General Question

wildpotato's avatar

If I created a way to allow people who file share to bypass inflationary middlemen/content holders and get money directly to the artists, do you think that anyone would use it?

Asked by wildpotato (14911points) May 27th, 2009

So the main point in favor of file sharing seems to be that people have various issues with the big companies who own the artist’s content, that lie between the artist and the audience. See this question. But if this system could be bypassed, do you think people would put their money where their mouth is?

Also, would this be impossible to do without betraying everyone’s location to the authorities?

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13 Answers

Jack79's avatar

Many people might use it. But somehow the middlemen would get back at you.

This is how mp3.com started. I was one of its greatest fans, and one of the first people to sign up. They came up with the format, now standard all over the world. And they cut all the middle men and gave artists 50%, while at the same time allowing users to listen to lo-fi samples for free.

Everybody won….except Vivodi International (or whatever they’re called), and a bunch of other multinational corporations who lost their share of the profits to the artists and users. The cost of music was something like 1/4 of what it was in stores, and musicians still got 4 times more than what they used to (50% of $1 as opposed to 3% of $4, do the math).

The end result? mp3.com now belongs to the same greedy people who fought against it, and artists are no longer allowed on that site. Nor are music-lovers. As far as creativity is concerned, we already live in the 21st c Dystopia many 20th c writers have warned us about. You either have to go underground and burn illegal CDs and sell them without receipt at a local concert, or become just another brick in the wall between the creator and his public.

Grisaille's avatar

Of course. Well, I would, and I can’t see why anyone with disposable income and a taste in music wouldn’t.

Not only are you supporting the musicians, you’re also destroying the need for record companies, effectively killing them. With that comes deregulation and a more artistic and creative forum – less restriction in the creative arena is always for the best.

Of course, this means that the market would be incredibly over-bloated – everyone will want to strike it rich and be able to put their music out there (unlike now, as you have to have a semblance of talent, get a record deal, then put the album out – the process is daunting, and it’s relatively difficult). It’d be hard to find quality music with everyone in the world with their own song for purchase.

But besides, if it costs the same, why wouldn’t I choose to purchase it direct from the artist?

And… as @Jack79 has said, it’s hard to jump those legal hurdles before hand. The only way I can see something like this happening is if you had a bunch of artist backing you before hand. If 4–5 popular bands decided to leave their record companies and have their music featured exclusively on your site, it would increase public awareness, leading to more bands hop on board, etc.

I can’t find a way the record companies could stop you, in that case.

richardhenry's avatar

Don’t the record companies demand exclusive licensing rights with the artist? The copyright effectively belongs to the record company for the length of the distribution deal, so this wouldn’t be possible. Right? Or am I missing something?

cwilbur's avatar

The big reason for file sharing is that people want to get stuff for free.

A lot of them rationalize this by claiming that the artist doesn’t see any money anyway, and that the only person they’re really hurting is the faceless corporate executives, the “middlemen,” and that they wouldn’t buy the music anyway. This is all bullshit.

And, frankly, as long as you have the artists’ permission and there are no other people with a stake in the music (which is where MP3.com faltered), you shouldn’t have a problem. The reason other companies have exclusive rights to distribute the artists’ content is because the artist signed contracts to that effect.

Record labels also have promotional budgets. Sony can spend a couple million promoting a particular artist, which means the artist will sell many more copies; in exchange, Sony gets the distribution rights for that artist’s music, and takes a cut. This cut is exactly what the “music wants to be free” crowd objects to—but odds are that they never would have even heard about the artist without the promotion dollars that Sony spent.

But the kicker is, people are already doing this. Look at magnatune.com.

Jack79's avatar

True about what you say about promotion and so on. But still, people should have a choice. Do you want to go listen through loads of junk on the internet and discover that rare gem that will only cost you $1 to download? Or just buy whatever is advertised on MTV? I’m speaking as an artist here, not as a listener. I never really listen to music anyway.

But I agree with people who say they wouldn’t buy the CD anyway. If it weren’t for free, they’d only be able to afford 1 or 2 CDs, which they would listen to over and over again. And buy only 1 DVD for their collection. And it would be their favourite movie. That’s how it used to be. Now people spend the same amount of money on a fast internet collection, and download whole GBs of songs they’ll never listen to, movies they’ll never watch, and games they’ll never play. Everything has become more accessible, and at the same time lost its value. If people couldn’t download those songs for free, they wouldn’t download them at all.

There was the same debate when people were copying vinyl on to tapes, and then later when CD-burners were invented. People don’t even bother burning the CDs anymore. They just copy-paste the songs onto a flash drive, and then delete them a couple of days later.

As far as mp3.com is concerned, what mp3.com originally offered artists is exactly what magnatune.com does now. And thanks for that link, I signed up :)

Incidentally, my current record label offers many of the songs for free download. You can either buy the CD with its cover etc for a very reasonable price, or download the songs for very little or even free. This has not really affected sales, since they mainly produce classical music CDs, and the people who listen to that prefer to buy an actual product (usually at concerts) rather than have it on mp3.

dynamicduo's avatar

If I want to support the artist, I will purchase their production. Or if I see them in person (which I often do, because I’m into indie music), I’ll buy them a beer or hand them some cash.

