Criminal Minds, Artists’ Money

Photo by SpreePiX - Berlin — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

The music industry needs to bring in new money. Artists need to bring in new fans. Maybe criminals can help them both make money and attract fans.

As posted in KadmusArts’ Culture News earlier this week, The Independent reported that a recent UK study has shown that those who illegally download the most music are the same people who spend the most on music. That’s right: they like to steal, but they also like to buy.

We’ve been tracking stories and trends on music downloads. The findings of this most recent study are no surprise. It’s no different from knowing that those who share the most music with their friends are also the ones who buy a lot of music.

The stakes are high. The UK is threatening to take away internet service from cheats through the proposed Digital Economy Bill.

Economists might be the only ones who are happy with all these developments. Their articles and books use digital downloads as a perfect example of the new techno-economy: the easier the creation, distribution and access to a good, the lower the price point should be.

The problem is everyone else is unhappy. Service providers aren’t that happy with what the Digital Economy Bill would mean for them: they would become the enforcers who shut down a customer. Of course, users who have downloaded illegally aren’t happy: they would face the inability to do anything online. The industry is not happy about losing a return on their investment in an artist, and artists aren’t happy about losing the opportunity to sell their work.

The solution might be found in the festival model.

Festivals offer multiple choices that draw you in, and that you are willing to spend hard earned money to see. However, the best kind of festivals go further: they also offer you something that you can take away. Most often, this is discovering something new. The festival model makes you feel like you got a good deal: spend your money on these artists, and you’ve been introduced to new ones. There is value in the quantity, the quality and the discovery.

What if for every paid download of a U2 song you also got a a free song from a new artist? The industry makes money. The established artists make money. And, the new artists have a tangible and measurable bridge to becoming money makers.

Companies have tried the subscription model (Virgin Media and Universal Music) and the per song model (iTunes). Maybe true happiness — and true profit — lies in the festival model.

- Bill Reichblum

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