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Hello Downloader (alphabasic.com)
267 points by alainbryden on May 24, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 162 comments

Honestly, I don't think the 'donate' model is a viable one. Sure you can make some money off of it, but that cannot be the norm. I think. Maybe (hopefully) I'm wrong.

Now don't get me wrong, I think that selling music in the internet age is a fundamentally broken model, so much more than the donate one. At a time where distributing media is as simple as one click, trying to make money off of distribution is just wrong. Take into account how widespread internet access is today, and do the most basic ecnomical analysis, take "Porter five force" for instance and you'll quickly realize how non-viable this model is. Labels who act as middle men between the artist and their audience might have been needed 20 years ago, but today, what are their added values?

Now, if I do not believe that selling music is profitable, that doesn't mean that musicians cannot make money. Here's a simple business model for you: Make money off concerts and use your records as promotion units. Give your music away for free, hope for success, give a concert, make money.

Labels want to scare you into thinking that their distribution model is the only guarantee that music/art will survive. Let's not forget that musicians existed and made money long, very long before technology allowed businessmen in suits to make money off of them.

I find it really bizarre that in a forum which generally celebrates the ability to sell and profit from unlimited copies (c.f all the app store success stories), we have decided that such technology should not be available to others. If musicians want to make money, they're gonna have to do it sweating under the lights. Why is that?

Would people here be as enthusiastic if the only way to get paid for writing an app was to sit down and type it out in front of each customer?

I never sold a single app in my life, I loathe the app-store model and I strongly oppose any limitation to technology in the name of making any business model work. That never prevented me from making money off my programming skills, and that never prevented me from writing a lot of software.

I am not arguing that musicians should not make money, far from it. I am merely saying that any business model that relies on "pretending Internet/Technology cannot do this" is flawed, no matter how many laws and regulations you throw at it.

Technology can be very disruptive for some businesses. The 'backspace' button on your keyboard cost a lot of typists their jobs. Machines are driving cinema clerks out of jobs and fridges make ice-hunting obsolete (there was an article featured here on HN about a guy whose job is to get ice off the mountain and distribute it to villages).

To answer your question: I don't know about people here, but if it were up to me, programmers should be held to similar standards I suggest for musicians.

You can easily be held to the same standards as musicians. Just quit your job, release open-source tools and earn your living from a donation button on your site.

Or figure out another way to make money aside from working for a company and selling products. Since you don't like the app store, you should exclude that from your possible sources of income as well.

You're responding to the guy who stated he didn't think the donating model would work for musicians. He also implied that he got paid for creating open-source code, which I'm guessing was the gist of his suggestion for musicians too, get paid for being a musician, not by monetizing the legal right to restrict duplication.

I've lost track of the music business, but have they even moved past the "making it difficult for people to buy music digitally and randomly suing young music fans while cheating the musicians" stage yet? Maybe they should try just selling music online directly from artist to fan for a while (and sack anyone who's no longer contributing materially to that goal) before moving on to the giving it away for free stage.

It is and has been easy to buy music online for quite a while, so I don't think that's really a problem. The problem as I see it is that musicians simply don't see any of that money. I can say this with confidence because I have two albums on iTunes and just about every other music site and I have never seen a dime from any of it. And my group has a fairly boiler-plate label deal. (this is from a while back, I don't play music professionally anymore)

An app store for musicians I think is a fantastic idea and I don't understand the babarock's distaste for that. It seems some people are just opposed to any way of profiting from digital creative work whatsoever (although conveniently their personal source of income always seems to be ok). I find it hypocritical. It is very, very difficult to be a musician for all but the hugely successful.

I read something about the RIAA having stopped their lawsuit strategy http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/05/riaa-bump/. I don't know if that's actually true or not.

> It is and has been easy to buy music online for quite a while, so I don't think that's really a problem.

If you are into mainstream music perhaps, but if you are in the United States and like music from a Dutch group you won't find it on iTunes in the US music store, it will be in the Dutch iTunes store. But you can't purchase the music from the Dutch iTunes store because it requires a Dutch iTunes account.

There are so many times now that I have looked for legal ways to purchase music, particularly music from Europe (where I am from) where the techno/trance/electronic scene is so much bigger and I just can't get it legally. I start searching for various different websites that might sell it to me and there are restrictions because I am in the US. Then I try to find it on Amazon or other sites and get physical copies and I end up on shady looking websites where I am not even sure I want to enter my credit card credentials.

I feel much more secure grabbing a .magnet link from The Pirate Bay than I feel inputting my personal information on various different websites while hunting for the music I want. The worst is when you follow a "Download here" or "Purchase here" link and you end up on yet another website that sends you to yet another website and so on and so forth.

These days pirating simply isn't an option for me due to my job, and I don't like to do it, so I find the music on Grooveshark, or Spotify or hope that it comes by on Pandora again, until the next time when I am in The Netherlands and I can walk into a record store and purchase the stuff on a CD.

I think what bugs me about comments like yours is the mentality that the labels must fail. Why? If you want to support local indie bands, go see local indie shows. Do we really think its not enough for me to win, my enemies must lose?

I apologize if I'm projecting an attitude into your comments that's not there, I may be reacting to a general trend and not your comment specifically.

The argument isn't that the labels "must fail", it's that they must give up trying to create artificial scarcity. The problem isn't the labels, it's their behavior.

People implicitly (or explicitly) believe that changing this behavior will cause them to fail, but the main point isn't about their failing. In fact, the best outcome would be the label's succeeding despite giving up on the current business model.

> they must give up trying to create artificial scarcity.

How are they trying to create this artificial scarcity? Many if not all the major labels have a lot of their artists music available via digital formats like iTunes and Amazon, etc. They just have the crazy idea that if you want to listen to their artists music whether it be via a CD, 12" or MP3 that you should pay them for it.

Well, first there is no question that they're trying to create scarcity: you can create nearly infinite copies of information for basically 0 cost, and they want that to become difficult.

Secondly, it's artificial because they're leveraging the government to enforce it. If they took no action, there would be no scarcity. Therefore it is artificial.

Contrast this with, say, physical goods: even if the manufacturer does nothing about limiting the distribution of whatever you purchased, it would still be scarce because making copies requires significant resources.

