Two words, Benjamin: Economic Oblivion



Freddie deBoer used to blog at, and may again someday. Now he blogs here.

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7 Responses

  1. Avatar Chad says:

    I’ve often wondered whether the endgame would involve performers of pop music having climb down to earth and suck the same swampwater that classical musicians have been gulping down for ages. The music industry was born of the ability for what had been ephemeral performances to be transformed into commodities. The performances are becoming ephemeral again (or rather so ubiquitous that they might as well be ephemeral) and the music industry as we know it will likely die. The thought of modern pop stars having to wander about playing festivals while hawking for CD sales and donations from a booth like a Renaissance Fair player kind of amuses me. Or at least would amuse me more if I didn’t know so many lives would be ruined by that.Report

  2. Avatar cwk says:

    I think you’re being overly pessimistic.

    “anybody with a broadband connection can get his music for free while contributing nothing to him”.

    And yet, not everyone did. He made a large sum of money. Radiohead outright let people pay nothing if they chose with In Rainbows, and yet they made more money on that album that they did with their previous traditional CD Hail to the Thief. I’m perfectly technically capable of getting anything album for free if I wanted to, and yet I don’t. I’ve bought three albums just this week. So perhaps consumers of music have more complex motivations than just trying to get what they want for free.

    Now I paid far less for these albums than I would have in the past because I bought them through digital download services (iTunes, Amazon). The cost of music is being driven downward, is this is going to cause artists to make less money. But that’s good for fans of music. This plus the “long tail” means we’re going to have less multi-millionaire megastars and more $60k/year Jonathan Coultons. I’m fine with that, and I’m betting most musicians would be too. Some people no doubt will just get their music for free. But enough people won’t that musicians will still be able to make a decent living, even if the days of “rock star excess” may be numbered.

    As to the decline of the PC gaming industry, that’s caused less by piracy and more by having an inferior product than the consoles. Your average gamer wants to buy a console and have it run everything they want to play for years, rather than having to buy a new video card several times over that same period and play constant driver compatibility games. And even among the die-hards who will always prefer PC games, new distribution methods like Steam are making the piracy question moot.Report

  3. Avatar Andrew says:

    I think the comparison of CDs to DVDs is the most instructive one. While I know some movie pirates, movie downloading is not nearly as prevalent as music downloading. I think a big part of that is the price point that DVDs are set at, usually $10-15, even for new releases. CDs are set at that same price point, even though a consumer feels like he or she is getting less (audio only, few or no “extras”, usually a shorter length) on a CD than a DVD. I do wonder what would happen if CDs set a permanent price point in the $5-10 range. I think that the increase in sales would offset the decline in price, but I really don’t know for sure.Report

  4. Avatar MikeF says:

    Some bands I’m sure can sell a lot of downloads with this model. Whether or not they are doing so in a way that is actually fiscally solvent is a larger question. Are these bands recouping a profit in this model? Is the profit enough to earn them at least a decent living? And is this model upwardly scalable?

    In the coming years I expect the answers to the above questions will be yes /no / no. But there’s another part of the equation: touring. I think the business model for bands will shift to less time in the studio and more time on the road. Which isn’t as profitable a model, but still should be decently profitable. As for books, I am deeply pessimistic despite personally preferring paper to Kindle.Report

  5. Avatar Freddie says:

    As to the decline of the PC gaming industry, that’s caused less by piracy and more by having an inferior product than the consoles.