aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Friday, November 25, 2005
Pyramids and Pancakes (again)
Or fewer rich stars and more middle class musicians!
Here’s some of what Chris Anderson posted on his Thanksgiving Day:
A fascinating paper from David Blackburn, a Harvard PhD student, on the economics of P2P file-sharing concludes that it does indeed depress music sales overall. But the effect is not felt evenly. The hits at the top of the charts lose sales, but the niche artists further down the popularity curve actually benefit from file-trading.
From the report:
[p.32] Artists who are unknown, and thus most helped by file sharing, are those artists who sell relatively few albums, whereas artists who are harmed by file sharing and thus gain from its removal, the popular ones, are the artists whose sales are relatively high.
This conclusion leads to further questions regarding the impacts that file sharing has had and will have on the recorded music industry. In particular, if file sharing essentially shifts sales away from established acts toward unknown acts, this has potentially very important implications for how talent is developed and distributed in the industry. As with the simple short-run effects of file sharing on sales, the direction of the impact is not clear. While one might guess that increasing the sales of new acts would lead to more investment in developing new talent, it is also possible that the investment in new acts is done as a fishing expedition to find artists who will sell millions of records. File sharing is reducing the probability that any act is able to sell millions of records, and if the success of the mega-star artists is what drives the investment in new acts, it might reduce the incentive to invest in new talent. This is, at its heart, an empirical question which is left to future work.
Chris looks at the data and concludes:
[F]ile-trading seems to help those in the bottom three-quarters of popularity, probably for the reasons stated above… The Long Tail implications of this are pretty clear. For the majority of artists further down the tail, free distribution is good marketing, with a net positive effect on sales. Which is yet another reminder that the rules are all too often made to protect the minority of artists at the top of the curve, not most artists overall.
And a reminder that the record companies who make money at the top of the curve will never embrace a world where talent can bloom and grow and be found lower down on that curve. Why should they? They’re quite comfortable and feel entitled to stay just exactly right where they are. They built that industry, they want to keep it.
In the world I want to live in, talent is everywhere, big and small, and niche audiences spend money so that talent can make a living wage. And a thriving industry makes money with them. A third giant - a Yahoo!, a Google, a Web 2.0 Google successor - will have to bring that about. I look forward to the day.
PLEASE SEE ALSO: My first Pyramids and Pancakes post.
What I don’t miss
Thieves are sawing down aluminum light poles. Some 130 have vanished from Baltimore’s streets in the last several weeks, the authorities say, presumably sold for scrap metal. But so far the case of the pilfered poles has stumped the police, and left many local residents wondering just how someone manages to make off with what would seem to be a conspicuous street fixture. [...]
The culprits seem to have pole-snatching down to a model of precision and efficiency, city officials say. They appear to have gone so far as dressing up as utility crews, the police say, and placing orange traffic cones around the poles about to be felled, to avoid arousing suspicion among motorists.
The missing poles have become yet another measure of the desperation in one of the country’s most violent cities. Last year, Baltimore, with a population about one-twelfth that of New York City’s, had a homicide rate more than five times as high.
An illegal drug trade fuels much of the violence. Health officials say 40,000 addicts live among Baltimore’s estimated 650,000 residents.
Now I’m sure it’s a measure of desperation; less so that it’s fueled by the illegal drug trade. Where is the documentation of that? Looks like another correlation without demonstrated causation to me.
But let’s say for a moment there is causation. Is the answer treatment and decriminalization or arrest and incarceration? Clearly, whatever they’re doing - I’m betting it’s not treatment and counseliong; we know it’s not decriminalization - IS NOT WORKING!
Bit Torrent beauty
Whoa Nelly, here’s a little sumtin’ sumtin’ to get the attention of the MPAA and RIAA litigation gestapo: Dutch company LamaBox is launching today what they are claiming to be the world’s first media player with built-in peer-2-peer functionality. It plugs directly into your TV, provides search and download support for all the major P2P services you’d expect including Bittorrent and Kazaa, ships with a DVD burner and up to 400GB with 2 additional IDE connections for expansion, and is said to play “any format” of image/audio/video files found on the Internet.
In a deal aimed at reducing illegal internet traffic in pirated films, Hollywood reached an agreement Tuesday with the creator of the popular file-sharing software BitTorrent.
The agreement requires 30-year-old software designer Bram Cohen to prevent his BitTorrent website from locating pirated versions of popular movies, effectively frustrating people who search for illegal copies of films.
