You may have noticed that I caught the Tumblr bug about 18 months ago and that I have been busy curating my findings - as opposed to actually writing longer stories, myself, as I used to do on this blog - on 3 new blogs. Most of the posts on this blogs are a direct by-product on what I actually read and digest via the fabulous Instapaper and Read-It-Later apps, published directly to Tumblr via some nifty APIs:)
Some of these blogs are quite popular already; please take a look and follow me there as well if you like:
The overlap of social media and TV represents a huge opportunity for those that truly understand and internalize, embrace and partake in these changes, and that welcome this dawning networked, interdependent and many-to-many society.
I will be working with Stowe Boyd to produce quite a few more reports and white papers in 2012. In addition, we will be doing a lot more work together offering Media Futures events, workshops and seminars.
Of course I would be very happy if you would consider buying the book for yourself (only $3.90, Kindle-only) but beyond that it would be really great if you could help me spread the word via rating and / or 'liking' the book on the Amazon.com page, tweeting about it or just forwarding this mail to some friends that may be interested.
This review is from: The Future of Content (Kindle Edition)
"I challenge you to expand your brain and read this book. What Gerd Leonhard is always doing is informing the global brain (or the collective brain) in ways that help us all get where we're trying to go. He builds the buildings in front of us.
This collection points toward several compelling answers for content creators. As a writer who is already swimming in the changing currents of "content," I found it intensely informative. Leonhard shores up my courage to continue embracing a digital world without DRM, and ebook prices "for the masses." He makes the all-important concept of curation crystal clear. If you are providing any kind of content in print or on the web, it's relevant. If you want to stay on the front edge of content creation and publishing, it's basic. I'm making this book mandatory reading for my epublishing circles"
ABOUT "THE FUTURE OF CONTENT" Futurist Gerd Leonhard has been writing about the future of content i.e. music, film, TV, books, newspapers, games etc, since 1998. He has published 4 books on this topic, 2 of them on music (The Future of Music, with David Kusek, and Music 2.0). For the past 10 years Leonhard has been deeply involved with many clients in various sectors of the content industry, in something like 17 countries, and it’s been a great experience, he says. “I have learned a lot, I have listened a lot, I have talked even more (most likely:) and I think I have grown to really understand the issues that face the content industries - and the creators, themselves - in the switch from physical to digital media.”
This Kindle book is a highly curated collection of the most important essays and blog posts Leonhard has written on this topic, and even though some of it was written as far back as 2007 - “I believe it still holds water years later. I have tried to only include the pieces that have real teeth. Please note that the original date of each piece is shown here in order to allow for contextual orientation.” Leonhard’s intent to publish this via the amazing Amazon Kindle platform, exclusively, and at a very low price, is to make these ideas and concepts as widely available as possible while still trying to be an example of what digital, paperless distribution can look like, going forward.
I am delighted to be able to share this brand-new translation with all my friends, tweeps and colleagues that speak Portuguese. The essay was kindly translated by Paula Neves, Analista de Marketing Digital at Approach (Brazil); be sure to visit her blog or Linkedin profile.
Gerd Leonhard: Conteúdo 2.0: ‘proteção’ está no modelo de negócio e não na tecnologia (pensamentos sobre o futuro da venda de conteúdo).
Abastecido pelas agitações na indústria da música e, finalmente, com a transformação muito rápida dos livros para o formato digital, há bastante debate em torno do fato das pessoas compartilharem habitualmente isto é, redistribuírem conteúdo digital sem que os usuários paguem por isso. Como se pode monetizar o conteúdo se a cópia é gratuita? Essa pergunta é uma questão chave em todos os sentidos, seja com a música, com livros digitais, noticiários, editoração, TV ou filmes. Há o medo, claro, de que a partir do momento que um item digital foi comprado por uma pessoa, ele pode ser facilmente encaminhado para qualquer um se estiver num formato aberto, assim reduzindo significantemente a possibilidade de que outra pessoa pague dinheiro real por ele também (claro que o mesmo também é verídico para conteúdo digital supostamente trancado ou protegido – só demora um pouco mais). Não ter mais controle sobre a distribuição = não ter mais dinheiro. Certo?
Apesar do simples fato da GDD (Gestão de Direitos Digitais, ou Digital Rights Management em inglês) já ter se mostrado desastrosa no mundo da música digital (e agora já é praticamente o passado), medidas técnicas de proteção ainda vêm sendo investigadas como um método plausível de se garantir o pagamento, especialmente no efervescente setor dos eBooks. Isso me preocupa muito porque medidas técnicas de proteção são caras, atrapalham ou previnem a adoção em massa, encurtam ou matam o compartilhamento social, o que derrota o marketing usuário-usuário, normalmente limitam drasticamente o uso honesto, e são geralmente inúteis no combate aos piratas reais, isto é, os que têm intenções maldosas e criminosas de roubar conteúdo e vendê-lo para outros.
