How Do Artists Get Paid?

CIQ Trends

First, let’s get one thing straight. Most artists are already starving. So talking about illegal file sharing as if it is going to spawn hoards of starving artists is just plain dumb. Yes, it possibly– that’s possibly— puts into jeopardy the paycheck of a minority of artists who currently get paid (most not too well) by large media conglomerates. I am an author of both fiction and non-fiction. So for me, this is not just an abstract concept.

Second, we have got to stop trying to solve new problems with old tools. I am not going to run my company’s finances using an abacus, nor navigate a boat with a sextant. For centuries what has protected content is the pain-in-the-ass factor. Why don’t I scan in and OCR The DaVinci Code and distribute it? Because it’s a pain in the ass.

All lock-and-key technologies rely on this same pain-in-the-ass concept. Why don’t you undo the lock? Finding the key is a pain in the ass.  DRM is just an electronic lock and key. But here’s the catch in 2007. Hacking into a DRM system to find the key still is a pain in the ass, but once you do find it, distributing it around the internet is cake. For everyone but you, the pain-in-the-ass factor is gone.  And, as Steve Jobs noted in his recent call to abolish DRM, this results in an expensive game of one-upsmanship.

So if we abolish DRM– which I support– how will artists get paid? I see two viable possibilities. First, advertising. When I say this, book people (publishers & agents) look at me as if I am Lord Voldemort. Book people can be so prissy. What on earth is wrong with an ad on the inside pages of a book? Imagine the CPM on The Da Vinci Code! And books aren’t perishable like newspapers or TV shows. Similarly, embed short radio-style ads every X number of songs on an iPod. Let iTunes work on how to enable that instead of the constant DRM battle. But what if I don’t want ads. We have a solution for that.

It’s called the paid cable model. Take You Tube, which is now sharing revenue with its user base. I’m talking about the same idea. If you pay a subscription to your cable company, you can access all kinds of content for free. The cable company shares a portion of the revenue with the site publishers.

We have to admit that DRM just doesn’t work and go on to other things that might.

CIQ Headlines for February 7, 2007

CIQ Headlines

Jobs Call to Abolish DRM –(Apple Site) The problem: Music bought for the iPod can only be played on the iPod, leaving Apple open to accusations (and lawsuits) of monopoly. In his persuasive essay, Steve Jobs calls for the abolition of digital rights that limit the distribution of music to authorized devices. CIQ: Advertising may help solve the question of how artists get paid. See today’s article.

Hollywood Concerned About Piracy— (NYT) Stars and studios went to Washington to voice concerns about piracy. Underscoring the number of jobs a $300 million movie creates, speakers implied they were all about the little guy. CIQ: First– are you kidding? Second, take note of the article above and the music industry. Stop worrying about piracy. Start worrying about innovative solutions.

Free Downloads Bleed from Music Industry’s Veins–(Information Week) Despite law suits, 1 billion digital tracks are traded for free each month. CIQ: Can you say, “Case in point?”

CIQ Headlines for February 6, 2007

CIQ Headlines

Old Face, New Challenges–(New York Times) At 26, Jeff Zucker was the executive producer of the Today Show. Now, at 41, he becomes CEO of NBC Universal. CIQ: Whatta job! Leading an old network in an age of media revolution. 

Wiki Comes to Search–(Information Week) Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales is taking on Google, harnassing the power of the community in search. Instead of a closely held proprietary search algorithm, Wales envisions an open-source approach. CIQ: Wales makes a compelling argument for transparency. After all, we don’t know why certain search results come up first in Google. And the stakes can be millions of dollars for companies.

AOL Chief Calls for Better Ads— (Advertising Age) Just like we said yesterday, the current state of online advertising will not support high-value CPMs. Randy Falco asks the audience at the iMedia Brand Summit to, “Help us find our version of 30-second spot on the internet. Define new interactive campaigns and make display ads more engaging.”

We Need Better Online Ads

CIQ Trends

We have a lot to learn from the truly tacky. Take the dancing cowboys from According to the New York Times, the “two-stepping cowboys, rooftop dancers and weird tattoos, have been hugely successful for company and led to $400 million purchase in 2005 by credit agency Experian”

We need to rise above that kind of trash, right? Umm. Not really. The ads tell you the benefit right up front. Better tacky that works than coy that doesn’t.

“You can’t mean online advertising no better than outdoor?” we in digital media wail. I first heart the comparison between online and outdoor in the mid 90s. CPMs for online, the argument ran, will stay comparable to outdoor because that’s what banner ads are like– billboards. We object. We rail. And yet, people click by web pages like cars exiting the Lincoln Tunnel.

We disdain the dancing cowboys and jeopardize our own futures.

Take Symantec. I hit a Symantec interstitial every day on the New York Times site. These ads expect me to stop, actually read, and engage with them. Oh, and there is an animation, that has to load and then do its thing. Are you kidding? When I’m trying to get to my article? You want me to stop and notice—better give me a dancing cowboy.

  Symantec Ad on New York Times
The current level of online advertising puts publishers at risk. Headlines are screaming the decline of print media. What will happen to the publishing business model if more and more content shifts online but advertising CPMs don’t shift as well? We have to leave our egos behind and come up with ad units that work. Furthermore, we need to partner with advertisers and resist running ads that we know won’t work.

CIQ Headlines for February 5, 2007

CIQ Headlines

Land of Gutenberg Questions Print–(International Herald Tribune) Vanity Fair is about to launch a German issue. Says the writer, “Condé Nast’s introduction, set for Thursday, of a weekly version of the storied American monthly comes at a time when the idea of publishing on paper sounds increasingly like an anachronism.” 

World’s Oldest Paper Goes Digital –(Editor & Publisher) The world’s oldest newspaper in continuous publication is the Sweedish Post-och Inrikes Tidningar, founded in 1645. Now, the only available edition will be online. CIQ: There are so many negative comments in this article. “What a shame it is only online!” How about, “Isn’t it wonderful there IS an online or the paper would disappear entirely.”

Turner Broadcasting Fined $2 Million –(WSJ) For the buzz-campaign gone awry in Boston. People who saw the small off-color electronic signs of cartoon characters on bridges, tunnels, and subway stations called the police. CIQ: It’s very hard to understand why this didn’t happen in the other cities where the signs were also posted. Shows the unpredictability of viral/buzz marketing.