Fundamentally, economics is about managing scarcity. The main reason you pay for some resource is because it is scarce. So their "crazy idea" is exactly that: creating scarcity.

Your argument implies you disagree with the concept of copyright (artificial scarcity). Do you, and have you thought through all the implications of this?

You are arguing that nothing digital should ever be sold.

I disagree, and would assert that information does not magically lose its value because of the support medium being easy to copy. Just because you can copy information easily, has no bearing on whether you should. Society has rules to enforce not copying the intellectual labour of others, and has done since ideas could be copied easily on bits of paper.

I still don't see how they are trying to do this when about all of the major labels let you buy their music via iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Spotify, etc...

One of the most important concepts in economics is scarcity[1]. It is what drives the whole supply/demand cycle. When somebody says the labels are trying to create artificial scarcity, the logic is this:

A. High demand, low supply raises prices. If I reduce the supply, I can increase the price (up to a certain limit).

B. Music has high demand. Music labels have controlled supply for years, giving us the "normal" pricing for CDs.

C. With the Internet, the incremental supply costs go to zero. Supply is also infinite (anybody can create a copy), so the price drops to zero.

D. The only way to keep the price above zero is to create a scarcity that doesn't actually exist. The labels have done this by fighting putting anything online, suing people who copy files, getting the government to criminally try a class of people who copy and using DRM to prevent copying. The whole goal of all of this is to introduce a scarcity into the product so people will pay.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scarcity

I don't think I'd define the labels requiring you to pay them for their artists creative output as enforcing scarcity...

I think you're misunderstanding everyone here. "Scarcity" is a technical term in the academic field of economics, and was being used as such. You appeared to think tikhonj meant that the labels were limiting the supply of music to a fixed number of copies, making copies of the music "scarce" in the sense you're used to.

tikhonj then attempted to clarify what she or he meant, but rather than explaining that your interpretation, while reasonable, was different from what was meant, just went ahead and explained the economics definition of "scarcity". Based on this later reply, you appear to have read that as tikhonj disagreeing with you on what scarcity is, rather than clarifying what she or he meant. Your reply at the time "I still don't see how", however, doesn't make this clear at all.

Now, SoftwareMaven and tikhonj both interpret your reply as you not seeing how the music industry has, in fact, created "scarcity", in the technical sense, and proceed to reason through exactly how the actions of the music labels resulted in a phenomenon that satisfies the technical definition of "scarcity".

Isn't it amusing when humans try to communicate?

It sounds like what is trying to be said is that the labels are somehow in the wrong trying to force people to pay for every copy of an mp3 album, but that since it is so easy to copy digital media that they should be allowing this to happen for free without consequence.

If Person A buys a song, rips it, and puts it on bittorrent, when Person B downloads one or more copies he has not stolen anything from anyone nor broken any contract with anyone.

He has stolen the time and effort of the person who created the song.

This is not hard to understand. You may choose not to understand it, but you're playing a game with yourself that the rest of us are not obligated to accept.

The time and effort were already expended. You can't steal those anymore than you can "steal" a digital file you made a copy of.

If I build an app and sell it for a $1 and someone purchases it for that amount and then makes a copy for his friend I have simply missed out on revenue, but my time wasn't stolen nor was my app.

You can't steal abstract nouns.

For the amount the artists actually get for the price of the music you pay... The intermediates get a much larger share of the cake. The artists get the crums.

Scarcity is a limit in resources. The music labels are using the government to limit their songs by stopping you from creating copies.

Without these restrictions you would be able to make an effective unbounded number of copies because each copy has a resource cost of basically zero--there would be no scarcity. With these restrictions, you can only make as many copies as the labels allow you to, which means the number of copies is bounded.

I should note that this is orthogonal to whether you think they are justified in seeking to be paid for their songs: in either case, they ensure being paid by making the songs more scarce using copyright.

Don't forget, people used to say the same stuff about software. The software market reacted by putting a lot of stuff on platforms like Steam, App Stores, or launching things as webapps. Games did this first and most often because they had an estimated 80-90% piracy rate.

Nowdays, it's even easier for software guys to say that MP3s and so on should be free when the dominant modes of end-user software delivery are restricted somehow (with the exception of business software, but businesses are easy to sue). It's not their information that wants to be free, just someone else's.

I think it's easy for software people to say this for the opposite reason: we are much less dependent on restrictive software than most people, and certainly less dependent on it than on similarly restrictive music or movies.

All the best developer tools (Linux, Emacs, compilers...) are entirely free. They even go beyond simply being free to access--you are free to do whatever you want with them, and, moreover, there are guarantees for a lot that nobody can take that freedom away.

It is completely reasonable to basically only use free software. The only non-free software I have at the moment is probably Flash, and that's becoming increasingly less needed every day. Additionally, a lot of programmers get paid to work on open source already--even my current internship involves writing open source software. Additionally, a lot of developers work on software that does not get distributed as a product--they're being paid to solve a problem for some business rather than being paid for a copy of some software they wrote.

So really, the reason it's easy for developers to ask this is because it works for us already.

Speak for yourself. I develop in IntelliJ and use a Mac, and so do many other "software people". I pay for this stuff because it's simply better, to my tastes, than the alternatives. They might not be better to you, and I have no problem with that. Live, let live.

There's nothing wrong with paying for stuff that you want. There is something wrong in stealing (okay, pirating) stuff you want for free. I don't understand why this is controversial, and I do not believe in a fantasy world where everything is free. Ever since there was civilization, there's been no free lunch.

If I tell you that there's plenty of "free open source software" running your Mac and that IntelliJ has open sourced their core Java IDE what'll you do? Poke yourself in the eye?

(My comment made more sense before the parent was edited)

The most useful parts of IntelliJ require a license at $200-500 a pop. Furthermore, the open source part of IntelliJ wasn't created by a charity, and wasn't released with charity in mind.

The point isn't about charity or not paying for software, it's about not having unnecessary copyright restrictions. So the fact that it "wasn't released with charity in mind" does not matter--it's a good thing, in fact! The point isn't to have all programs released by "charities" but just to limit copyright.