Não somente conteúdo – Contexto! A meu ver, o pensamento de que a distribuição de conteúdo tem de ser controlada para que haja qualquer forma razoável de pagamento é fundamentalmente equivocado por causa dessa percepção não-tão-futurista: numa economia aberta e enredada (nota: estou falando sobre hoje e não amanhã!) editores de conteúdo têm de oferecer seus bens de uma forma que não mais considere a distribuição como o fator central. Não deve-se vender (somente) o conteúdo (ou seja, meros 0s e 1s) e sim também o contexto, os valores agregados, os vários outros itens em torno do conteúdo. Venda o que não pode ser copiado.
A tendência irrefutável é que a janela de oportunidade de se ‘vender cópias’ (isto é, iTunes, música digital, Kindle, etc) está rapidamente fechando, pelo menos na maior parte dos países desenvolvidos. A próxima oportunidade, e já muito presente, está na venda do acesso e serviços de valor agregado, e no fornecimento de experiências ligadas ao conteúdo.
A partir do momento que abarcarmos que os usuários – as pessoas dantes conhecidas como consumidores – não podem ser reduzidas a meros ‘compradores de cópias’, poderemos investigar como eles gostariam de pagar por todo o resto também. Por exemplo, ao comprar um eBook os usuários não deveriam pagar meramente pela autorização da distribuição, ou seja, a cópia legítima das palavras, e sim também poderiam ganhar acesso a comentários altamente especializados, amigos e colegas que possam ler esse livro, avaliações, explicações, apresentações de slides, imagens, links, vídeos, referências cruzadas, conexões diretas com o autor ou o editor e assim por diante. Sim: conectar com fãs + motivos para comprar (como o Mike Masnich do Techdirt já resumiu sucintamente diversas vezes)....
The main shift is going to be away from the downloading of content and owning of CDs and more towards music in the cloud. That is going to happen with most media, starting first with music and then going into films and books. This is not just a music business issue. We are moving away from the copy to access. This is a very good model for the artist. In the past, most of the money was spent on the physical product – so the reproduction, packaging, shipping and retail store.
The artist basically got nothing in most cases. Skipping that whole process now means that the brand of the musician becomes the most important thing. This is very good news for the artist, the producer and the creator but less so for the industry as it’s much easier to sell a copy than it is to sell access. The idea that the artist just gets, say, 10% of the sold product is now out the window. Now the artist will give his agent or service agency some kind of fee – say 25% just as Nettwerk Records and other companies are already doing.
The issue is to get attention and clicks from consumers. If that attention is converted into a revenue share based on advertising, a subscription fee or an upselling process, then as soon as you have attention, you participate. We are still in the old system of counting on revenue per use. That won’t work in the future. The bigger your brand, the bigger the attention you will get and the more clicks you get, the more money you’ll make. I believe that consumers will ask for the access models to be free initially but then after they use it for a while they’ll be quite happy to pay so they can remove the ads or increase the quality of the stream for example. Music online will feel like free. There is plenty of money to be made from ads, but it’s just not there yet. It’s coming, though. We have seen that advertising just doesn’t work on the Internet.
It’s so easy to click away the ads or avoid them altogether. Advertising was essentially useless until now as today we are starting to see social advertising, such as on Facebook. Plus we have mobile advertising. Finally advertising is becoming more useful. The brands are no longer looking to spend 1% of their budget on social or mobile; they’ll be spending 10% or more. There is a total disconnect between the way a new business can be grown and how a lot of rightsholders perceive how the business will be paid for by Google or ISPs, for example.
That’s a very bad approach because it makes it impossible to legally grow a new model. You will be much more successful – like YouTube and Last.fm – if you don’t have the right licence and you just do it. That’s a real irony. I don’t think we’ll be able to support new services without a compulsory licence.
We need a compulsory licence for music use on the Internet so that companies like Spotify, MOG and we7 can use a licence rather than just bang their heads against a wall like they have in Germany and the US. A cloud-based model has to win out in the end, as the costs are so much lower, the sharing is so much easier. You can put all sorts of ads into cloudbased systems because you always know what the user is doing. There are lots of great benefits there. But the industry hates the cloud-based model as they lose control over distribution.
Last month, Mike Masnick invited me to do a guest-post on Techdirt.com one of my favorite online destinations. It went live last night and is getting quite a few comments - check it out here. Comments and discussion is here. Retweets are here.
If I received a dollar
every time I get a question along the lines of "how can the content
industries compete with FREE?" -- I would be traveling first class
everywhere I go. Underneath this question I often find my favorite toxic
assumption: "less control over distribution means less money."
This belief is as tired
as it is poisonous: enforcing control (when trust is really what's
needed) will yield instant disengagement, which swiftly and surely will
translate into dwindling revenues -- as the music industry keeps proving
again and again. If you believe in control rather than value and trust,
the content business of the future is not a good hunting ground for
Take eBooks: despite
clear and present proof that DRM has proven disastrous in selling
music (and now is pretty much history), technical protection measures
are still being looked at to 'secure distribution'. When will
they ever learn?
