I’ve long been a fan of artists, publishers and film studios using piracy and peer to peer to turn a profit, instead of fighting the tide. I talked about it for film here, and for music here and here.
Is it a simple solution? No. Does it have pitfalls (mainly, are their folks out there who won’t ever buy your stuff legally)? Yes. Can it work? Yes. There have been several case studies in music (mostly the “pay what you want” model, as espoused by bands like Radiohead and concept companies like 1band1brand, in which the “what you want” part is occasionally zero but the overpayers/true fans often make up for that) and a couple in film (mostly movies obtaining small release deals from the peer to peer buzz they generated).
Now we have a solid book publishing case study in the new children’s book “Go the F*ck to Sleep“. Instead of rewriting the Fast Company article that gives more detail on the story, I’ll point you to it and let you form your own opinion.
If the creative industries who are feeling their old business models crumble under their feet are seeking a one to one replacement for the old business model, they aren’t going to find it. We are now in a fluid creative content economy based in a la carte sales and peer to peer recommendations, dependent largely on reach.
Am I encouraging people to pirate? Heck no. I’m a big believer in paying the artist who makes what I like. Am I encouraging people who have things to sell to think creatively about price structure and sales tactics and be fluid in getting the message out? I am indeed.
I’d love it if you shared your stories about pirating helping (or hurting) your content and business model in the comments. Only by examining both sides of the peer to peer coin can we develop new ways for people to support themselves with their art.
If you are a person using sites like Blip.fm, Last.FM and others to share your favorite music with the world, you know how frustrating it is when you can’t find a song you are looking for. Sites like SongTwit.com help somewhat by allowing you to upload a song, but then you run into potential copyright and ownership issues. We all know you are just showing your favorite band some love and not stealing, but some labels are not so open minded and don’t see the long view of sharing as a benefit to sales.
The artist can help us be the engine of their discovery by allowing sharing, and better, by proactively ensuring their content is out there to share. I would have never discovered some of my favorite album purchases without a friend sharing a link to a song with a “you must listen to this” note attached, and I am not alone in this. After all, those who find music online are several times more likely to make a purchase.
How can an artist help their music get found? Uploading songs to sites like Blip.FM is a great start, but just slapping a song on Blip or a video on YouTube is only the beginning. Artists need to proactively tag and title their work, from the ID3 tags to the file name, to make them more discoverable. If your ID3 tagging isn’t up to par, what I find when I search for your music to share are a bunch of crappy covers on YouTube or hundreds of junk links to poor quality fan recordings of your music. That’s not what you want for your music brand!
If you are really good, you will learn to embed purchase links into your YouTube videos on your official channels. After all, 91% of those who proactively look for something on YouTube make a purchase related to their search. If you are full of awesome, you’ll learn to be shameless about putting purchase info into your songs themselves. Some musicians use analytics in their file links to track listeners and reach out to them. Some simply end the official song file with a voice over saying to find them on their website, spelling the URL. As a listener, that is fine with me – it gives me a way to find you and pay you for your art. Musicians who have sharable links on their sites increase sales dramatically as well.
If you are a musician or label, what creative ways are you encouraging sharing and turning it into a purchase?