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How the music biz can live forever, get even richer, and be loved

A modest proposal

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The essential guide to IT transformation

[Earlier this week Register San Francisco bureau chief Andrew Orlowski spoke at the In the City convention in the UK, telling the cream of the music industry it's never had it so good, that it's been swindled by the technologists, and that it should dump DRM and embrace freedom. As, to our knowledge, he got out alive, we think it's possible they listened just a little. What follows is the text of his speech. -Editors]

You're very lucky people.

Like the sex industry, you're in a business where demand is guaranteed. A lot of other people wish they had your problems. What a stroke of good fortune!

Think about it - you're in a happier situation than the Peterloo demonstrators who rioted here, and the imperialists who later built this hall. Trade routes and markets disappear. You're also in a better position than any technology company I know. Even IBM and Microsoft - two official monopolies - need to invest a lot of money to keep their captive customers happy, and neither can be sure they'll be here in twenty years, without a lot of stoking and a lot of stroking. Meanwhile, you're sitting on a goldmine, and no one is going to take it away from you.

Why?

We create music in order to share it.

We've been sharing it for thousands of years. And people pay to hear it. Since the invention of transmission and recording technology you've been able to monetize this desire, and build an industry on it.

But your anxieties about monetizing music in the future are justified. Things are going to get a lot worse. Most of you know how bad. I'm talking today because in five years of reporting from Silicon Valley on these issues, the technology people have failed to tackle the issues. For me, they lost the moral authority when they argued that Napster should be legalized and when asked "How do you pay the rights holders?" answered, "That's not our problem". All scientists bear some responsibility for what they create. Secondly the music industry has now started to sue people for enjoying music. It needs to remember that it's in the music business. And thirdly, no one believes in the "cure" that's supposed to solve these problems. It isn't sustainable.

The Silver Dollar model - 99 cents a song downloads - assumes that there's next to no leakage from ripping, that everyone is going to pay for every song they listen to.

I can see why you like that. I can see why you've signed up to a model in which the online retailer takes four cents out of that 99 cents - so only you or the device manufacturers can afford to be retailers. That's very clever. But good luck trying to stop today's leakage, because tomorrow's will be even worse. It's a bump in the road - because in five or ten years you'll still own the recordings.

Why will the current Apple/Napster model fail?

The essential guide to IT transformation

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