The thinking that the
digital distribution of content must be controlled to achieve any kind
of reasonable payment is fundamentally flawed because of this
realization: in our open, mobile, social and digitally networked
content publishers need to offer their goods in a way that no longer
centers on the distribution of units (digital or physical) as the key
revenue factor. The idea of just selling copies is toast - selling
(i.e. offering) access is where the money is. Kevin Kelly said it years
ago: we must sell what can't
be copied, what's scarce, not what is ubiquitous.
The irrefutable trend
is that the window of opportunity of 'selling copies' (be it iTunes,
eMusic, the Kindle or the iPad) is rapidly closing. The real
Future, is in selling access
and presenting a constant stream of up-sells (i.e. added values and
content-related experiences). Remember, as Mark McLaughlin so
out in the HuffingtonPost recently, consumers have never really
paid for content - they
paid for distribution! And now, distribution means Attention and Access.
Imagine when buying access
to eBooks, you wouldn't just pay for the authorized enjoyment of the
authors' words, but you would also gain instant access to highly curated
and socially-networked commentary, a fire-hose of meta-content provided
by your most important peers and friends that may also be reading these
books, and their ratings, explanations, slide-shows, images, links,
videos, cross-references -- and maybe even some direct connections with
the author or the publisher.
In an access-based, bundled
and cloud-centric content ecology, being a legitimate and authorized
user enables engagement, conversation, relevance, personalization,
i.e. it unlocks really valuable benefits for the user. Connect
Fans + Reasons to Buy (as has been mentioned on this blog a few
before, I believe) - that's where the money is.
In music, streaming-on-demand
will without a doubt be available 'for free' (i.e. bundled and packaged
by 3rd parties) or advertising supported, while many added values above
and beyond the mere reproduction of music will not - no matter
CEO Edgar Bronfman thinks
it's a good idea 'for the industry' or not.
Just imagine where an
access-to-the-cloud model could go next: if I want a high-definition
version of my favorite opera or that Blue Note Jazz Club concert from
last night I could buy a premium package that provides it. If I want
to share my personal play-lists, ratings and comments with my Facebook
friends, and get access to their content, as well, I can add the 'social
network option' to my package. If the price is right
anyone...?), I'll buy - because I am already hooked on the music.
The music industry needs
to ask itself this question: if a permanent, unprotected download of
a song would cost only $0.10, or if an ad-supported version of a
all-you-can-eat music service would be seamlessly bundled into your
mobile phone subscription - would anyone still bother to scour the web
to find badly ripped, virus-laced tracks for free? Would we need
or HADOPI or Digital Economy Bills?
Yes, I know, that price
point sounds ridiculous for those record label CEOs that used to sell
CDs for 15-25 Euros a piece, but hang on a second: if they can get 95%
of the users to buy access at a much lower price (and almost
zero cost of duplication and distribution!), and in that process really
engage with them, the fans would also do the marketing for them - i.e.
share the links. Sounds like a great model to me. But of course:
access at a much lower (or feels-like-free) price to quite literally everyone
sense if it actually connects directly and smoothly to a multitude of
up-selling possibilities, such as interactive versions of eBooks,
versions of online radio shows, albums or concerts, in-depth analysis
and audio/video commentary for news, etc.
Now, content storage
is starting to move from my own computer or my hard-drives into the
cloud - and I think this is very good news for content creators,
and rights-holders because it makes it even easier to engage and up-sell
to those new
generatives. Crucially, the
answer to the constant quest of monetization is also in the cloud: I
believe most people will soon stop sharing the actual media files (since
they are getting increasingly larger and larger, and therefore more
unwieldy) and will share only the links, the bookmarks, the metadata
or the tags, and that should be a boon for the content industries.
The perfect test bed
for 'Media as a Service' (MaaS) may unfold soon, with Apple's new
iPad or Google's Tablet (hopefully). Extending the concepts mentioned
above, rather than blocking my wife or my kids from sharing an eBook
with me it would be much more logical if I could easily read her book,
as well; but beyond the 'copy of the words' all else would not be
available without a micro-transaction on my part, i.e. I would not have
instant access to the cool video clips, the updated links, the
the ratings, etc; i.e. all that valuable context that will make eBooks
so much more powerful would be out of my reach until I validate my own
The bottom line: content
sharing isn't the real problem: high price points, outmoded, pre-web
toll-booth concepts, broken relationships and processes, low values
for high prices, bad technology and service, and utter lack of
and engagement are.
Here is my message to
publishers and content owners: lower the prices for access to your
to the point of unanimous excitement, use open standards and technology
platforms that work for everyone, everywhere; bundle and package as
attractively as you can (then: repeat). Team up with ISPs, mobile
advertisers and device makers.
