Tuesday, August 8, 2000

Aug 08 2000

And wow again.

I just read Courtney Love’s speech to the Digital Hollywood online entertainment conference. It talks about the way record companies work, and how the new digital economy holds the awesome potential for changing things.

Here’s her evidence: take a band that nobody’s ever heard of, that suddenly rockets to the top. It gets a huge 20% royalty plus a million-dollar advance, and their album sells a million copies. Y’know how much each member of that band would have left to live off of for the next year?

$45,000.

Because, as Love explains, the record companies are the sole means of delivering music, and so they control artists. They can afford to squeeze money out of artists, because where else are the artists going to go? Nowhere, until the internet appeared, and that’s why the net and Napster frightens them so much.

Love goes on to say that all she wants is an intermediary that will get CDs published, and t-shirts made, and concerts scheduled, and mp3’s made, and what-have-you, but that will respect the artist. That will give the artist a decent amount of profits. Do they deserve huge amounts of cash? When you’ve got a couple million fans, each shelling out $17 per album, heck yeah.

So, what if a company started small, only publishing mp3’s using Stephen King’s recent system (e.g., a shareware-style honor system, where a certain percentage of downloads must be voluntarily paid for, or future content isn’t delivered)? A company that could quickly branch out into t-shirts, and one-off CDs for fans, and so forth and so on. And what if that company gave artists an upfront cut of profits? Would they find artists?

Oh yeah.

Would they find fans?

I bet they would. Remember that we’re not talking a mammoth, expensive infrastructure here; an e-commerce site needs only cost a few hundred dollars a month or so these days.

Interesting.

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