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The Trouble with Music

Music is a central part of many of the stories in The Pirate’s Dilemma, so naturally I tend to talk about music a lot in my keynotes. It would be great to use some of the music I mention in my talks, but there is no legal way for me to do this. I would happily pay for this privilege, but it is impossible. I checked with someone I know at ASCAP, I asked my speaking agency – same answer. There is simply no way for this to happen legally.

However if I do decide to use a few snippets of music anyway, there is a huge legal machine that could come after me. Some large organizations make you sign a contract indemnifying them for up to $1m in damages, just in case you do use something you weren’t supposed to. You’re not given an opportunity to pay to use music, but if you do it anyway, it’s possible you’ll pay dearly.

And herein lays the problem with the music business. There can’t be much money in royalties earned from people using music clips in PowerPoint presentations, but there is some. There are a million other ways people use music that the music business would never consider as revenue streams, because they are tiny. But if you use music anyway when legally you’re not supposed to, which all of us do, apparently it’s not too much trouble to punish you.

The future of digital media is not one large revenue stream. Lawsuits cannot control the flow of digital information. People are going to use your stuff anyway. The only thing you can do is give them the option to pay for it.

7 Responses to “The Trouble with Music”

  1. Dave Boodakian Says:

    That couldn’t be more true Matt, the one I really love is the rule about playing original music in bars and coffee shops. I’m a musician and I had this discussion with a few club owners the other day who told me “I couldn’t play covers” in my set. Apparently ASCAP, BMI, whoever, goes around checking on these places and if they don’t have a license or the musician doesn’t have a license, they get a fine. I can’t think of anything more ridiculous! Of course there’s the “if you can’t beat em, join em” theory, which is so true for the piracy you talked about in your book, but what about the fact that all musicians are doing by playing covers is introducing people to new music or reminding them of great songs they already know… this of course makes them want to go buy more music!

    It’s unbelievable, but like many others have said, it’s the reason I don’t have any sympathy for the big wigs that are watching the music biz go down in flames.

    Loved the book, I’m using a lot of the ideas in my own music marketing!

    Cheers,
    Dave

  2. Dynamo_ace Says:

    You have hit the spot once more Matt.

    Your phase for the week people is:

    “People are going to use your stuff anyway. The only thing you can do is give them the option to pay for it.”

  3. Verdienmodel | Marco Raaphorst Says:

    [...] zaterdag, 29 maart 2008 – print deze post The future of digital media is not one large revenue stream. Lawsuits cannot control the flow of dig… [...]

  4. kosmonaut Says:

    If you are talking about snippets of work, how could that not be considered fair use? Wouldn’t the key be that you were using the music for academic discussion?

    Obviously, IANAL, but isn’t this one pretty straightforward?

  5. Stuff That Matters « Ryan for the Future Says:

    [...] From The Pirate’s Dilemma: The Trouble With Music The future of digital media is not one large revenue stream. Lawsuits cannot control the flow of digital information. People are going to use your stuff anyway. The only thing you can do is give them the option to pay for it. (read the whole article here) [...]

  6. mattmason Says:

    Kosmonaut – The problem arises when you’re earning money for speaking. Same thing applies to all the photos you use too.

  7. Will Says:

    i don’t try to sell mp3s anymore. Bands/musicians should focus on selling access to their band online(behind the scenes footage, songwriting sessions, etc) rather than trying to sell digital copies of their music. Use the free mp3s, videos, social networking sites, etc to draw traffic to your own site. It’s easy to build your own membership site that charges a monthly fee for fans to access using wordpress, paypal and an email autoresponder. The mp3s don’t have a high perceived value because they can be easily copied.

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