Remove all the reasons
that your users may have to avoid your new toll-booths and skip the
desired conversion to 'paid' - the lower the hurdle for legitimate usage
and paid engagement, the higher the added values, the less you will
have to worry about 'competing with free'.
As Google's Eric Schmidt said at the Mobile World Congress a few days ago: from now on, it's MOBILE FIRST. Right he is! He probably didn't know this (or disguised it cleverly) but incidentally my iPhone app, powered by the very swift and happening MobileRoadie people in LA, was approved 2 days ago and is now live in the app store.
The app will provide you with a much simplified and quicker way to access pretty much everything that I publish (now that's a scary thought), including my videos, my podcasts, my blog, my tweets, my lifestream, my images and illustrations, and of course my slideshows - pretty much everything but my bank account;).
Talking about 'bank': I will be creating a lot of app-exclusive content in the next few weeks, and will really build up my mobile presence in order to be ready for the iPad and other tablet devices which I intend to use for 'futuristic' publishing purposes, i.e. for monetizing my work in new ways. Therefore - and in keeping with theFreemium theme - the first 1000 users will get this app for free, afterward my costs will go up a bit and the app will cost a whopping $1.99.
I will, of course, offer an Android app as soon as MobileRoadie comes up with the goodies, and the same goes for iPad-ready formats (I have some very special plans for that... too early to share but... it will be exciting). As to the Freemium: I will probably try to offer both a basic, free version as well as a paid version, in the future - it all depends on the demand. You tell me.
Yesterday, the Net was buzzing with news from Warner Music Group's earnings call, with Edgar Bronfman announcing his intention to not license 'free' streaming services any longer. Rather than rant about this (as tempting as that may be), I thought I would just share some ideas with you, and with Edgar, on what else WMG could do to become.....well, WMG 2.0. Some of these ideas were initially presented to another major music company about 9 months ago, btw. I don't know where this ended up, though - stay tuned.
Gerd Leonhard’s unsolicited thoughts: Creating Warner Music Group 2.0
Dear Edgar, based on what I have learned of my 16 years in digital music, and distilled from the 2 music-specific books I (co)-wrote (“The Future of Music”, and “Music 2.0”) here are a few ideas on how I think WMG could reposition itself and achieve future growth:
1) Create and offer a complete, cutting-edge online platform for your artists, writers, labels etc. Let’s call this the ArtistOS. It should pretty much mirror what Google already does for Internet users, in general, i.e. provide free access to very powerful and inter-connected Web2.0 tools that used to cost 100s of 1000s of $ to build but are now provided free of charge. These tools could include things such as music widgets and embeddable flash players for audio and video, twitter-API based marketing and communication tools, connecting tools based on Facebook- & Google-Buzz/Connect, multi-site upload and updating tools (similar to TubeMogul for videos), text/video/audio RSS feeds and syndication tools, ad-insertion tools and production technologies (for widgets and web pages), mobile phone applications for quick-launching artist and label apps (see MobileRoadie!), general content syndication and CMS tools, Google Buzz, Tumblr- and Friendfeed-like services for artists, Google-analytics-like tools for tracking and analyzing web traffic, and much more. Building (or licensing!) these tools would require some dedicated resources but this would not be a huge undertaking in terms of budget since most of these solutions are based on existing APIs, feeds and various open source offerings. Having the ArtistOS available to anyone that works with WMG would be huge strategic advantage, and would greatly simplify marketing and promotion tasks, as well.
2) Define, publish and promote a Collective, Global and Open Licensing Platform. The biggest obstacle for strong growth in the Music 2.0 era is the utter lack of global licensing standards for the legal use of music on the Net, and apart from the admirable Jim Griffin - led Choruss initiative WMG seems to still be following the old-school path of ‘ignore & deny’, here. Not good. The current licensing procedures are causing severe friction in the digital content ecosystem, and represent a significant hurdle to innovation - and thus to creating and nurturing new revenue streams. WMG 2.0 could solve this problem by pioneering a standardized and collective licensing platform that is open to everyone, transparent, flexible, and revenue-share based rather than fixed-fee based, therefore allowing for liquidity in the new digital market place. Providing a public, standardized yet flexible and open license to all streaming-on-demand services would be a very good way to start this process - and the time to do this is now. Yes, I know, advertising revenue splits are not bringing in much money, now - but they are dead-certain to do so within 18-24 months, when up to 25% of all advertising budgets will be shifting to digital, interactive, mobile and social platforms. Have some imagination. Build the Future (don't keep asking for it to be delivered to you).
3) Vigorously pursue flat-rate and bundling scenarios for the licensing of your entire catalog in return for flat fee payments, RAND-based revenue shares and fair splits of advertising and other revenue streams (similar to what Google has done in China, TDC in Denmark etc). Licensing access to music, rather than (just) copies, is the only way forward in a connected, always-on world that already equals listening with owning. Switch from relying on scarcity to monetizing ubiquity and abundance, and invent new models that fit this. Generate new revenues by engaging with ISPs, telecoms, ICT companies. mobile operators and search engines. Drastically reduce friction. Embrace ‘free’ models as long as somebody will pay somewhere.
