cause. By now, a huge number of their consumer base has rationalized how it is okay to receive the work from artists free of charge.

There are times when paying 99 cents for a song isn’t even an option for some people, especially those of us that don’t care for mainstream entertainment. A recent example was when I wanted a Swedish song called “Färja Ut I Rymden” by Niklas Strömstedt. None of the major “pay per download” sites had this song available so I wound up spending $30 for an entire album when initially I just wanted a single mp3. This example isn’t an isolated incident.


On the positive, I recently discovered a site called “Noise Trade”. This site allows musicians to distribute their music to fans via digital download, and the fans have the option of simply emailing five friends about the site, or donating whatever they feel the music is worth. Unfortunately there isn't a huge selection to choose from and there doesn’t seem to be anything mainstream listed on the site, but once the word gets out perhaps the concept will grow. Hopefully it will expand to foreign markets so I won’t have to spend so much on a cd and its packaging the next time I want a single song.
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About the HP Magic Giveaway, I would keep a couple of the computers and use them to replace my older ones. Everything else would be given to family members.

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Here I am on twitter (I'm following you there): http://twitter.com/Elkaye