TechCrunch founder and CEO Michael Arrington, a top web writer, debater, and all things startup, wrote a nice post about 360 music deals this week. Towards the end of the post he goes on to restate a position he has been advocating for well over a year now, that “Recorded Music will be Free“. The year old post links to other bloggers that take contrary opinions of his post, including Paul Glazowski of Profy.com.
Mr. Arrington may be right in his position, he may not be. Nevertheless, it’s a position worth debating. For clarifcation, AudioMicro interprets Arrington’s prediction to be that “music will be totally free for everyone to download and use in a personal manner but that it will be supported through an advertising model”. This is an interesting opinion, we think he’s “partially right”. Now, let’s give him due credit – Michael Arrington is a very wise man and not a single thing we can say or ever will say will be a better opinion that his. He is a master debater, attorney, and phenominal writer and he has undoubtedly built a media empire over at TechCrunch – we are avid readers of the site and it’s biased, yet well founded opinions. That being said, AudioMicro shall attempt to break down Mr. Arrington’s opinion by offering some biased points of our own.
For the past 12 years or so, music has already been free (free if you want to “steal” it, that is). Therefore, the notion that music “will be free” seems to be stating the obvious. Anyone with half a brain and an internet connection for the past 12 years has been able to get any song and any album from the file sharing services and this rapid theft shows no slowdown as services like BitTorrent are more popular than ever.
Just as music is already free to those who choose to steal is, so is every single other type of digital content, including software, photography, movies, books, and journalism. If it’s not free through outright piracy, the content is free through a promotion, trial, hack, torrent, or business model (e.g. a startup company that has realized that they can take market share – aka shrink markets – by offering content for free where the larger, more established players make you pay for it).
Journalism (aka “The News”) is already free, on the internet at least. Nobody in their right mind should pay to read internet news / blogs and nobody does pay for these services (at least nobody under age 40 that’s aware of “free content”). News outlets simply offer a product for free (news and opinions and quite oftern opinions disguised as news) and then sell advertising across the content to support the business. Perhaps it is just plain obvious that a blogger would advocate that music should “really be free, yet ad supported” is because that is the model that they already operate their businesses under – giving the content away for free and slapping advertising all over it.
So why do people pay for still pay for content when it’s already free and the ramifications of copyright infringement are so small and unenforcable to outweigh the benefits of saving money and getting the product you desire? Why is the photography licensing industry a $2 billion industry if photos are free through creative commons licenses? How does Warner Music Group (WMG), even in an awful stock market, maintain a market capitalization of $571 million (as of the time of this post)? How is this possible if WMG is doomed to be a “musical advertisement”. Clearly, people still do pay for music and they will continue to pay for music, but why?
When it comes to personal use music, AudioMicro feels that Arrington is certainly onto something; however, when it comes to commercial use, we know that people are paying for music, and appropriately securing synchronization rights for music used in their audio-visual projects. Sync licensing is the nature of our business here at AudioMicro, and we continue to see increased revenues from the licensing of music for commercial use. Performance and Synchronization are the two areas that seem to be immune to any attack of “free music”. AudioMicro is a business built upon the fundamentals that stealing (or making unauthorized use of) digital content is not the right thing to do and that nobody benefits from piracy.
Contrary to personal use music sites that can be ad supported, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to place advertisements within music used for commercial purposes. You can make television free, yet ad supported by forcing users to watch advertisements and you can even give photos away through ad supported models like PicApp; however, you can not just give music away and run an advertisement over it and you certainly cannot place music containing advertisements into a films, animations, podcasts, websites, or other video productions. If you are an artist worried about the decline in personal use music revenues as a result of free, yet ad supported music models emerging, we encourage you to join the growing crowd of micro stock music artists here at AudioMicro that are earning cash from sync fees and the attachment of music to a growing variety of visual media.