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The Impending Media Industry Implosion

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Mithrandir

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Let's face it. We pretty much live in a capitalist world. There's no changing that. However utopian the Socialist and Communist theories are, they simply will not work in the real world due to the fact that there are always assholes in this world, and they will always take advantage of such a system.

So let us examine the existing world infrastructure. Capitalism is based on the laws of Supply and Demand; when supply of a commodity (whether it be a good or a service) goes up, then the price goes down. When the demand of a commodity goes up, so does the price.

Rather than put you through all my ranting about how unfair this system is to those who are disadvantaged, let me shed some light on an impending implosion of the system: Digital Media.

Within the past 10 years we have seen the arrival of digital media; technology that allows us to store images, video, text, audio, and so on. Pretty much anything "intellectual" can be represented in digital format. This is great, and terrible at the very same time. Digital media has an inherently infinite supply, therefore making its perceived value in a market economy exactly 0. Great for consumers, terrible for artists.

The existing media infrastructure realises this, and does not want to face its inevitable destruction. They are doing everything in their power to stop the copyability of digital media, but in the end it's going to fail. Digital media by its very nature cannot be constrained to a limited supply, and any attempts to alter this behaviour will ultimately end up hurting consumers in the end.

For example, DRM music files restrict you far moreso than buying a CD does. You are allowed to listen to the music on one place, and one place only: your computer. "Old School" technology, such as CD's, allow you to take your CD and listen to it anywhere you want. Your Stereo, your Computer, your Car, your friends house, in a discman, or anywhere you want. A DRM'ed music file takes away all those options.

Consumers will not buy this. They will not pay MORE for a product that is even less usable than they are used to.

The media corporations are an anomoly, selling an anachronism. Before records came along, composers and musicians made their money by playing live shows, from the artist to the consumer. No middleman involved. The record companies came along and now sell a physical product: the record that the music is stored on. At first this allowed musicians to gain a greater market, since they could now "play" shows to millions of people at any time, rather than to merely hundreds per night (until they became exhausted from playing). But now that the service that these companies have provided in the past is now extinct (mainly: a distribution venue) due to the internet, the companies themselves now have no purpose.

The age of selling a CD, a Book, a Computer Game Box, etc, are over. We no longer need the publishers. However, how does one put a value on the art produced by said artists?

This in itself is a very difficult question to answer. As it stands now, artists produce "goods", in the form of the actual CD/DVD/Disc you purchase in a store, but this view is just simply outdated. Artists produce a service, not a good. That CD you buy isn't worth anything, but rather the contents on it, the service.

I have a simple solution: Work by Public Contract. In such a system, I make a contract with the public at large: if you pay me a certain amount of money, I will release my service to the world, freely distributable by anyone to anyone.

Here's an example. I am currently writing a simple serial fiction novel entitled "The Ancients". The details of this piece are not important at the moment, but I plan on releasing it via my WbPC system. I will release the first chapter for free, as a sample to the entire world.

I will set up a paypal account for donations, and when I receive a certain amount of money (I have not worked out the logistics of this yet, so the amount is not known at this time, though I think $250-500 per chapter seems reasonable, depending on chapter size, of course), then I will release the second chapter to the world at large, freely distributable by anyone to anyone. The process will continue; every time I reach a new threshold, I will release a new chapter.

You, the public at large, are contracting me to write a book. No middlemen, no bullshit, nothing. If I do not receive enough money to break through a threshold, the part will not be released and you will not receive a refund.

The system has a few safeguards built in. The initial free chapter gives you a taste of the piece of art, to give you an overall feeling of its direction. Since the art is released piece-by-piece, you, the consumer, gets a sense of satisfaction. Rather than paying $10 and waiting a year to see if I write the whole book, you can pay $1 and will get pieces released periodically, letting you know that I am working on it. If you don't like the direction the book is heading, you don't have to pay anything more. If others do like it, then they'll pay and the book will be released regardless.

Does this seem a little unfair? Maybe. You are essentially paying for something before it is even written, so you don't know how good it will be. Like all of life, that's a risk that is unavoidable. When you buy a CD, you usually don't know if 90% of the songs that haven't been played on the radio don't suck, right?

What about those who didn't pay me anything at all? Why should they reap the benefits of the service as well, since they haven't payed? You don't have to pay me a lot of money; in fact there are 7 billion people on this planet, so I don't think it's going to be a problem finding a few hundred or so willing to pay just a dollar to me. It's not like you're making an incredibly large investment. How many times have you lost a dollar bill and not thought about it?