I don't think you get it. IntelliJ can afford to release open source software to acquire enterprise customers later on because those customers pay. If IntelliJ saw the same attrition rate at BigCorps as musicians saw with their albums, they wouldn't have a business. So we're lucky to have deep pockets paying for software for us... you can't really have that with a lot of other industries, or even with a lot of categories of software. Where's the World of Warcraft Open Source Edition?

Where's the World of Warcraft Open Source Edition?

ummm, here maybe? - http://www.arcemu.org/about.php

There is a big, obvious difference between the app stores and the music business: The number and transparency of middlemen.

If you want to know how much money an artist makes from selling a CD in a supermarket, you can find a large number of handwavy blog posts, but the conclusion is consistently "probably not a lot, but depends on what they could negotiate".

If you want to know what an app developer makes from selling a $0.99 app? The answer is $0.70.

I think that makes a lot of difference in trust in the channel from both sides of the table.

Are those two comparable, though?

Independent music on Itunes, for example, has a fixed royalty. From what I gather, a 0.99 song has the same 0.70 royalty you're talking about for apps.

The CD example you're talking about is more like boxed software, which suffers from the same transparency issues.

The big difference between the two are that store shelf music is basically the same product as downloaded music. Unlike apps, which are on different devices, serve different purposes, and have a very different price point than boxed software.

Well, in my perspective, both music and apps are bits (practically free to copy, transfer and store), and the relevant transaction is putting those bits onto an end user device.

While music is routinely pirated (and this action sanctioned in many communities), apps aren't (and it's not because of jailing - this is also true for Android apps). While I'm sure pirated apps are available, I've just never come across them, it's nowhere nearly as conspicuous as pirated music.

Are you confusing trust with transparency?

No, they first stated that there's a difference in transparency, then explained they believe this results in a difference in trust.

A closer metaphor might be developers open sourcing their software and charging for consulting/hosting/customization services around it. Just like the special experience at a paid concert.

I really think music and app store games inhabit the same entertainment orbit. When someone builds a consulting business around their 99c iPhone game, well, I'd love to read about it.

The consulting model works for some software, but not all. (obviously, there are people who disagree and think it can.) it seems like a mistake to take a model that works for some software and decide it will work for all music.

Wasn't there an article recently about how the app stores weren't actually a rational use of time for most developers, who were doing it for love, not because it was more lucrative than working for a bank (or consulting?). And the big money makers were actually heavily advertised, disposable, fad-driven, low-brow games aimed at tweenagers and housewives. And the companies pushing these hit games were sausage factories that treated their creatives like dirt?

Sounds like the music business does have a lot in common with app stores.

I agree with a lot of what you've said. People make apps in their spare time because it's fun, and maybe also a little because they have the dream of making it big time. They're not in it just for the money, but it's nice to think about. I bet lots of musicians play small gigs because it's fun too, but I'd hate for their only chance at "winning the lottery" to be "Congrats, we booked some big shows for you. From now on, you live in a tour bus 300 days a year."

It's uncanny that you mention "winning the lottery", I nearly wrote that a fundamental problem with both marketplaces was that people dreamt of winning big and because they all secretly believed they would be the ones to make it, they were selling out everyone else (and 999 times out of a thousand their future selves) by accepting the winner takes all format of their industry rather than one in which more people make a decent wage.

I left it out because I'm not 100% confident that there's solid economic theory to back it up, but it's strange that my gut instinct is 180 degrees from yours, where you welcome the lottery aspect of the market.

If you're living your life expecting to win the lottery, that's bad, but I think it provides a nice incentive to dabble in something. Or makes the dabbling a little more fun. (For some people.)

Programmers write code, musicians create music. Code is usually different from whats out there, music is usually not.

You have music pouring out of every speaker on earth. Its kind of hard to ask for money for that. Its like selling sand in Sahara.

I can honestly tell you that if all the record companies would die over night, I wouldnt even care one bit. The artists would find other ways to get together and put out their music, and without getting screwed.

They can sell Mp3s but not for 99 cents a song... especially when Angry Birds costs $1.99. An entire album should be 99 cents or less. 25 cents sounds good to me.

EDIT: my point is don't complain that people aren't buying your product if you're charging them a price that's waaay above market value

I can only speak for myself, but I listen to music far more often and for longer after initial purchase than any game. Dollar for dollar, minute for minute, $10 on a vnv album provides nearly incalculable level of satisfaction greater than any 10 iPhone games combined.

25 cents, really? That's what a second rate pickle costs. A lifetime of enjoyment is only worth a bite of a pickle? I happen to think music is way undervalued, because people just aren't very good at evaluating the long term value of it.

25 cents might be a bit low but 99 cents is very reasonable when you're competing with free. It's not that I'm complaining about feeling ripped off when buying music(although I do) it's more about taking a look at what works, ie the low-price or in store app model, and emulating it.

>>>They can sell Mp3s but not for 99 cents a song... especially when Angry Birds costs $1.99.

Now wait a minute there. What about an eBook? What about a movie or TV episode?

If Angry Birds for $1.99 is the price standard for everything, you're setting up a trap that most everything is going to fall into.

I've tried Angry Birds on demo tablets in stores -- and countless YouTube videos demoing tablets -- and I don't see the appeal. Even free, I wouldn't want it. Most games simply don't appeal to me. I'd rather read or listen to music or watch video.

Angry Birds might be worth $1.99 to you, but to me it has negative value.

Angry Birds made over a hundred million in profits so far, I'm saying maybe the music business should examine it's pricing structure. Don't get me started on Ebooks or TV shows.

>>>Angry Birds made over a hundred million in profits so far

And added what to human productivity and betterment? Never use money as a measure for anything except money.

As far as ebooks go, in traditional book publishing usually the shop takes about half the price and the printing and distribution takes around another quarter, leaving a quarter of the sale price for the publisher and author to split between them, so there should be a significant price drop in ebooks when compared to the dead tree version.

You think the price is too high, that doesn't mean that it's above market value.

You could pirate Angry Birds too if you really wanted to but they found a price point that defeats that and made $100 million.

At a time where distributing media is as simple as one click, trying to make money off of distribution is just wrong.

