The Big Debate: OK gloomsters, how can the music biz be FIXED?

Technology is sinking to the occasion

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The morals of a pirate...

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Q. Going back to morality and piracy. The cost of production and distribution have virtually evaporated - but that's as far as it goes. The idea the technology genie can't be put back into the bottle is slightly skewed. The history of copyright comes from a liberal tradition where societies have recognised the moral worth of the endeavour of creativity, versus the ease with which it's possible to reproduce the object.

So, whether it's literary novels or sheet music, the idea that you could simply copy and then extract value regardless of the author of the creative act was seen to be immoral. It's simple. It's all about the moral right of the creator. In terms of what's happening now, the genie will go back into the bottle. For 10 years nobody quite understood how to transition from the old-fashioned business of profiting from the circulation of limited quantities of replicated objects to what is now the case of managing of datastreams.

It is going back into the bottle because the industry is leaning how to do a controllable and monetisable series of gateways. Musicians are making money off live events. You pay at the gate. And we'll go back there on the internet. It's not a big deal.

Q. I worked at Columbia Records. I don't think 10 million lost sales from Bittorrent is 10 million lost sales. I think it's 10 lost sales. Give away a low-bitrate version of your work on Bittorrent, discover that it's big in Peru, then go to Peru and make lots of money.

Q. I run an incredibly small record label. My label gets more from Google than Spotify. Google have started to ... my Dad makes movies and puts backing music on it and labels like my label get revenue from clicks...

Q. The act of downloading copyright is said to be something that is not very nice to do, that is immoral. But not allowing that to happen is immoral. It forces new laws and the police to come to my house and arrest me if I share a product I brought from you. If I buy a chair from IKEA I do not go to jail. Why should the artist or the government put me in jail because I share something I bought?

Q. Someone said it's too late. So surely it's up to the artist to make the most of the situation and make the music cheaper and create a larger fanbase and buy gig tickets, merchandise. By that respect [sic] the artist will be making money and there will be more of their music in clubs, and an influx of culture in that respect.

Q. We've talked about the moral value of art to the artist. There was another debate that picked up on the moral value of culture to the individual. We should remember that. Remember the FTP protocol was designed to copy files flawlessly. A technical approach may foreclose a broader moral approach. We've talked about sponsorship and so on but not found ways of monetising music that is of the medium rather than reverse-engineering a model onto the medium. Maybe it's mining datastreams that work with the medium? [Nico McDonald]

Q. Someone mentioned looking to live music to save the industry. Live music is even more disproportionate at avoiding paying artists than recorded music. Some are likely to get (indistinct) £20,000 and many more receive very little.

Andrew - you asked us to look at the economics but I think a lot of language we've heard is disincentives: punish and enforce. I was a freetard for a number of years, but I started to pay for digital media again when it was explained to me what I was paying for. An example is the Humble Bundle – where the user can choose where the music's going to for the games – the distributor, the creator or a charity. This tickbox model – does that scale?

And now for the summing up.


The phrase someone used, "The genie is out of the bottle", is really a call for passivity. But we make the world every day anew, if we want to and chose to. That's the bit that's missing. That we can't innovate, we can't come up with ways to modify things - that the obstacles are too immense. We need to separate things that we project onto the technology, and then say they're part of that technology. They're not. We innovate.

There are obviously technical solutions but also how we discuss them or value them. The live music thing is true – but how can we create a world where artistry is possible, when you make that significant investment in time and commitment, if you don't have a chance to be remunerated? Leaders of industry should start leading from the front.


Not long ago it was thought impossible to sue somebody for defamation on the internet. Now you can. The internet will be absorbed into civilisation. There's a part of us that isn't civilised, a part of us that's selfish, and that's the part of us that interfaces with the internet. With a mouse in the dead of night. That's not freedom. Freedom is not shouting from the back of the room - it's saying "This is John Waters and this is what I believe".

I tend to avoid the first busker of the day - the second one I feel a bit more guilty about avoiding. The third busker always gets something. There's a kind of irrationality here. People are open to the labourer being worthy of his hire. It's easy to hide away on the internet and no culture to oppose that instinct within you.


Overall I'm really optimistic. That might be because I'm an idiot - or very naive.

But Alan encapsulated why, and it's because we really haven't tried anything yet. We have this deterministic thinking that digital music today is as good it's going to get for consumers and we can't do anything about it. Look at the things we haven't tried. Look how difficult it is to go to a friend's house with music on your phone and play it. Look how difficult it is to get credit on the internet - it's unthinkable. I get credit from my news agent and off-licence. All these fundamental platform-building blocks are not in place yet.

Industries have to be very co-operative to build these platforms and make experiments. We have to build these things, give people wonderful things to buy, and - I'm the world's most reluctant enforcer but we have to change the risk proposition very slightly - and the money will start coming back into the system.

Some of the rhetoric I've heard here in the questions reflects the idea this is as good as it gets. I hear: "Shall we make the most of it?" Just go and play live somewhere, you say. Sell t-shirts. Do anything but try and express value in that piece of music. It all reminds me of JFK's "Ask not what America can do for me", but turned upside down. You know, the internet version of JFK: "What can I do for the internet?"

Let's challenge this proposition that we have to sacrifice so much time, so much attention, give up so many rights for the benefit, not for us, but for the benefit of this system.

We're all creators now, which is wonderful. The one thing we must not give up, and ideologues and bureaucrats are telling us to give up, is our right to own those creations.

So there you go. I've never been called a "free market libertarian" before, but there's a first time for everything. I discussed the strange attitudes of some libertarians with David Lowery, back here. It continues to be a puzzle.

At the start I said piracy wasn't the biggest problem facing the music industry. Have a scan through the audience questions - not all of them - and a pessimism runs through them. Things are as good as they're going to get. Which is crap. The technology industry and music industry seem to sink to the occasion.

If you want growth, you have to give people reasons to get excited again, I would suggest. ®

* The producer/moderator for the session was politics student and debating champion Jacob Reynolds.

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