The Big Debate: OK gloomsters, how can the music biz be FIXED?
Technology is sinking to the occasion
Ambition is a dirty word
Moderator*: In the discussions about economics are we losing the value?
Copyright is very important, but it's invisible – when it works, it should be invisible. No one should give a crap about it – it should just work. It's a boring, B2B, backroom mechanism that keeps competing economic interests honest. That's all it is. Remember that the people holding the copyright are usually the lowest in the chain, the poorest, the weakest, and the only weapon they have is to withdraw their material from the market. It's all they can do.
Capitalism is almost a dirty word now. Even capitalists don't talk about being ambitious, they're embarrassed about talking about growth, or aspirations, or development. So we instead get a juvenile discussion – businesses are full of greedy people who can't be trusted, who are out of control. Similarly debates about moral universal – whether ideas are right and wrong – are seen as embarrassing. I think there are and we need to talk about it.
Q. It's all couched in moral language: it reminds me of the weavers complaining about technology displacing their primacy. The reason there is a music industry is that the industry monopolised the production of music. One hundred years ago there were still songwriters and still singers. I hate to shoot your fox - you can get upset, but it's too easy to download, too easy to copy. There isn't anything you can do. The monopoly on technology is over.
Q. Could some micropayments work?
Q. Andrew has a classic free-market libertarian dilemma about IP - it's both property (yay) but regulation (boo). With the analogue to digital trajectory there's less and less where people are compelled to pay money for them. You have to contrive mechanisms to make people pay. We now have greedy market entrepreneurs like Grooveshark, who are parasites. Grooveshark make The Pirate Bay look principled.
Q. Have you heard of Louis CK - who has been hugely successful and cut out the middleman. What do you think?
Yes, I am familiar with Louis CK. Louis CK is not some unknown guy who just set up a website one day. He had made TV shows and movies and the copyright industries put in the investment. As for micropayments, it's difficult enough to do now correctly. We can only imagine what it would look like if we took in all the other copyright industries in one blanket fee. And I agree with the question about Grooveshark. At least The Pirate Bay is telling us to fuck off. Grooveshark is pretending to do the right thing.
Music fans are ethical people but when you can get something for nothing - you think: "Why not?"
We're forgetting one much bigger point: if we reward art, we get more of it. And why should you have a shitty job in Tesco or a call centre and have great talent but not be able to go to market with it? Markets aren't perfect at all but the Left has tended to mythologise and animate them as evil. They're the least-bad thing we have for producing art and culture.
As for Louis CK cutting out middlemen and going it alone: people have always done that. Middlemen have value and if an artists thinks the money is worth the time saved licking envelopes or Tweeting all day, let's have middlemen. I call stories like Louis CK "jackpot anecdotes". The amount of money is shrinking and they're a distraction. Oh, look: somebody won the jackpot.
I don't understand the "compelled to pay for art" argument. You're compelled to pay by the company that made your Hi-Fi stand. You're compelled to pay by IKEA to take it home. You're compelled to pay by Vodafone. You're compelled to pay for your iPhone by Apple. You're compelled to pay for the headphones you're listening to the music on. What you seem to be saying is that you want to not pay for the one thing you can actually get away NOT paying for. Now, I'm not going to say to you "that's immoral" - but it just sounds really chiselling, and really mean to me. And anti-human.
I've never known a progressive movement declare as its mission: "Hey! let's make people poorer and take away their freedom!" Now creators are being asked to cry "Freedom" while taking it up the... well, I won't say it. Think bending over.
But John's argument about putting a tax on Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan actually subsidises poorer artists today. Bono does. The big seller subsides the artists who don't recoup, but are "middle class" artists and could make a living. Today we say how evil record companies, and good riddance, to the old model. But it was essentially a redistributive socialist system; that's almost gone now.
Next page: The morals of a pirate...