Feeds

Bittorrent's Bram Cohen on the music biz

Gazing into the smudgy crystal ball of P2P

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

CodeCon 09 Interview I've known Bram Cohen since 2001, when Bittorrent was a glimmer in his eye. It's a worldwide phenomenon now, and is at the heart of the Pirate Bay trial.

So there was plenty to chew over when I caught up with Bram at the revived CodeCon workshops in San Francisco this weekend.

What's the instant one-line summary of Bittorrent Inc?

We raised money, three rounds from DCM, Exel and DAG. And we started an online content store which we have now shut down. And we acquired uTorrent and have been maintaining that codebase for several years.

Is the focus on embedded or software for you right now?

We're working with some device manufacturers. We're primarily focussed on client development and improving it and serving our users.

We're happy to help out with embedded. But with consumer equipment it's hard to tell where it's going.

Publishers and independents recognised Napster right away - and saw that's how people want to consume music. P2P is pretty essential to delivering that content. Did you find any of the same enthusiasm from studios?

Our content offering had lots of issues with it. There were restrictions on what it could do - and it also wasn't very good.

You wouldn't do it again?

It's not Bittorrent's thing and not what we're good at. It didn't work very well.

Do you think Hollywood gets P2P at a technical level, or does it still think primarily about control and one-to-many? I don't see that evident in digital film distribution - that most be the most complicated set of protocols I've seen.

A lot of the problem with that is that the projecters still cost a lot of money. It's a big piece of equipment, they don't sell a lot of them. We're stuck with pretty antiquated film.

“Men are usually willing to pay a lot of money in the hope of getting laid”

At the top of the music business it's still about control and trying to close down P2P, rather than licensing.

Everyone has to do a good as service to their customers as they possibly can. It's vastly more pleasant to watch a bunch of episodes of a series, or even a couple of episodes in a row. The media consumption experience could be vastly better than it has. The consumer experience is nowhere near what it could be.

It's not so much about the music - the important thing is the recommendation. It's that users are aggregating and organising the content. So the lesson seems to be that trying to control everything is passing up a lot of value that consumers want to bring to the equation.

Bram Cohen at Codecon 09

Publishers lost control at the start - that's how performance rights started. The big record companies are still stuck at counting physical units...

Music has a bigger problem, it's that people want to make it. It's the peacocks tail. The reason guys make music is that they want to get laid. So men are usually willing to pay a lot of money in the hope of getting laid. Anything that helps you get laid with amazing regularity is something you would expect a tremendous oversupply of. So we have unbelievable amounts of music.

People pay a lot to learn how to play music and it's ridiculous to expect people to make money off it. Normally if you want to make money you do something no one wants to do.

I'm not sure it's ridiculous at all, because people have always willingly paid for recorded music - sometimes we've paid for it more than once! So that's not quite true. Also whatever music is in most demand - the stuff people actually want and what will get you laid - is always in scarcity. There are 13 million songs on iTunes and nine million have never been downloaded once. So at any time, good music is scarce.

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.