4) Develop (or license) and deploy your own mobile music applications, on all platforms (iPhone, Android, Symbian, Windows etc); make mobile applications the center piece of all marketing and selling efforts, worldwide - the future of music is mobile, period. Think of mobile applications as the new CD; and therefore of music as....software. Roll out applications for all new releases, and for all your labels and brand. Make the basic apps free, but offer very attractive ways to upgrade, in all territories. It’s all about the packaging!
5) In terms of future sales, think Freemium, and think access not (just) copy. Offer things that used to cost money (such as listening to a song, on demand), for what I like to call feels-like-free (i.e. in return for the users’ attention); just be sure to find ways to convert 20-50% of those users (aka the friends, fans and followers) to all kinds of new premium services, such as high-definition versions, concert recordings and web-casts, special products, digital compilations etc. In addition, dramatically lower the price for physical products while providing all kinds of premium products - again, focus on selling access to music not just products.
6) Investigate the concept of crowd-sourcing new talent. Use the web’s increasingly useful collaborative powers to discover new artists, and draw bloggers and pro-sumers into the A&R process, worldwide. Bloggers, in particular, are the new Radio DJs! Combine some of the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ with your own professional A&R people. Do what P&G has done with Innocentive and their own ‘Connect and Develop’, and what DELL has done with Ideastorm, and what Kodak is doing in Social Media. The benefits seriously outweigh the risks!
7) Drop most if not all of the on-going law-suits, and switch your legal strategy to a 100% solution-oriented process. Compensation not Control is where the money is; all else is just posturing. The IFPI and RIAA-led efforts of enforcing control in an exponentially consumer-empowering media ecosystem have all failed miserably, and will not produce any monetary results in the future (except for enriching the lawyers). Here is a tough one for you: do you still need these lobbyists? Rather than spending most of the time preventing what the ‘people formerly known as consumers’ really want to do, all available energy should be put into exploring, building and co-developing those ‘new generatives’ for digital content, i.e. next generation advertising and branded content, packaging, bundling, flat rates etc.
8) Pursue drastic and large-scale innovation within - and on the fringes of - WMG. Bring the smartest possible people into the company; apart from content and talent (of course), focus on technology, mobile and next generation advertising and marketing. Invest in start-ups that can invigorate WMG 2.0 and provide significant strategic advantages.
9) Start to really talk to the music users, and have actual conversations with your customers. Engage on public conversation platforms, switch your PR and corporate communications from push to pull. Launch a WMG executive blog, start using Twitter; turn push into pull across the board. Do a Kodak - and go beyond! Create more transparency which creates trust which creates new business opportunities. Win back the trust of the consumer (better: the users) and the artists.
10) Offer profit-sharing arrangements with your artists: from a fixed pool of profit shares, each artist that is affiliated with WMG could receive a bonus payment that is proportional to their significance, every year. Do something similar with your staff.
11) Decentralize your distribution efforts, syndicate the music as wide as possible. Youtube gets 60% of its traffic from people embedding video players into their own websites - do something similar for your catalog. Instead of (or at least, along with) building or supporting central destinations, allow the users & fans to do the marketing for you, and syndicate your assets around the web. Think RSS, feeds, XML, API, not MTV.
12) Data is the new Gold - mine it! Making money around the music (not just from or with the music) is where the future is going. Investigate new business models that are based on data-mining, next-generation advertising and branded content, and behavioral targeting.
Note: once you’re ready.... there are a few good companies already working in most of these areas, and you could team up with them: just ask me.
Crowd-sourcing really works for me. Quite a few of my essays are now being translated into various languages, by some very kind people that donate their time because they simply like my writings and want to collaborate. Here is the latest result: a nice German translation of my 2009 essay in the RSA Journal "The Price of Freedom - Reinventing the Online Economy". Enjoy!
I have been very busy compiling my best essays, blog posts and other writings from the past 3 years, and have finally uploaded the most recent version to Lulu (my favorite print-on-demand book store). The new book is now called 'Friction is Fiction' and is available in 3 versions: 1) 158 pages, 6x9 inches / U.S. trade format, full-color, for $60.40, here (yes, it's quite pricey because of the cost of printing 4-color, on-demand) 2) the same dead-tree version, but in black & white only, for $19.98, here (much cheaper but a lot less cool;) 3) as a PDF, for a token price of $7.50, here.
I would be delighted if you would consider buying whatever works best for you - what better Christmas present could you possibly think of! Please note that this book will be updated every 3 months, to include my latest writings. If you want to share the book page please just send people to www.frictionisfiction.com - thanks.