It may be practically difficult to enforce, but asking people to pay for the effort involved in creating content is not wrong. There's nothing wrong with asking for contributions for the effort involved in creating a song, and nothing wrong with respecting that. Some artists don't want to perform in concerts, but like recording and sharing their music.

Personally I don't feel the donate model is strong enough to support music because given the choice most people won't donate, but if you tell people they are expected to pay some small amount, and make it easier than not paying, the majority will be happy to pay for content.

The current system of big labels is not required for creating and selling content, and is not the only way to do it - for example artists can sell direct via the internet. There's never been a better time to sell content digitally.

> > At a time where distributing media is as simple as one click, trying to make money off of distribution is just wrong.

> It may be practically difficult to enforce, but asking people to pay for the effort involved in creating content is not wrong.

Parent not argue that paying people for the effort involved in creating content is wrong. Parent argued that demanding money for the negligible effort involved in distributing content is wrong. Parent went on to suggest ways to make money from creating content.

In another comment, parent also pointed out that she or he, personally, makes plenty of money from creating software, without anyone attempting to make money off of its distribution. I personally am hopeful a similar sustainable business model may be found for music, some day.

Now don't get me wrong, I think that selling music in the internet age is a fundamentally broken model, so much more than the donate one.

The comment was quite explicitly arguing that selling content (music) is fundamentally broken and can never work. I disagree. Additionally, distribution is not always easy or straightforward, and charging money to host content and process payments (i.e. handling distribution) is not wrong either (morally or functionally).

If someone wants to sell their own music that is fine (and quite possible nowadays), but arguing that selling music via a store is fundamentally broken is proved wrong by the popularity of stores like Amazon and iTunes, and I see nothing wrong with those intermediaries who take a cut for providing a service (storefront). You can argue with the cut, or particular terms, but distributors will always exist because not everyone wants to deal with the hassles of distribution/sales. Some people just want to create and make some money from that.

That either of the above two things can be done badly, does not make them wrong or impossible.

Reminds me of the recent tipping thread... Tipping is not required, but is strongly encouraged by social norms.

Maybe our society should develop something similar for art? Although the current crisis/capitalistic atmosphere is kinda counterproductive for such causes.

Trying to make money as a third party distributor is just wrong. I really hope that's what babarock meant. You're absolutely right that the there's nothing wrong to ask for money for the effort that went into making the music from each person that enjoys it.

After reading all the effort a site like http://bandcamp.com goes to be an effective digital distributor of music, I retract this statement. There's certainly a lot of digital-distribution related expertise that's worth giving up a 10-15% sales cut for.

> "Give your music away for free, hope for success, give a concert, make money."

If it were always that simple, wouldn't everyone be doing it? You'll never see an unsigned band making its fortune off an arena tour, for one. It wouldn't be able to afford to organise it.

A lot of bands that want to do it for a living will gig the usual local circuit until some label rep picks them up and funds an LP and bigger tour.

People will like to think they're no longer relevant, and a response to the old-hat ways of the biggest labels (Sony, EMI, etc.) has been an upsurge in indie labels. Much like game and book publishers, they do serve a purpose in giving bands they like a break, thus allowing them to put out a record or two and gig on the wider circuit. Those bands might never have had the finances to do that originally.

Hell, I was in one such struggling band a few years ago.

Anyway, I don't think selling music is a broken model. But I do think that other ways to empower fresh, unsigned bands are necessary. Much like technology has empowered entrepreneurs and helped many a startup scene to flourish.

A lot of bands that want to do it for a living will gig the usual local circuit until some label rep picks them up and funds an LP and bigger tour.

Who owns the copyright to the LP in this scenario?

I'm just wondering if there's much difference between giving your music away to fans and giving your music away to a label, except the fans won't use obscure accounting practices to make it seems like you owe them money.

In addition to concerts, merchandise is fairly successful for some artists. As the linked essay alludes to, a lot of music fans buy albums these days not for the music on them (which they may already have digitally), but for either collector-type reasons, or artwork-type reasons. So just selling them various kinds of artwork and collectibles can be a viable business model.

I think the distribution of rewards will be a bit different than the traditional one, though, which may be good or bad. Casual listeners aren't great for monetizing via merchandize. You either need a good base of real fans, people who want to wear your band's shirt, have an album-cover print on their wall, own the special limited-edition whatever; or else you need to appeal to a genre/niche with a strong collectors' market (or both).

Sure, the marginal cost of music distribution is now basically zero. But producing every new recording (or film or TV programme) can cost a lot of money.

The make-money-from-touring model is working very well for artists who already made a name for themselves under the old model. However, there are artists who can't or don't want to perform live. Arguably the Beatles' best work was done after they gave up touring and concentrated on recorded work. Must every electronic artist whose medium is `tape' be forced to contrive a live show or take up DJing if they want to eat?

Wait, electronic artists?

The ones that threw drummers, violinists and piano tuners and all kinds of instrument makers on the historical scrap heap in favor of drum machines, synths, midi keyboards and samplers? And dispensed with producers and sound engineers and session guitarists in favour of a home "studio" that's basically a macbook pro?

And now you tell me they don't even want to employ roadies and tour managers and support live music venues? My God, it's practically cultural genocide...

...or it's opened up a whole new world of musical opportunities that perhaps weren't obvious to those who would have fought to remain in the past if they could?

Yes there are such several implications to electronic music production.

A whole different palette of sounds and techniques (musique concrete, acid house, detroit techno, …);

a means of enabling independent artists to realise their musical visions without big budgets (drum machines and synths enabled underground artists to keep the disco vibe alive after it died commercially, the budgets for big string and horn sections having disappeared); or

a means for cost-cutting and putting people out of work (much of current pop music fits into this category, I wish all those pop stars who profess to be so influenced by Michael Jackson, when they mean that they dance and have music videos as well as singing, would mean rather that they have great producers and arrangers and songwriters and session musicians and sound engineers create their recordings with them, of the calibre of Quincy Jones, Rod Temperton, Bruce Swedien, …).

Note being an electronic music isn't just as simple as owning a Macbook. When artist BT had his house broken into and equipment stolen a few years ago he said he was out about $100k.

> Here's a simple business model for you

...which may or may not work for some genres of music.