Don’t Confuse the Company and the Protocol… The company more or less had to do this to stay a legal enterprise, and is putting a good face on the inevitable. Presumably, few people trading, say, first-run movies are going to be stupid enough to put their torrent sites into the index of the search engine anyway. So in the end, unless Hollywood somehow figures out a way to put the protocol genie back into the bottle this is going to have just about zero impact on the trading of content via BitTorrent (the protocol).
Looking a layer deeper, this story is about whether or not the Cartel will allow companies that kowtow sufficiently to go legit, especially after showing they can smash Grokster (the company - no effect on music trading of course). As with any protocol, BitTorrent software can be used for any number of purposes. If the Cartel ever want to have a distribution protocol and network for their content they’ll have to buy or build something. if BitTorrent (the company) wants to be part of that buy/build answer - and I bet it does - then this kind of agreement is absolutely necessary table stakes.
Tell it like it is
In Life: the disorder, David Amsden uses ADD drugs and treatment to look at the way our society is increasingly popping prescribed pills for newly diagnosed disorders and wonders, “is it time to retire our moralistic distinction between ‘recreational’ and ‘medical’ drugs?”
It seems especially stubborn—dare I say immature—that the medical community refuses to acknowledge just how much certain psychotropic drugs blur the line between the biochemical and societal. Even more peculiar is that while we usher in a state of being permanently medicated, selective dosing is still viewed as “recreational” and “risky.” What’s interesting about ADD drugs is that they are remarkably effective regardless of how your brain looks when scanned, achieving what for centuries we’ve turned to coffee to accomplish, with about the same potential for side effects. So here’s a radical thought: Why not just put them in the same category? After all, what’s worse, continuing to find ways to define the everyday in terms of disorders until we’re all taking pills to curb the effects of other pills, or admitting that we’ve synthesized substances that can help, from time to time, in different doses for both adults and children, take the edge off in a way that doesn’t throw you off track? To me it seems more honest this way, more grown-up, and less likely to rouse our collective inner voices into an anxious chorus constantly wondering what’s “wrong” with us.
The argument against this pro-enhancement mind-set, of course, is that it breeds addiction. Though to refute this, one need only look at a fact D.A.R.E. counselors hate to admit about illegal drugs—that most people who do them never become addicted, that many people smoke pot and do coke much the way they “drink responsibly,” and for many of the same reasons (relaxation, focus, confidence boosting) that people ask their doctors if a variety of pills is right for them. Really, it comes down to whether we want to view lifestyle pharmaceuticals as something indulged in passively or actively—a healthy reinvention of adulthood or a submissive rejection of the difficulties and responsibilities that come with growing up. There are no easy answers here, but until these questions are the ones brought up on the “Today” show—instead of the dog-and-pony act of whether the drugs are being “abused”—we are, as a psychiatrist might say, in a state of denial.
Read the whole thing. He is 100% dead-on. Bold, honest and accurate.
Budget’s blog ad
A friend in marketing at a Fortune 100 company asked about advertising on blogs last summer. From his perspective, “the internet is sold out.” What he means is that the handful of big sites that constitute what the ad-world is used to buying, a mass audience, are sold out. Other sites are hardly worth the effort; you can’t reach enough of an audience.
I said something about how the situation reminds me of cable in the early days when ads had to be bought system by system, before they had a structure in place, and that a structure to capture the massive audience that reads the larger majority of sites would be built.
He was skeptical.
In that context the $20,000 Budget Rent-A-Car ad buy is a small but significant marker:
Budget turned to blogs to promote a contest with a scavenger hunt motif, buying advertisements on 177 blogs bearing names like BuzzMachine, Gizmodo, Jossip, Largehearted Boy, Overheard in New York, Stereogum and The Superficial. [...]
The campaigns from Hasbro and Budget are a sign of the increasing appeal of nontraditional media to once-conservative mainstay marketers as they seek to reach bombarded consumers. The growing willingness to consider alternatives to television commercials, billboards and print ads is one of the most significant changes in marketing in decades.
“I’ve got to be smart and make my brand feel smart to the consumer,” said Scott Deaver, executive vice president for marketing at the Cendant Car Rental Group in Parsippany, N.J., which oversees Budget and Avis.
“I can’t outspend Hertz,” Mr. Deaver added, “but I can outsmart them.”
What is most valuable about nontraditional media like blogs, Mr. Deaver said, is their ability to “actively engage the consumer” compared with “passive TV spots” and other traditional choices.
Budget’s happy with the 60,000 click-throughs it got from nearly 20 million impressions and says the company will be “back in this space” in the spring.
SEE ALSO: Businesses are spending $50 million to $100 million on blog advertising this year.