18 October 2007

Who says you can't update a post about stealing?

Yesterday, I posted concerning the phenomenon, noted by a Forbes columnist, where the well-known band Radiohead made their latest album available online for downloading at any -- or no -- price, yet thousands of copies were downloaded from unauthorized sources nonetheless. Like some others, I saw this as a bad sign for artists who seek alternate forms of distribution for their creative works without losing control of them altogether.

Mike Masnick expertly puts things into perspective, as he so often does, in a post today at the Techdirt site. He writes:
This shouldn't be surprising or even remotely controversial. Of course people are going to download it elsewhere. They do so because it's convenient. If there's one thing that we've seen over and over and over again is that convenience is everything in this market . . . . So, if it's more convenient for people to get the music from other sources, that should be seen as a good thing. That's why media companies have to learn to let go of the control and recognize that there are many, many different ways that people will want to get their content, and they should learn to embrace them all, rather than demanding that everyone does things their way.

. . . .

It appears that [law professor Doug Lichtman, who was quoted by Forbes], like so many others, seems to have ignored the full explanation of Radiohead's business model here. What they make from the digital copies is rather meaningless. They're trying to get the music spread as far and wide as possible, and then are trying to give fans a real reason to still buy the CD by providing many valuable extras. Lichtman claims that this shows it's hard to compete with free -- but I'd actually take the exact opposite lesson. It's easy to compete with free. If you provide convenience, flexibility and focus on selling services or tangible goods that are made more valuable by the free distribution of content, competing with free isn't that hard at all. Radiohead seems to be proving that quite well.

I'll buy that (figuratively speaking). The bottom line appears to be that if you're inclined to download Radiohead's latest from a site other than theirs, you might make Scott Tenorman cry but the band will still be smiling.

For my part, though, there's no site so convenient and no price so low that I would feel compelled to download a Radiohead album. That notwithstanding, if the In Rainbows experiment gets me the next albums from Oasis and The Charlatans for nothing I can honestly say that I'm a much bigger Radiohead fan now than I've ever been before.

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