Why do you imply that artists cannot sell content by themselves? Where is the connection between that particular business model and middlemen? Artists who make money off concerts might have a middleman as well.

Or the other way around, music that is sold does not need a middleman (unless you count iTunes).

I don't think selling is broken provided purchasing is easy. Like how iTunes does it.

iTunes couldn't be more painless - search, click, password. It's true that the death of scarcity makes it hard to compete with hundreds of other sources offering it for free, but many people, myself included, find it worth the $15 AUD to get it legally without having to dick around with seeders, shitting ID3 tags, album artwork, and deleting original files after an iTunes import.

What Alphabasic is doing is fantastic. I love Bandcamp. I wish everyone used it. It has lossless files, and all the music is streamable.

Convenience is a big deal, it's why iTunes, and hotel room service, is popular and profitable.

To me, this is the main point. Filesharing is never going away. But legal selling of music is viable even in the presence of filesharing if the experience is easier and more pleasant than the alternative.

He also suggests buying directly from the label, which give 90% of the benefits to the original musicians.

That is the best of both worlds: easy to download, easy to pay for (when the label has the easy money transaction thingie going on). Not far away from a simple donate button.

Maybe musicians should "sell" their album through kickstarter :)

I'm starting to wonder if the patronage model would work for modern music.

A band could record a few songs as a sample of their work, maybe sell them on bandcamp or distribute under the donate model, then have a kickstarter for their next album.

If enough people like their music and want to hear more of it, or if a few people _really_ like their music then the band will be paid and they will make their new album.

If they don't gather enough fans then they are either unpopular or can't gather the exposure, both of which would also be problems under any other model, but this time are discovered before any money is spent/lent up front.

New business model: Kickstarter for songs.

It would be an interesting full-circle, since in a lot of ways Kickstarter is patterned off crowdfunding models that were pioneered in music in the early 2000s, like Einstürzende Neubauten's "supporters project" (2002).

What's wrong with using Kickstarter for songs? How would a specific service be better? It's worth noting that bands are already using Kickstarter.

i believe the "donate" model works in certain instances, but it's nothing you can count (or depend) on; at least not from the beginning. "certain instances" might be very famous artists who use it as a marketing stunt to get a lot of free press. this might cease to work when the novelty wears off. most likely it doesn't work for unknown artists at all.

but: counterexample! dwarf fortress! this unique game finances one dedicated full time developer since (felt) decades (though i'm not on top of developments in recent years). it works because it's a niche product with an incredibly dedicated fan base. and the developer puts them under pressure: he'll work on the game as long as he can live off the donations. as soon as people stop donating enough ...

Louis CK begs to differ on the viability of a donate model.

Umm, he was SELLING. Nothing about his release was donation-relevant.

Actually it is relevant. He admitted right in his first message than anyone could go online and pirate the song, which is true. Buying the song effectively is a donation. (You could argue that pirating is illegal, but since Louis C. K. isn't going to come after you for downloading the performance, it's completely consequence-free.)

You can feasibly shoplift as well (not my thing, but I've looked and honestly it doesn't look difficult at many stores), but I don't think anyone is arguing that that you're 'donating' when you pay a store for your socks.

Granted, copying isn't technically theft yada yada, but it sure as hell isn't a donation when you pay the content provider a set price for the content.

I once tried to buy a digital album from a local band, without using iTunes (just don't like it).

After searching around (which, to Benn's point, probably took longer than illegally downloading) I found it listed on Amazon. After I downloaded their ridiculous download software (just give me a zip?), I got right up to paying, when I was told that they were not licensed to sell to countries outside the US. Great. I can't buy my country's own product on Amazon. Nice one music industry.

At that point I gave up.

This is why I love bandcamp (for example http://ohdaughter.bandcamp.com/).

The first couple of downloads (I don't know how many, maybe the first 100) of a track/album are usually free, and after that you pay for the music. So when you suddenly go all Lady Gaga as an Indie artist you get at least something out of it, but when nobody knows you the can have a free listen.

If the free downloads are out, you have to buy the music. Some artists have a steady price like 8-10$ per album or 3-4$ for an EP (which I find very reasonable and am totally willing to pay if it goes directly to the artist, and it mostly does!) and some let you choose the amount you want to pay for the music. And if that wasn't enough, if you have paid for the download, you get the audio files in almost every possible format existing.

Ah, bandcamp. Music distributing done right.


Some more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandcamp

- Pricing model: Set by artists

- Available audio formats are MP3, FLAC, AAA (aka .m4a), Vorbis and Apple Lossless and even more

- About 4 million songs online, including music from Sufjan Stevens, Amanda Palmer (Dresden Dolls) and Coer de Pirate, and game soundtracks from Minecraft, Machinarium and Plants vs Zombies

And last but not least: http://bandcamp.com/faq (yes, they do cover all questions who could possible arise)

(And no, I don't work for them. I just love them, as do many others: http://bandcamp.com/testimonials)

As an artist, Bandcamp is fantastic.

When someone buys an album, the money goes to our Paypal account immediately. Not only is the sales stats updated in real time, you can even play Defender on the graphs. Other digital retailers like iTunes take months just to get a sales report, let alone get paid.

I'd say 90% of our digital revenue comes from Bandcamp, which is surprising.

I like the idea, but 10 bucks for an album is a total steal.

It's the same price as a CD if you count out one and a half links in the retail chain.

It's expensive enough to make one hesitate. IMO it should cost what it brings the artists today, +15% for distribution and everything would be fine, we'd all buy tons of music @ 1.15 bucks a CD and everyone would be happy.

This is exactly the way I want to buy media and other "soft" goods. I wish it was widely adopted already.

I want to know what I'm buying and iTunes previews, shareware trials, demo versions, movie trailers or what have you aren't nearly good enough to decide if I like something or not. Or someone just drags an MP3 on my Skype icon: "Hey, did you hear this song? It's really good!" -- "Wow, yes it is." (I'm a naughty pirate now, but if it weren't for piracy I'd never have listened to that song).

