Saturday, November 10, 2007

FIGHT! FIGHT!

In this corner, the challenger, weighing in at 105lbs and standing 5'2" in his Cuban heels, the front-man for The Family, The New Power Generation, and The Revolution, the only man to take an unpronouceable symbol as his stage name, the man who only wants your extra time and your uh uh uh uh uh kiss, PRINCE Rogers Nelson!


And in this corner, wielding multiple high-capacity servers with more internet bandwidth than they know what to do with, the Swedish torrent-website that publicly flipped the bird to the collective American entertainment industry, with a litigation record of 5-0, the reigning heavyweight champion of filesharing, THE PIRATE BAY!



DING! DING!

"Continuing an aggressive campaign to defend his copyrights, pop star Prince is preparing to file lawsuits in three countries--including the United States--against The Pirate Bay, CNET News.com has learned."

I love both Prince AND The Pirate Bay, so this is particularly fascinating for me to watch. My first impulse is to say that Prince's sentiment is valid but grossly misplaced. Up until a year ago, he had embraced a business model that cut out the record industry as the middle-man. If you wanted Prince's music, you could go directly to Prince and purchase it. He seemed to really "get it" in terms of an internet distribution model. But now, the website is dead, and much like George Lucas a few years ago, Prince seems to be on a rampage to crush his fans. Check out the first thing you see at prince.org (an unofficial fan site):

"Some facts for the media:

* We have not been sued (yet). We have been served "cease and desist" letters which threaten that we MAY be sued. These C&Ds also ask for monetary damages, and even threaten criminal prosecution.
* prince.org has never engaged in bootlegging of his music. We won't link to any eBay sales of bootlegs. We don't link to YouTube videos of his music. We don't post his lyrics in full. We always give credit, including copyright, on every image we post when the information is available.
* If Prince himself was not involved in the cease-and-desist letters we received, someone new must be running Paisley Park Enterprises, or the lawyers are misrepresenting themselves. According to records as recent as 2005, Prince is "the sole owner of" Paisley Park Enterprises, which is one of the three entities listed as clients being represented in the C&D letters.
* "prince.org" is not capitalized. It's "prince.org" NOT "Prince.org".
* Direct inquiries about prince.org (specifically, not the PFU) to the founder, Ben Margolin."

Wow. I was honestly surprised. For months now, I have talked about how the industry doesn't understand it's customers, but in reality, plenty of artists don't get it either. Sure it sucks to have people download your works for free over the internet, as opposed to paying for them. Especially if you're a consistently quality artist like Prince. But you can certainly minimize the collateral damage by EMBRACING your fans. Bring them in, observe their discussions, and listen to their ideas. Don't threaten them with "cease and desist" letters. If you make it easy and cheap for your fans to get your music, and maintain some sort of dialog with them, you are the winner. Radiohead recently did this, asking their fans to pay whatever they wanted for their new album, including zero. And although 60% of people downloaded their album for free, 40% paid about $6 for it. This was a statement, to be sure. I imagine if they had priced the album for around $6 instead of the optional free, the same number of people would have downloaded it.

And picture me, last night, scouring the internet for "We Will Rock You" by Queen. It was a special request from Wxman. I went to Rhapsody, Amazon, Napster, Walmart, iTunes and Emusic, and either they did not have the song, or I needed to install a bunch of extra software and jump through a bazillion hoops to finally get it. And I was willing to PAY for it!!! I had $1 all queued up and ready on my debit card. But I could not go to a single web site, and just give them a buck and download the song. So, guess where I ended up? The Pirate Bay.

My wife hit the nail on the head when she said it was all about control. And I would argue that the artists who will successfully transition to the new Web 2.0 business model will be willing to give up some of that control. After all, these are FANS doing the downloading. Fans who LOVE Prince. Isn't time for Prince to show them some love?

In terms of the law suit, all I have to say is, this is going to be goooooooood.
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