As to giving away the free PDF, here is the deal: you can contact me anytime (via email, Facebook or Twitter) to request a free copy of the PDF if you just don't want to (or can't) spend the $7.50, and I will send you the download link. In return, what I ask from you is to pay me with attention, i.e. to write a review on Lulu, a blog-post, or a tweet about my book, with a link (all 3 is best;). Deal?
As to the title: I used to simply call this compilation 'The Best of Media Futurist' but while looking through all those posts - and spending a lot more time revising them - I found an important thread that goes through almost all of it and which therefore has become the new title: Friction is Fiction. So what does that mean? It means that if you are currently basing your success on maintaining or even constructing hurdles, difficulties or other bottlenecks somewhere in the system - i.e. if there is something that impedes the flow of information, or a transaction or purchase so that a higher price point or some other form of control over the can be obtained - then you are very likely to face diminishing revenues in the next few years. Building obstacles for users (fka consumers) used to work just fine but... no longer. Building walls is the fastest road to suicide in the digital economy.
The web has been utterly ruthless about finding these glaring points of friction, such as paying for eMail (remember that?), paying a ton of money for long-distance phone calls (remember those pre-skype days?), or consumers not having any access to travel booking systems, flight information or seating. These hurdles are being removed, one-by-one, and those 'people formerly known as consumers' are getting more powerful every single day. Banking on friction to increase your revenues has become like throwing matches into the river and asking it to stop - it's useless.
Friction was, of course, the main money-maker in the media, entertainment and content business, for a long time: certain CDs were only available in certain stores at certain times in certain countries, DVDs with those movies you really wanted were only available in certain countries and within certain 'windows', books had to be printed and shipped, and ring-tones could only be purchased from your operator. Basically, at every turn the consumer encountered have-to's and must's which essentially allowed a substantial level of control by the media and content companies - and thus, higher prices. In many cases, the more friction the higher the price you could ask for.
The proposed "3 Strikes" legislation is flawed in many more ways than I could hope to outline in this letter, and many of these issues have already been addressed in many other places. Therefore I shall provide only a quick summary of some of the key issues, and then move on to describe what a fruitful, realistic and decidedly more pragmatic alternative could look like.
Unauthorized use of music on the Internet is not a technical problem but a business issue. The reasons why the global ‘free’ sharing of music via the Internet (whether streamed or downloaded) is growing exponentially cannot be nullified by technological means. Rather, the digital music (r)evolution clearly poses a myriad of business and socio-cultural problems that require us to devise a new social contract that legalizes what people actually do, and then build new business models around it.
Anyone that has attempted to innovate within the music industry (including me) will attest to the fact that the largest hurdle for the monetization of music on the Internet during the past 15 years has been the astounding absence of new licensing schemes that actually fit the 'Internet Generation' i.e. the digital natives, and the new ways of consumption that connected consumers are rapidly adopting. Bottom line: the problem is not what consumers are doing - the problem is that the music industry has not blessed it with a license yet!
Therefore, any attempt to solve these business issues with technological measures – such as the proposed 3-strikes legislation – would, with utter certainty, be very expensive, have serious social and political consequences and yet fail miserably to deliver tangible monetary results for the content industries or indeed the creators; just like Digital Rights Management (DRM) which was pushed very hard by the music industry for over a decade and has now finally been acknowledged as the snake-oil it really always was. The only outcome of the proposed 3 Strikes legislation would be to further criminalize every single consumer that is interested in music, every fan and every potential customer.
So, again, let me be pragmatic: this idea means no money for the creators, no new revenues for the industry (but even more rejection by the consumer), and still no satisfaction for the music consumers. In my view, the most pressing objective must be to solve the very real problem of how music (and then, other digital content) can indeed generate new revenues via the Internet - for the old revenue streams are the past, beyond a shadow of a doubt - just look at what is happening to newspapers and print publishing! Technology will not and cannot solve problems posed by seriously outmoded business practices.
I would argue that we are in fact trying to build a new business on top of the decidedly pre-Internet principle of total and exclusive copyright – a stark dilemma that has proven to create endless friction but produce very few new revenues. The very idea of being able to control the flow of files in order to extract earlier or possibly higher payments from the users is fundamentally flawed, and we must therefore look for ways to monetize it rather than to prevent it.