So when I do find something I really like, be that music, software or a TV show, I often _want_ to give the creators some cash. And it's incredibly frustrating to do that. Maybe the band is on iTunes, but that album with the nice song isn't (and as they pointed out, you'd end up giving cash to people who contributed nothing to the process of creating the stuff you like). Or the movie isn't available as digital download and you're supposed to buy a little plastic box with a disc in it that you have to dust off regularly and modern computers don't even have a slot for anymore. Plus, you already have the damn thing anyways, so all you really want to do is throw some money at people to show that you appreciate their work and want them to be able to pay the rent so they can keep making cool stuff. So why not make it as easy as possible to give you money?

Speaking of easy, my only problem with the above page is that I have a beef with PayPal and would greatly prefer them not profiting from anything I do (well, actually I would prefer for gaping holes to simultaneously open underneath their offices and suck them down straight to an equivalent number of burning, spiked pits in hell, but that's another story). So maybe provide some options here. Other than that, best of luck, and please let us know how it works out.

Out of curiosity, have you used/tried flattr?

I like the idea of Flattr, but I think it lacked the ability to donate a specific amount to a specific person/thing. So it seems to be more of a cash-backed "Like" button, which is nice too, but different from "I feel this Software is worth £40".

Just to be clear - I'm not the creator - just a huge fan who thought you'd all be interested in it.

This reminds me of the game Darwinia by Introversion.

This happened years ago. After hearing about it and trying the demo, I downloaded what I thought was the full copy over a P2P network.

The downloaded game behaved like the full copy and contained the first 2 levels as far as I remember. After that came a sequence spoken by the scientist that went a bit like "Let's be honest. You and I know that this isn't a legal copy and I don't blame you." and went on about how supporting the developers was important. After that no further levels could be played.

Introversion seems to have leaked this version on P2P networks themselves. I bought the full copy a short while later.

It's strange that I have yet to find any online sources or Youtube videos about this on the web. I guess no one wants to admit having pirated Darwinia.

I had no need to pirate Darwinia when I got it for 5$ in the Humble Introversion Bundle, along with 6 other games. (Could have gotten it for 1 cent).

My story was in 2005. 6 years before the humble bundle.

Ah, didn't know it was such an old game. Well in any event, thanks for sharing. While plenty of people will admit to downloading music and videos, not so many outside of the UG community admit to games. Maybe as developers, we're more wary of resentment from our colleagues which are more likely to feel harmed by our actions.

> thanks for sharing

Such a poor choice of words.

Very nice. This may be weird, but I totally enjoyed reading this.

However, I'm actually surprised they didn't mention their Bandcamp presence[1], where I bought something a few month ago and was very pleased with the experience. But then again, I don't know from when the "Hello Downloader" document is.

[1]: http://alphabasic.bandcamp.com/

It's worth noting that this album, (and thus, the page we're talking about) was released in 2008.

And it appears that the legal dispute with Apple that the page refers to was also settled in some way in early 2008 (The details are unclear; all the verbiage the author has produced about his dispute with various entities in the music industry appears maddeningly incoherent and vague to me).

I first saw it when I downloaded Soundtrack to a Vacant Life in 2008. I believe the Bandcamp was only added in the last couple of years.

No company scores any points with me by starting out by greeting me as a "pseudo-criminal".

'Pirate' though, that one sounds cool so we'll accept it. Seriously? They are implying by that greeting that it is not them who would label you as such a thing. Moreover it sounds like they've had it up to here with the major labels and distribution outlets who would call you an actual criminal and mean it.

Also, don't kid yourself. It is a crime (morally wrong, if not outright encoded in law) to download someone else's work for free so that you can enjoy it without paying a dime to anyone (even the artist), unless they're giving it away. You don't even see that page unless you tried to acquire their artists' work for free.

It is a crime (morally wrong, if not outright encoded in law) to download someone else's work for free

Other people have gotten into moral arguments here, and I'll leave them to it, but I should point out that downloading a file is not, legally speaking, a crime. Its not a felony, its not even a misdemeanor. Its just a civil infraction. Just like breaking the speed limit isn't a crime[1].

[1]Well, if you exceed it by 20 mph where I grew up it becomes "criminal speeding", a misdemeanor.

EDIT: I wonder if we wouldn't all be better of if we started talking about copyright infringement as "trespass" rather than "theft". You are, legally speaking, trespassing on someone's copyright when you pirate an mp3, and it nicely conveys that people are doing something wrong that isn't as wrong as a felony like stealing.

> morally wrong, if not outright encoded in law

I'd say exactly the oposite. It's illegal (= prohibited by law), but might not be morally wrong - I don't feel bad for downloading movies/music when any of the following are met:

(i) the content is not readily available (e.g. movies right after release, movies and music in non-G6 countries) (ii) the content is of shitty quality or atmosphere (e.g. low bitrate, CDs, cinemas) (iii) I would not pay for content (i.e. even if it were readily available in supreme quality, I would rather not have it than buy it) (e.g. albums that I'm not sure are good).

This is where most people really start to bicker about this issue. There is the group that understands that it is morally wrong to steal, and then there is the group that does mental gymnastics to get out of "feeling bad" about it or to otherwise justify it somehow. You even end it with "I would not pay for content [...]." If that isn't outright just saying "yeah I steal and I don't care" then I don't know what is.

Copyright infringement and theft are not the same thing. Using the word "steal" confuses the issue.

When something is stolen, the owner no longer has it. This is not the case with copyright infringement.

This may or may not be morally right or wrong in certain situations. But it is definitely different than "stealing", and just applying our same moral and ethical precepts about theft to copyright infringement does not work. They are fundamentally different and must be considered separately.

I guess the issue is elsewhere - there is a group of people that think that copying is the same as stealing, and there is the group that can see the difference.

I belong to the second group. Let me try to explain it to you... Would you rather that I stole your car, or just copy it?

That doesn't even make sense. Stealing is stealing regardless of whether it's something physical or something digital. Just because humans invented a new way for things to exist doesn't mean that products in that form aren't being stolen when you acquire them for free by downloading them off the The Pirate Bay.

Hm... Even assuming that I agreed with you assertion, you're making a lousy argument.

