Day: September 10, 2003

  • The Eight Cent Rut

    I caught a few minutes of the Jim Lehrer News Hour last night on the radio.  They happened to be discussing the RIAA and music downloaders when I scanned by, so I stayed for awhile.

    What disturbed me is that the arguments do not seem to have changed a bit since I attended a Cato Institute debate on the subject.  On one side of the argument was John Flansburgh (of TMBG).  They’ve been giving away music for free since before mp3’s existed.  On the other side was Chuck Cannon of the Nashville Underground.  He writes music for a living.  He doesn’t tour, so he really can’t afford to give away his music for free.

    Let’s talk about those eight cents for a bit, shall we?

    Did you know that every time a record is sold, the person who wrote it is entitled to eight cents.  If they cowrote it, they are due four cents.  If the song gets published, they get two cents.  I already knew this, because those eight cents were invoked extensively at the Cato debate.  Now you know about those eight cents.

    12 year olds are stealing Mr. Cannon’s eight cents by downloading his music for free rather than paying for it.  We’re going to ignore for a second that music downloaders also tend to purchase more music.  That must not happen in real life, it certainly cannot.

    Eight cents!  Eight cents!

    I’ll admit that it’s at least a halfway valid argument.  Mr. Cannon has got a mortgage to pay.  If I ran into him on the street and heard his eight cent story, I’d probably feel pretty bad for him.  Unfortunately, I’ve heard the eight cent story before, and I’m rather bored of it.  The argument isn’t working, can we move on?

    Chuck Cannon:

    I’m definitely interested in a business model that competes with free. That would be really interesting. I’d like to hear John address that.

    Wait, I’ve heard this one before too.  How the heck are you going to compete with free?  99 cents a song seems to work pretty well.  I hear that they sold over 10 million songs in about 4 months.  The legit way.  The songwriter gets their eight cents.

    As consumers, we’re dying to download music in a legitimate way.  We dislike the RIAA and the recording industry.  We’d like a better way to get straight to the music that we’d like to hear.  We don’t like your many middleman business model.  We don’t like getting ripped off.  We know that downloading is probably the business model of the future, we’re just waiting for you to catch up so we can give you our money.  We’re not going to give you as much money as before, but if you figure out what’s going on, we’d love to give you some.

    I’m actually quite suprised that the debate seems to be almost identical to a year ago, yet the landscape has changed significantly.  It seems to have degraded into your typical Mac vs. PC, nobody is ever going to budge type of argument.

    Well, that’s just my eight cents.

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