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August 4, 2010

Responding to a reviewer

Found this review of my E-book. So happy that someone has engaged with the ideas!!

Actually, I'm honoured that although Jillian disagrees with the central premise of Part 1, she still wants to read Parts 2 and 3. Working on that for you all ...

For the most part, Jillian seems to agree with the early parts of the book, but her summary indicates that she disagrees with bits and struggles to come to terms with the more fundamental shifts in thinking it outlines. I find this puzzling, because in disagreeing she's restated my point ...

Jillian agrees up to the point where she says:

Music is ephemeral – in the physical sense. But certainly not emotionally.

We do disagree here. Unless your emotions are fixed, music is emotionally ephemeral as well. Any particular piece of music is irrelevant as soon as your mood changes. I, for one, don't feel like listening to The Four Seasons while I'm pounding the training track, and I don't view Megadeath as suitable for a romantic weekend away. Some people may differ in their taste but few would disagree with the substance of that statement. When I'm in a particular mood, there are probably 1000 songs that will suit or enhance that mood, so music is pretty substitutable as well. Sometimes, I don't feel like listening to music at all - the only emotional response I have to hearing some is irritation.

Music IS as ephemeral as a person's mood. Literally.

Next Jillian argues:

I mean, this whole time, record labels have existed to sell me a piece of transitory technology and no one gives a crap about the music? Give me a break.

Of course, not. This is exactly the point: people bought (and sold!) the technology BECAUSE they love the music. But they didn't buy the music, only the technology. The music is a completely different thing that, coincidentally, happened to be the most valuable thing stored on the technology. LPs of spoken words have been sold in millions ...

To put it another way, the technologies used to reproduce music are not "music technologies", they are technologies that are more appealing when music is added to them. An empty room is a technology that is more appealing when music is added - but if you walk in an listen, you're still in an empty room and when the music stops, you're still in an empty room ...

CDs, tapes, pieces of paper, etc would still have been sold without music on them, just as some phonographs were sold to businesses. Music still exists independent of the technologies - the two are not bound together. But the music was added precisely because doing so increased sales of the technology. The technology was not created specifically for music - and, in the case of the iPhone vs the iPod, the technology with more flexible application will triumph over the more limited technology.

Jillian continues:

... how is it exactly that the owners of technology are the ones who benefits more from copyright law than the owners of intellectual property? Because they’re utilized more and have a wider notoriety than most copyright owners will ever dream of being? The last time I checked, copyright law exists to promote artistic creativity, not technology.

Well, actually, that's not what's happening. Recent studies have shown that, although we are being told that this is the aim of IP laws (and I don't doubt for a second that the makers of IP laws hold true to that aim) the effect is the exact opposite. Excessive IP 'protection' stifles innovation and creativity across a society. (I'm trying to locate some of these studies. There was a big one last year - anyone?)

The technology vendors benefit most from copyright law because they control the item that is sold, and they are expected to pay a royalty to the IP creators for inclusion of the content. Without the technology, the IP is worthless (in fact, without the technology, the IP does not legally exist).

The harsh reality of IP law has been that IP cannot be 'protected' until it is technologically fixed. When it is, the ownership of the IP rests with its author (unless it is sold or assigned to someone else) but the ownership of the technology rests with the publisher, not the author. The publisher is required to negotiate a royalty with the author, but the record labels are notorious for negotiating to keep most of those royalties, too. The authors of hit songs have made bugger-all from their sales, while the publishers make a motza!

Further, the industry structure that has resulted from this legal framework has been such that only the creations of a very few have ever been seriously considered for commercial exploitation. Other works may be been suitable or even superior but were never considered because the decision-makers never knew (nor probably cared) that they existed. That's not an evil scheme of record-label conspiracy, it's just the industrial reality. But it does not "promote artistic creativity" in a society, it just enhances the prospects of those creators who ARE able to commercialise their works.

Anyone who believes that IP laws have protected the interests of IP authors when the recordings are sold is deluded ...

Jillian then argues:

But music is the cause, not the effect. The iPod was created and sold because of music and to enhance our musical experiences by allow us to take it with us anywhere we want. We may be more enticed to buy a smart phone over a regular phone because it plays music, but music is not the selling point. I’ve tried to wrap my head around this guy’s thinking, but I just can’t do it.

Yes! Exactly! To experience the music is the reason you buy the technology - but you buy the technology, not the music. The music is optional/ephemeral/independent of the technology and is added to it separately to make the technology more appealing.

The record industry believed they were selling music, when in fact they were creating musical recordings that were used to sell reproduction technologies. Now that the recordings can be obtained by other means, or at least, alternative, 'Independent' recordings (which buyers are quite happy to substitute for the labels' offerings) can be obtained by other means, the market for their technologies of reproduction is declining. This is exactly where they went wrong.

Hope this clarifies things. I'm gonna get on with Part 2 ...

Posted by DrHuge at August 4, 2010 1:00 PM

I only read the above comments and not had the pleasure of reading part one yet. However, Record companies need to see themselves more as marketing companies to push product online. The record company cd sales are plummeting. The whole music business a mess. I do agree new laws have to be established so that the songwriter does not get exploited. I cannot speak for any other country but I can definately tell you that in South Africa what I do find a little unreasonable is the fact that 'deals' are being done for entire record companies, which seem to be squashing out the independants....but hey I could be wrong. Its my observation. So the big music download sights only seem to deal with the 'big boys'in the business. These are generally the download sites that get marketed and advertised. But then there are 20 different ways to get around this one. If anyone knows any different, I would love to know who and how.

Posted by: Kylé Adcock at August 6, 2010 3:15 AM

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