First, you're attacking me/my intellect. Then, you make an assertion without providing even the slightest proof/argument for it (I'm not a native English speaker, but I'd say that the dictionary definition of stealing disagrees with you), and you're ignoring my real argument completely (i.e. that copying is different from depriving someone of a physical item which I just called "stealing").

Lastly, humans didn't just invent a new way for things to exist, humans also invented concepts such as property and intellectual property. The last one is actually quite new! So, stealing is a concept that is completely defined by the society, and I think it's in our best interest to talk about it, discuss how we should define it in the future.

The comparison is flawed. The theft is not of the physical product, but of the proceeds or profits.

And if you download something that you: are incapable of attaining due to geographical or other limiting factors, will buy after reviewing, or have 0 chance of buying or viewing/listening otherwise...

where is the loss of profits?

> The theft is not of the physical product, but of the proceeds or profits.

Only assuming that I would otherwise (if I hadn't copied it) pay. Which is often a false premise. Especially for people like me, who simply cannot pay, even if we want to (I don't live in the US, so much of the online content isn't available to me).

I agree that not paying sometimes is stealing. E.g. when you don't pay a masseuse/prostituta after they have delivered their service. But, that is a completely different situation (you agreed to a exchange time<-->money, then you essentially broke the contract).

Car stealing/copying is the best comparison I could think of. Maybe a better one would be, stealing a car from the company that makes it, vs. building an exact copy at home. The second one might be objectionable (infringing of patents & copyright), but they are most certainly not the same.

I hope this clarifies my earlier argument a bit.

@Falling3 - If you mean to tell me that the majority of people who download copyrighted items, then go forward to buy the music, sure your argument is fair.

@Tomp - Well it's hard to compare digital products to physical products since you don't have to create the item more than once for a digital good. Just because you didn't plan to pay anyway, doesn't make it any less "stealing" You can't use the argument "I was never going to buy it anyway" as a valid reason for stealing something.

If the argument is "piracy is bad because it results in a loss of profits", then the counterargument "that's ok I absolutely would not have bought it anyway" is completely valid.

Why should you be entitled to something free because you never planned to buy it? Please explain

No one is talking about entitlement. Read what I said. If the above argument is presented as reasoning against, then the counterargument is valid.

Most of the people I know that still regularly download music are huge audiophiles and buy a lot of physical music, attend concerts, and purchase other music merchandise.

And that still leaves two other arguments. Personally, I downloaded a lot of music and movies when I was a poor HS/college student and there was literally 0 chance of me purchasing them as an alternative. The lost profits argument just doesn't apply.

Yes it does...you deprived the artist of making money as opposed to depriving yourself of music and movies. How does that not apply? You took for free what others paid for.. Your income doesn't matter. Poor people aren't entitled to free goods because they were never going to drive business anyway.

You can't deprive someone of something that was never there. Consider the following sets of situations:

1: An album is available for $10. It is worth $5 to me. I don't buy it.

2: An album is available for $10. It's worth $5 to me. I pirate it and obtain it for $0.

The second set of circumstances is better for everyone: I have gained total welfare of $5 and no one has lost out. I don't see how this is worse than the first option, or morally wrong..

I'm sure the artist who just lost out on his 5 to 10 bucks would beg to disagree.

It isn't your right to choose the price you'd pay for something and then copy it if you feel so inclined. You either pay the asking price for a good / service, or you don't pay and don't enjoy the benefits of the service / good. This is why copyright infringement which subverts this system is illegal.

The artist hasn't 'lost out' on anything. With digital distribution there is no marginal cost for extra consumption --- it's all fixed cost. This is why a patronage model (such as Kickstarter) is probably more appropriate nowadays.

Even if you do think copyright is still appropriate, it needs to be carefully managed. In general, the purpose of copyright was never to ensure authors have some 'right' to control their work in perpetuity, as is commonly assumed today --- you can see that at work right there in the US Constitution 'To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries'. There's some interesting discussion here http://rufuspollock.org/economics/papers/optimal_copyright_t...

>>I'm sure the artist who just lost out on his 5 to 10 bucks would beg to disagree.

I'm sure that the artist getting a new fan, and becoming more popular for free is a very dangerous process indeed :-) ...

You aren't a 'fan' if you aren't paying for it, I'd call that a 'leech'.

To be a fan, the major criterion is that you have to like the artist. Paying comes at a later stage.

You liked it enough to download and listen to...but not to pay? That's not a fan. If you don't intend to pay then don't download against the artists wishes and listen to it via free means.

A study by the Swiss government showed that people have a fixed budged reserved for entertainment - if they can download music for free, they will spend it going to the concerts instead.

What does that matter?

Artists are still getting the money.

Except of course the artists who didn't get the money they otherwise would have if a free mp3 rip of their music wasn't already posted online somewhere.

more likely, noone would know about them...

I think most people underestimate the effect that file-sharing has had on our society. Music is so popular, not because of MTV, but because of napster&ThePirateBay&YouTube. If it weren't for these services, most people would probably listen to at most 10% of the music they listen to now, more likely 1%.

If someone is selling hot dogs at their stand for $2.00, and someone opens a stand next door selling hot dots for only $1.00, the first seller might complain that the second has "stolen" their customers and their profits, but that doesn't mean that it's theft in a moral or legal sense. Or in other words, theft of potential "proceeds or profits" is never theft per se.

The problem with this line of thinking is that you are, in a way, supporting the efforts of people that produce a inferior product. By downloading and using the inferior product, you aren't supporting products that do meet your needs, but might not be as popular.

So, stop supporting these products, and instead, support products that are meeting your needs.

Actually I think it's a reference to the traditional mainstream accusation that pirates are all these degenerate criminals lurking to steal your laptop to feed their mp3 addiction.

Assuming that this readme is included with torrents of the music being downloaded, then it would be accurate.

If they seeeded the torrents, though (which would seem to be the only way they could actually get this file into a torrent?), wouldn't it be legal, since you're downloading it from the copyright holder, who has given implicit permission by making it publicly available on a torrent?

The original document was included with a torrent and that greeting was intended to be tongue-in-cheek.

>>>No company scores any points with me by starting out by greeting me as a "pseudo-criminal".