The value of music is no longer (just) in the copied file. We urgently need to understand and accept that the value of music is no longer (just) in the mere copies of the digital files. Our attention needs to shift from the old - and dying - business of ‘selling the copy’ to selling everything else i.e. the many other values around that copy (some people call that 'service' ;) but starting with providing very low-cost or flat-rated and bundled access, and then creating many new revenue generators on-top of the bundled, legalized access to music. Once legal and unlimited music distribution is build-into Internet access - when Access is Content - a revitalized music industry can focus on talent, curation and marketing, i.e. the attention-getting and the conversion of that attention into actual income. And yes, there is serious commercial value in the music industry once we regulate distribution (I call this Music 2.0 - if you care to read my free book on this... here it is)
The DML: the alternative to the proposed '3 Strikes' legislation. 80 years ago, the answer to the challenge of a then-new and vastly popular technology called 'Radio' was to legalize it and provide new licensing schemes to remunerate the content creators. The same thing happened with CableTV and with the copy-machine, and the very same logic needs to be applied to music on the Internet. A public, collective, standardized and open license for music on the Internet needs to be either voluntarily created by the music industry, or mandated i.e. enforced by the government - and the sooner the better for everyone. The DML would - similar to the existing radio & broadcasting licenses that are already in effect around the world - make music available on public, standardized terms and conditions, and therefore allow any and all businesses that want to use music to do so without the utterly crippling uncertainties that exist in the current marketplace.
Revenue shares and flat rates - not fixed license fees per song. The objective of the DML is to create a new, vast, and constantly replenishing ‘pool of money’ for music, i.e. to grow the revenue potential along with the growing number of users, as well as via the many new kinds of usages that will be spawned by the DML.
In my opinion, the most crucial component of the DML is this: the license fee needs to be calculated on a revenue-sharing basis rather than on a per-unit i.e. per song fee, whether streamed or downloaded. The current practice of a fixed per-track fee (usually amounting to about 1 cent U.S. per song, for the use of the master recording) for a stream and around 70 cents (U.S.) for a download has proven to be economically detrimental and utterly unrealistic for the market participants (such as Omnifone, Spotify, Rhapsody, Napster, We7 and Yahoo). Why is this? Because of the still-very-nascent stage of the digital music ecosystem, the fact that large-scale advertising revenues for new forms of media are always 2-3-5 years behind, and given that a very large number of users - potentially all UK consumers - are likely to listen to quite a bit of music in this way.
In its formative stage, this new market does not and will not bear license fees that are fixed in this manner and that are totally unrelated to actual incoming revenue streams. Instead, the DML would need to be calculated on a flat-rate or percentage-of-revenue basis, possibly combined with a minimum 'floor' that could prevent unfair and unintended use of 'free' music as a loss-leader (if needed).
Initial DML's reserved for ISPs, telecoms and operators. Since there are many different kinds of businesses that would benefit from having legalized music available (e.g. telecoms, operators, search engines, social networks and communities, blogs, web portals, online magazines etc) but their business objectives and parameters are so vastly different, I would propose to initially make the DML only available to ISPs, mobile network operators and telecommunications providers. This would have several important advantages: 1) once ISPs and operators are able i.e. licensed to offer music bundles and flat rates, they will have every incentive and reason to monitor (i.e. count not control!) which songs are used on their network, 2) they have very large user bases which will provide for a critical scale of payments to be obtained immediately (thus significantly lessening the perceived threat of revenue loss in the physical music market), 3) they have strong potential for the integration of next-generation, user-friendly advertising integration 4) and they already have build-in billing and payment mechanisms.
A flat fee license per user, generated in a multitude of ways. When licensing ISPs, mobile operators and other telecommunications companies it will be crucial to offer flat-rate licenses rather than to pursue revenue shares which are not going to be an acceptable way of generating music revenues from this process, at least initially. Rather, I believe that a fixed, flat-rate license fee per user, per week or month, would be the most suitable way provided that suitable 3rd parties (see below) will also engage to contribute to the funding of each user’s license fee. We must not simply declare the license fee payments to be the ISP’s problem - because it isn't, and because the solution is in the creation of a new Ecosystem, a new business logic, and not in creating tax-like burdens for individual industries.
Economic experts have already done a lot of work on the flat rate model. Far from being an economist myself, I would add that a payment of 1 GBP (in the UK) or 1 Euro (in Germany, France etc) per week per user seems to be economically feasible; however the exact price point will of course need to be negotiated with all involved parties, and possibly be adapted on a yearly basis until the market is more fully developed and each party’s ultimate value position can be determined. In any case -and this is crucial - the DML must clearly be so utterly affordable that every single ISP, operator and telecommunications company would immediately apply for a license.
In terms of the actual use of the music and the subsequent accounting for remuneration purposes, I propose that it should not make a difference if a song is downloaded or streamed (i.e. played on-demand while online), and - similar to CableTV - it should not make a difference if a user would use music 24 hours a day, every single day, or just download 3 songs every now and then. All music usage would need be counted, anonymized and reported, and artists would get paid fully proportional to the actual use of music i.e. according to their popularity (see below for details).
A calculation example: a pool of 2.6 Billion GBP per year for music, in the UK. As an example, a DSL provider and mobile network operator with 20 Million UK users would need to generate funds to pay for a DML of GBP 80 Million per month, i.e. 960 Million GBP per year.
