Mike Masnick at TechDirt offers himself up as an effective “debunker” of my position in support of the importance of copyright. His claim is that I should do more research, and that my crazy writing shouldn’t be in such a fine blog as Silicon Alley Insider. And yet it appears that Mr. Masnick has no research to back up any of his counter-arguments at all. Instead, he’s going with a “because I said so” approach.
I said: First, if music goes down, so will every other form of copyrighted material including ultimately books, movies, TV, etc.
Masnick said: This assumes that without copyright, content creation goes down. There’s no evidence to support this. In fact, we see more content creation today than ever before in history, and most of it is not because of copyright in the slightest.
My Comment: First of all, as far as I know, we still have copyright laws in this country. But Masnick says copyright isn’t important to the creators of that content. How do we know this? Because Masnick says so. And I am sure most movie makers, book authors and publishers, and TV producers agree that they could continue to make their products without copyright. I am sure Jeff Zucker agrees. I am sure Bob Iger agrees. I am sure all those writers who get book advances agree. What about YouTube? What about the blogosphere? Well, the last time I looked Star Wars Kid had neither a TV nor movie deal for his famous clip.
I said: There is no evidence at all that free music on the Internet is an effective (i.e. successful career building) marketing tool.
Masnick said: That’s simply untrue. Mr. Williams may not have found such evidence, but it’s only because he didn’t look very hard. The number of bands who exist solely because of their ability to build a following on the internet is rather large at this point, with plenty of bands crediting the internet’s ability for easy distribution and marketing for their own ability to exist.
My Comment: Again, Masnick’s response appears to be: “You are wrong because I said so.” But I’m trying to help: Via the Free Music Research Project I’ve started, I’m trying to see if I can find any artists that have effectively used the Internet promotion for anything other than to get noticed by a label. We are still in fairly early days, but so far no qualifying artists have been submitted. Kevin Kelley and Jaron Lanier have both also aggressively been looking for such artists, and they haven’t found any either. I am not saying that there aren’t any, but at this point any evidence is elusive. I suspect that there may be one somewhere. But probably not three.
I said: There have been no blockbuster successes that have come from, for example, Garageband availability. I don’t think you could even count more than a handful — if that — internet-based artists making a living from music.
Masnick says: Of course, that depends on how you define “blockbuster” success. Williams seems to define it narrowly to suit his purposes, and that completely undermines his argument. Bands like the Arctic Monkeys created the following that turned them into a huge success via the internet.
My Comment: The Arctic Monkeys do not fit the criteria, but not because they aren’t big enough, but because they aren’t an Internet band. I will happily concede that the Internet has been helpful to labels in discovering artists. In fact the the Internet is now a primary research tool for label A&R departments. And such is the case with The Arctic Monkeys. But all of The Arctic Monkeys’ major success, like best selling records, and major radio play, came after they signed with a label in 2005.
And if they were so successful without a label, why sign with one? Why not just keep that big pile of Internet cash to yourself? Even if you discount that the Arctic Monkeys are a label band,, and just accept Masnick’s contention that they are an Internet blockbuster, one single band does not make a movement. It doesn’t even qualify as a “handful”.
SAI Contributor Hank Williams is a New York-based entrepreneur. He writes Why Does Everything Suck? Exploring the tech marketplace from 10,000 feet.
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