This nOde last updated October 29th, 2001 and is permanently morphing...
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Since January, major labels have been meeting to develop a system of distributing music on the Internet to combat what they see as piracy.
Jaron Lanier, a virtual-reality pioneer and a musician,sees things differently. He is developing what he considers to be a more sensible plan for the emerging digital economy, and here is an excerpt from his manifesto, "Piracy Is Your Friend.":
Piracy is a phony issue that record labels are hyping to rip off artists. Piracy has always existed. That's why there's a mountain of blank cassettes in any big electronic store.
When someone decides to buy your music instead of copying it, they're doing it for a lot of reasons. Maybe they're ethical. Maybe they like the convenience of not having to hassle with the uncertainty of copying something -- Will it come out right? Is it done yet? Maybe it's their way of expressing good will to you.
But face it, if your music wasn't available for
free in some form, no one would have
a chance to hear it to decide to buy
it in the first place. The old form of "free" music was radio
(which is often taped by pirates) and MTV, but eventually
is going to take over everything. There will
still be TV and radio, but they'll be implemented digitally.
Give it 10 years. When that happens, the idea of not giving
away music for free will be exactly the same thing as never
promoting music at all.
The real question should not be, "How can I keep my fans from hearing my music for free?" It should be, "How can I best make money from my fans?" Those are two different questions. Sure, you "lose" money to pirates. But you also lose money to a label that isn't doing anything for you.
It used to be that a label was needed to finance,manufacture, store, ship and market your music. That's how they earned their cut. The arrangement made sense. If the music business wasn't shrinking before our eyes, it would still make sense.
But in the digital era, it costs nothing to ship your music over the Internet to a fan. So the biggest reason for labels just went away.
As for financing, well, if advances were stacked up against finance deals in other industries, they'd look a lot like usury -- except that they aren't even loans: once they'repaid back, the label still owns the master. There is simply no worse conceivable form of financing. We can do better if we take charge of our own careers.
But what about marketing? Can labels still do that? Of course they can, for a few big acts. But once you are established, your own Web site connects with your fan base better than the label can.
Even if you are a huge artist, think whether in the course of your whole career, not just the next couple of years, you lose more money to pirates or to labels who will be taking most of your money for no reason at all?
When somebody in a dorm room buys thousands of dollars' worth of gear and stays up all night hacking MP3's just to get "free" music, that's what you call an opportunity, not a problem. You have found yourself a new generation of fanatics. The only problem is that computer companies are making the money right now instead of musicians.
Labels can't prevent piracy. No one can. I know computers as well as anyone on the planet, and I promise you, kids will break whatever copy protection scheme the labels come up with. And the industry knows it.
In fact, the easier it is to copy music, the less of a threat piracy will become. When piracy gets easier, professional pirates have less to offer. The only pirates left will be fans.
And there are lots of ways to make money from fans.
The reason the Recording Industry Association ofAmerica and the labels are pushing anti-piracy laws and technologies has nothing to do with preventing piracy. They're doing it so that they can control the new digital music channels.
To keep anyone else, like you, from sharing the power.
They're doing it to rip you off. Period.
You can make more money in the new era of "free" digital music. But only if you break free of label mind control.
- Jaron Lanier
A performance group oriented around electronic dance
music, stunning visuals and colossal, luminescent costumes. Interactive
video and music combined make this show a must-see. Artist/Scientist Lanier,
the pioneer who coined the term "Virtual Reality", talks about his vision
of our technologically entrenched culture.