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YouTube and Micropayments

Thoughts from an aging rock fan

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Comment I was listening to Radio Five Live today and they were interviewing Andy Summers, a much travelled guitar virtuoso, best known as 1/3 of the Police. During the discussion (he’s pitching his autobiography) there was quite a lot of chat about how the band came to break up, and how they are actually still good friends, having managed not to take each other to court.

So there’s the tantalising prospect that at some point Sting will follow the Banks Rutherford Collins example and decide that he has more to say through that conduit and we can all spend unthinkable sums on concert tickets.

This led me to think about the small comforts that we rock fans get to dwell on in the vacuum of new output from our heroes, which in this case (unless you have an invite to one of the odd family parties where they have played) is the induction to the Rock and Roll hall of fame. Other examples of one off gems are Eddie Van Halen on Saturday Night Live, Pete Townsend playing Magic Bus on some chat show, a short clip of Yes on OGWT and so I go on .

So what did I do? Well of course I didn’t think twice, I went to YouTube and “Every breath you take” is but a search click away.

(I suppose now it’s ok to say you “Google” it on YouTube?).

The big talking point is that YouTube is mostly filled with content in breach of copyright, and for all I know (well probably it’s a certainty) the MTV clip I enjoyed is indeed in breach. So I pose myself the question: Would I be prepared to watch this clip for a micropayment. The answer in this case is “yes”.

Now given that I have never paid money for a ring tone, yet there is a multi-billion dollar market for such things, surely this has got to be a better way for the content companies to work: have a mechanism that allows me to post a clip that’s tied to a micropayment mechanism, in fact, why not give me a cut for posting a clip that generates a micropayment, or charge me a micropayment to post it with the chance for a cut of incoming payments. If the content companies did that, it might encourage me to spend money posting third party content as an expression of myself, personalising what I do through that medium. Forget the High Fidelity approach of creating a tape for each new person you meet, give them a microcredit to visit your personal collection on YouTube or MySpace.

If I watch the content, why not follow on by trying to sell me a full-on DVD quality download of the clip. Did I enjoy that Police video enough to pay for a DVD surround sound download of their entire set? Absolutely. At this point the content company, MTV and Sting Summers and Copeland all make money and I get to fill the Hole In My Life left by the Police.

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