The tongue-in-cheek of that didn't register? He wasn't being insulting. He was using the terms the music industry itself uses. And the "pseudo" preceding "criminal" should have been seen as tongue-in-cheek in that context.

Yep, pretty sure they're being facetious.

Remember, this isn't a blog post, it's intended as a stop for people who were downloading the album without paying, which is illegal.

The album mentioned in the post "Soundtrack To A Vacant Life" came out a couple of years ago. So this post might be old.

Also, that's an excellent electronic/idm album to work to.

Yeah, this text file was included with torrents that Benn Jordan (the guy behind The Flashbulb and the founder of Alpha Basic Records) "leaked" himself to trackers when the album was first released. I'm surprised to see it get so much attention years later.

That explains the complaint about DRM-ed downloads. I don't believe that's true anymore for any of the major services.

What's the difference, they're all still trying to ask ten times what they'll give the artists, for no reason and while taking 30% profit on a download that's at most worth one ad showing.

Heh I know. Donate isn't a very good model. Etc. I don't even especially like their music.

But I clicked the link. I read it. No fancy HTML. Strong points. So I clicked donate anyway. It might not be much, it won't last, and I wont donate to them every month, but hey, for me it's more of a way to say "I support your point of view".

I'd be much more likely to donate money for a track/album if I had some automatic way of tracking which I had donated to. One way to do this would be a website that let you donate a suggested amount for a song or album. For each song/album you donate towards, you get some signed key that says you supported that song.

There's some interesting things that you could build off of this:

- Media players could show a little badge whenever you're playing a song you've donated to. They could also remind you (if you wanted) when you listen to a song frequently but haven't supported it.

- Hook into Facebook - when someone downloads a song, they can see which of their friends have donated to it.

- An additional metric for music suggestion services. What better way to show you like a song than by putting your money where your mouth is?

Before they determine who stole their music, they should figure out who stole their stylesheet.

> Before they determine who stole their music, they should figure out who stole their stylesheet.

What's wrong with the current style?

I am surprised more labels aren't doing this.

How much is a label spending combating piracy? How many labels have actually prevented an album become available via bit-torrent?

Few albums actually flop because they can be pirated. I think a viable strategy is for the label themselves to upload the album with a message like this. Its going to be pirated anyway. These people aren't going to go to iTunes or buy the CD. Why not just have a simple message which says something like:

"If you enjoyed this album please consider making a donation to the artist. The artist will receive 85% of your donation. The other 15% helps cover the cost of production."

I mean, its worth a shot isn't it.

I have no idea if what he's trying to do here will actually work out for him, but I went ahead and donated $5 because I have to respect him for at least trying.

Framablog, a blog about free software, net neutrality and popularizy these philosophie just published a french translated version http://www.framablog.org/index.php/post/2012/05/24/salut-a-t...

Excuse the shameless plug, but pages like these ensure me that launching musicrage.org was a good idea.

Why don't musicians just decline to license their music if they get tiny share? Can't they create some sort of union that would give them bigger negotiating power? Or just sell the music on the internet? I wonder why market mechanics don't work here.

Because they usually licence their music before they become famous.

Contrary to popular belief, music labels are NOT (for the most part) middle-men (i.e. content distributors). In reality, they are INVESTORS. They bet on a number of artists (providing them with managers, tour opportunities, studios, promotion), and only a small number succeed. It's actually quite reasonable for them to expect a huge payoff (= a large cut of the profits) from the ones who do.

The current model seems unnecessary with the internet though. Seems like artists, if they are good, should be able to become famous selling their music direct to consumer through some distribution service like iTunes without a long term contract.

Once someone has made a name for themselves, it would seem perfectly reasonable for a label or a venue to approach them about doing a concert or a tour and taking a cut of the proceeds.

Perhaps the problem is that bands or artists want to fast-track their road to fame. In signing with a label, it seems like they are giving up a lot to get there faster. The question is, can artists who are willing to work their way up more slowly or organically able to, or are certain doors closed because they aren't signed with a label?

Distribution and getting listeners/fans is only a part of the problem... Getting a studio and a professional to edit your music is the real cost that new artists have to deal with. I have a friend that makes music on a computer!!! and he's been wanting to produce a professional recording for more than a year (needs $$$ for studio/editing/mixing/I-have-no-idea-what).

I guess it depends on what kind of music you are recording, but do the first songs you release to potential listeners have to be professionally edited or mixed? As long as its recorded using somewhat decent equipment, it seems like that would be enough to get something together to release.

The problem is that professionally edited and mixed music is the norm. Nobody's stopping bands from releasing poorly edited and mixed music, but it adds another hurdle to overcome.

Not that expensive, I have many friends with bands and records and I can tell you a "good enough" studio is dirt cheap nowadays, you can get pro sound for a few K at most - still takes a lot of editing work though.

‘South Park’ Creators Win Ad Sharing in Deal http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/27/business/media/27south.htm...

“People always ask us, ‘You own it, right? No? Why’d you sign that deal?’ And I have to say, ‘Because I was sleeping on my friend’s couch.’ ”

I like it. I would be interested in seeing if this works for them.

It happened 4 years ago, and the guy's not rich, but this model supported him enough to release 7 full length albums since, and do quite a few concerts. Furthermore, his attitude towards the music industry (and fantastic creativity in music and other things) gained him a bit of a cult following.

I doubt that it will work. People who are willing to donate money to a band are much more likely to buy the album, instead of downloading it. That's how they want to show their support.

using cheeky viral memes have been in the flashbulb's m.o. from the beginning - in fact he got some good press and buzz when he originally uploaded his album with this disclaimer to filesharing sites upon it's release four years ago. imo the piracy angle is downplayed because he makes most of his income from television commercial jingles for unilever and verizon.

Can somebody explain how a donate button like the one on this page complies with the PayPal TOS?

I looked into adding one to a site, but the PayPal terms seem to make it pretty clear they're for non-profits or giving money for a specific cause. If you get >$10k in "donations" they can/will even hold your money and require "proof" it's going to the cause you tell people it's going to.

I've seen the buttons on a number of sites, and they rarely seem to match up with the PayPal TOS for donations. Does PayPal not enforce that requirement?

In my case, I've decided to go with a small, one time signup fee, but I'm still curious.


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