Assuming, for mere calculation purposes, an average of 50 Million eligible UK residents i.e. a large percentage of the entire UK population (~ 61 Million) generating 1 GBP per week, the revenues for the music industry would amount to a very substantial 50 Million GBP per week i.e. 2.6 Billion GBP per year, which represents almost twice the UK's recorded music revenues in 2008 (1.36 Billion GBP). Any argument of ‘cannibalization’ of existing revenue streams such as CDs or iTunes would pale against this figure. And yes, iTunes would do just fine with and on-top of the flat-rate: remember they don't sell music, they sell iPods and iPhones!
How to fund a DML of 1 GBP per week per user. The key question is, of course, how exactly the ISPs and telecoms would raise the money to pay for the quite significant cost of the DML, every week, per user. This is a crucial issue since,a gain, under no circumstances should the ISPs, operators or telecoms be made solely responsible for the financial solution of this problem; it is absolutely crucial to position the DML as a business solution that will unlock strong new revenue opportunities and will be more than cost-neutral in a fairly short time. In my view, the job of building the financial support mechanisms i.e. the ecosystem that the DML will require should be handled by a mutually respected, knowledgeable and neutral advisory board whose mission would be to 'collate' this new ecosystem and to get device makers, advertisers, premium-service providers and other interested parties aboard as quickly as possible.
Advertising is only one of the many ways to fund the DML. Of course, as in television and radio, advertising is one of the key factors that will subsidize the DML fees. The concept of advertising-supported content is not new but what will be drastically different, going forward, is the type of advertising that we will see on digital networks in the very near future. Concepts such as advertising becoming content, itself (such as in mobile phone applications) and social advertising will blossom once permission for the legal use of music is given, creating much higher advertising revenues than we are currently seeing online.
The global advertising spend currently amounts to roughly $ 670 Billion USD, per year. The UK advertising & marketing spend is forecast at approx 25 Billion GBP in 2010 (eMarketer), with - by 2012 - an estimated 25% i.e. 6.25 Billion GBP going to digital and mobile advertising. Yet, digital and mobile advertising would only be one piece of this new puzzle: handset makers could pay subsidies to get preferred i.e. 'presented by' access to users (basically a network-centric variation of the existing ‘Nokia comes with Music’ concept), social networks could contribute subsidies to legally integrate ISP-hosted music into their own networks via the DMLs that operators and ISPs would already have; search engines and portals could do the same. Imagine if Google could sit on-top of this new system of fully legalized, feels-like-free music - this is similar to how Google has already made legal music (streaming and downloading) 'feels like free' in China.
After an initial set-up period, it would be crucial that an ISP or operator that makes use of the DML would be able to fully recover the DML costs through a multitude of new revenue streams, such as next-generation advertising, the sale of mobile applications based on the unlimited availability of music (such as social music and play list applications), subsidies by CE companies i.e. handset and device makers, data-mining and cross-selling (with careful consideration to consumers’ data protection and privacy, of course) and various forms of up-selling of other product and services (including music-related premiums) such as the games industry has been offering for the past decade, already, or even by re-packaging some of the license costs to their users.
The DML is NOT a tax. Any indication that the DML essentially amounts to a tax or is yet another compulsory payment scheme levied onto the consumer (such as the existing TV & Radio licenses) or a particular industry needs to be avoided, at least in the UK market where such a proposal would probably be politically unwise. The DML is simply a new license that is made available to businesses that want to use digital music, with the funding being generated from the market participants, themselves.
Monitoring of usage and fair payment to content owners. Every song that is performed i.e. streamed or downloaded on the Internet would need to be tracked and accounted for, using already available software solutions such as Gracenote or Shazam. This data would need to be made anonymous using a mathematical formula that would protect each user’s private data while still providing actuarial tracking of which song has been used how many times, on any given day, week or month.
Each artist and rights-holder would then receive a monthly payment that is proportional to the actuarial use of their music during each tracking period, e.g. if a given artist’s music was used 1.3% of the time (e.g. in any given month), he or she or their representatives (record labels and publishers) would receive 1.3% of the total pool of money collected. All participating creators (e.g. writers, lyricists, composers, producers etc) would get their proportional payment from the same pool. I am advocating a 50-50 split between the composer and the performer (i.e. recording and publishing), at this time. Overlaps with existing rights schemes (such as public performance on the Internet, and so-called web-casting and Internet-radio) would need to be investigated and addressed, as well.
Existing examples: similar models to the proposed DML are already in place, or are being investigated in:
Please note: this short letter cannot possibly answer every question that may arise if this proposal is further investigated or realized. Rather, I intend to make the case for why the DML would solve the pressing problem of legalizing and at the same time monetizing the many new ways that consumers use music on the Internet. Please keep in mind that most of the suggestions outlined above are still quite basic; prior to making any precise recommendations in regards to possible implementations a lot more research and input from all involved parties is required. Also, while my suggestions should be applied to digital music only, at this time, I do foresee similar developments within other digital content sectors such as motion pictures, TV and books - albeit within a wider timeframe (i.e. 3-5 years).