The price of beauty?
To download or not to download. That is the question. Music, films, games, books, newspapers, softwares – whatever. The ongoing debate around downloads has been one of the most thought-provoking issues our widening Web 2-world has brought about. Is there a reasonable legal solution or „truth is out there”? Let’s see what pro-download artists from three different areas of the spectrum have to say about this shaky topic.
It is highly understandable that artists and authors need to have an income, just like the apparatus working behind them does. Each industry needs money to survive, there is no doubt about that. On the other hand, we all know that cds, books and dvds are terribly expensive, especially for people that live in countries like Chile and Hungary (where 9-13 percent of the population lives below poverty line, and the GDP fails to reach the standard of the Western norm). However, it’s not just the regular „user” that chooses to press the download button, but a great number of artists support downloads and peer-to-peer filesharing, too. They are in the opinion that „art has no price” and it must be available to everybody – especially knowing that the cost of production may not always be in balance with the price of the product.
STEAL IT! In 2005, Nine Inch Nails released their full length album, With Teeth, on their MySpace page, prior to its official in store release date. Frontman Trent Reznor has been a pioneer to filesharing ever since, in October 2007 he even made a public speech during the band’s concert in Horden Pavilon, encouraging fans to download his albums „as long as these bastards offer unacceptable prices to rip us off”. He turned to the crowd and screamed at the top of his lung: „Steal it!”
BEAUTY HAS NO PRICE! Besides the avid pro-downloaders of music-industry, many writers are for it, as well. Paulo Coelho, for example, has sold over 100 million books, in 150 countries, in 63 languages. He believes that art must be shared with everybody, and greed in art will be punished by oblivion. „Some will say: you are rich enough to afford having your texts here for free” – he writes in his recent myspace blog. “It is true that I am rich, but this is not the point. The point is that, like many of the people that I meet here in myspace, we want first and foremost to SHARE something. Go to most of the pages, and what will you see? Fantastic pictures, great blogs, amazing photos. For free. My texts are for free, too. And you can reproduce them anywhere providing that you tell the name of the author.” This is not only the case on myspace, but the author also makes his works available for downloads elsewhere. “I myself cannot put all my books for free (except in Portuguese) because there are copyrights for the translations, otherwise I have nothing against people first trying, then buying (because I am like this).”
Besides these obvious spiritual ponderings, Coelho points out that there are clear marketing advantages of his opinion, too: after having had his books available for download in Russian, he is selling bore books in Russia than ever. If the industry is right, how can you explain this contradiction?
Finally, he closes his blog with the following story:
“A woman went to a market and saw two jars. She asked the price to the vendor: “ten coins”, he answered. The woman was surprised: “but one of these jars has been painted by an artist!” The vendor replied: ” I am selling jars. Beauty has no price.”
DEATH OF A JOURNALIST? In the light of all this, the question comes naturally: “Will print media be gradually replaced by (free?) online portals, and will cds disappear completely?” Answers vary a great deal, but Mathias Döpfner, CEO of the biggest German publisher Axel Springer Verlag (ASV) is optimistic: “Newspapers will be there for us even in a thousand years as they satisfy one of the most basic needs of humankind. Whether these papers will be printed on paper or forwarded by means of digital forms, well – this is questionable”.
Right now, we can already see a change in magazine contents: most print media items appear with some extra product attached to them: a music cd, a dvd, a pc software, a game; or an eyeliner, a make-up bag, a sample of shampoo or tea, or other “trendy” accessoires you would not be able to “download” at home.
Even though many are discouraged by the fact that printed papers are not producing the same number of sales they used to 20 years ago, publishers and journalists working in this field are convinced that a good article will be a good article whether it appears in print or online. If the market drifts towards the latter, the primary source of income will be based on advertisement and extra services. Just like in the case of cds: record stores will have to invent more and more extra services and appealing merchandise items to make the product more attractive to potential buyers – music fans who are willing to support the artist they gain a lot from.
blogpost from 2007