The main motivation of file sharing is not a desire to hate the suits, or any similar thought. At best it’s an intricate combination of reasons. For me, the #1 reason I download things is because of convenience, it’s just like having a Tivo except I can pick and choose what I want to watch and I’m not stuck with the thousands of pounds of crap I don’t ever want to watch. Then, after I’m done watching it, if I feel it has substantial value (read, if I want to watch it in the future) I will purchase the DVD set when it comes out.

To answer your question at hand, no I don’t think anyone would use that system, because it would be very hard (read, impossible) for you to establish it for current pop artists. Furthermore, I appreciate rewarding people who actually decide to do it all on their own, which many indie music artists do successfully.

cwilbur's avatar

@Jack79: it’s a false dichotomy between sifting through things on the Internet and buying what MTV tells me to. There’s also remarkably little difference between sifting through things to buy on iTunes, for instance, and sifting through things to download illegally in LimeWire or what have you.

I keep an eye out for bands I like that produce new albums, and I pay attention to what Amazon (for instance) recommends. “People who bought this album bought that album too” is a really strong sign that I ought to at least check things out. I also pay attention to who’s performing in certain venues—the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, MA, for instance. Or the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. And then when I know who to check out, I look for a 30-second clip on iTunes or a track to download on emusic.com.

And, frankly, if people aren’t willing to pay what the artists ask, even if it’s the record labels asking on behalf of the artists and taking a cut, they shouldn’t be downloading the music.

ru2bz46's avatar

I’d use it. A friend once suggested I use a site (I think it was in Russia) to “legally” buy and download music for something like $2 per album. I never did because I “knew” that no money was going to the artist. I continued to pay full price through regular outlets. I would much rather be able to buy directly from the artist.

Blondesjon's avatar

Good luck.

If you are successful, say hello to Nikola Tesla and the guy who invented the water powered car for me.

Zaku's avatar

Yes, but the best way would be to invent a way that content creators would use and not use the middlemen at all, so that there is no legal issue with the old business model.

Jack79's avatar

GA cwilbur :)

I don’t use iTunes since I don’t really listen to music, but it’s a step in the right direction. I just don’t think that downloading stuff illegally has the effect some people pretend it does. People who illegally download 100 CDs would never buy 100 CDs if the technology wasn’t there. But they might buy one, and enjoy it more. And for me this is the real shame (I’m thinking mainly of video games, not music, here). They neither appreciate, nor enjoy, the stuff they download.

As an artist I have discovered that most of my income (when I was still doing this regularly) came from live performances, not CD sales, and this is true of anyone, regardless of how successful they are. Your local heavy-metal band will only sell 3 CDs, and will play at the local pub for free beer. Madonna will sell a million and win a Grammy, but she can also fill up a stadium in any major city. So CD sales are still peanuts as far as she’s concerned. Though of course CDs have always meant publicity, and this was the real deal between artists and companies (which you sort of hinted on earlier). The company invests all that money to make someone famous, then gets all the profits from the record sales, while the singer will make money from concerts. That’s how it used to work, and they both won. But of course all that has changed nowadays, and it’s a lot more complicated than we sometimes think.

cwilbur's avatar

@Jack79: Oh, I understand that there are hidden benefits, even for the artists, to things like downloading music. It’s been pretty conclusively shown that downloads don’t hurt CD sales in any material way, and there seems to be some evidence that songs that are widely available for download serve the same purpose as radio play.

My problem here is that I think the basic philosophy of copyright—that an artist should have the right to determine what gets done with his or her creations, in order to profit from them—is a sound one. Yes, I think the length of copyright is ridiculous, especially in the case of corporate “authors” where the work is effectively permanently under copyright, and I think there are definite places where the copyright law can be improved, such as expanding fair use in the area of out-of-print and difficult to obtain works, but I think the basic philosophy is sound.

I also think the record companies are, for the most part, perfect examples of evil money-grubbing capitalist empire builders. In the days when recording was difficult and producing and distributing records was expensive, they served a valuable purpose. Now that people can set up a decent home recording studio for a couple thousand dollars, master recordings on commodity computer hardware, and distribute recordings digitally over the Internet, the only services the record companies really provide are marketing and rights management.

So I think the major record companies are, for the most part, evil; and I think they ought to be encouraged to wither and die. But because I think copyright is a good thing, I don’t think that weakening it is a good thing. So the way I’d like to see them go is by becoming increasingly irrelevant, which means more Magnatunes and more artist-owned and cooperative record labels.

(And as I think that the majority of people out there do buy music because MTV and the radio told them to, and I think that as long as that happens, the record companies won’t go away. But that’s OK, as long as they’re not the only way to get music. And, at the moment, they aren’t, and that shows no signs of changing.)

Jack79's avatar

I think we agree :)

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