As an added incentive, though, to those who pay, I shall be thinking of a rewards system. Perhaps the top 15 donators per threshold will be publicly thanked at the top of each chapter, forever immortalized as a patron of my skills. I have other ideas as well.

Will this system work? It will; there's simply no other way for the old system to continue. Will artists be payed less than usual under the new system? Probably. This can only be a good thing, however, since it gets rid of everyone who became an artist for the wrong reasons in the first place (ie: money).

Can this system be applied to other mediums? Of course, I don't see why not. Music can be released on a song-by-song basis, computer games can be released level-by-level, and so on.

I have high hopes for this system, and I hope it will become embraced widely in the future. I'll post details about "The Ancients" and an actual contract sometime in the future.

Thank you,
Ron Penton
2004-10-02
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Being rather dull-witted and intellectually lazy, I have no critical thoughts about it whatsoever. However, I am wondering about something, namely: did you know that Beethoven lived under a similar system of patronage for much of his professional life? If you did, did you have it in mind while you developed your idea?

[Mith answered the questions before I put this here, in case you care.]

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Sorry to invade your public space Mith, just wanted to comment on this entry. to perfect your "Public Contract" you should still entertain the idea of a "market maker"

The market maker would pre-pay the artist X dividend upfront. (which would unfortunately introduce a "marketability test")

in return, the market maker would retain the future earnings up to X percentage return. after which point any future earnings would be partitioned in a predetermined manner, or could simply become public domain at some point.(which satisfies your original idea)

the main issue i see with your unvarnished precept is people like me(fast readers that can kill a book in 7 or 8 hours) would probably be unable to get into a book if each chapter was released a month or a week at a time.


We now return you to your original programming.

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I discussed this with you in chat, but I'll write it out here for other's to benifit from.

<You say to MITHRANDIR> I like it.
<MITHRANDIR> indeed.
<AndrewRussell> hrmmn
<AndrewRussell> the idea is good
<AndrewRussell> I'm thinking two things
<AndrewRussell> first off - publishers would still be useful to a different extent - a lot of artists want this public contract service, they provide it
<MITHRANDIR> yes, they'll still exist, but they won't be able to have as much control as they now do.
<AndrewRussell> always a good thing
<AndrewRussell> second off, while it's eaiser for small or eaisly dividable stuff, like music and books
<AndrewRussell> it wouldn't be so good for something like a game, or a movie
<MITHRANDIR> I think it'll be okay for a movie
<AndrewRussell> where a lot of work happens before the "level creation" or equivlent
<MITHRANDIR> it'll be really amazing for TV-style serials
<MITHRANDIR> and it depends on the kind of game
<MITHRANDIR> Half Life would work really well
<AndrewRussell> because it costs a lot of money to make a game or a movie, and 95% of the work is shared between each level
<MITHRANDIR> true
<AndrewRussell> for instance
<AndrewRussell> the unreal engine is 1M to licence, right?
<AndrewRussell> that'd quickly cause problems
<AndrewRussell> however
<AndrewRussell> there is one thing where it would work
<AndrewRussell> story-like games (like half-life) with no in-house engine (preferably if they could get an engine for royalties)
<AndrewRussell> that could be divided into chapters
<AndrewRussell> and each level/chapter represents nearly it's own proportion of the work
<MITHRANDIR> yep
<AndrewRussell> which would work _really_ well for indies

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Quote:

Sorry to invade your public space Mith, just wanted to comment on this entry. to perfect your "Public Contract" you should still entertain the idea of a "market maker"

The market maker would pre-pay the artist X dividend upfront. (which would unfortunately introduce a "marketability test")

in return, the market maker would retain the future earnings up to X percentage return. after which point any future earnings would be partitioned in a predetermined manner, or could simply become public domain at some point.(which satisfies your original idea)

the main issue i see with your unvarnished precept is people like me(fast readers that can kill a book in 7 or 8 hours) would probably be unable to get into a book if each chapter was released a month or a week at a time.


I will reserve the right to charge more or less for future segments, depending on market reaction.

As for fast readers, that's ok. Eventually the full thing will be released, and if you liked what you read, you could pay me $5-10 or so towards the next book and just wait till the whole thing is out.

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I must say...good form! This is an excellent idea! there aren't any large holes in it, and it seems fair...I'm sure issues would come up when it was actually implemented, but I can't foresee any huge ones or anything

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You didn't read my post, Hattan. My plan is very different from King's plan. King was a snob and demanded that everyone who downloaded the book pay for it as well; if the percentage didn't stay above a certain amount he'd stop writing.


That's idiotic, and the book just plain sucked anyways. He expected millions of dollars; I expect merely enough to live on, which isn't a lot.

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u mean... just like blender fundation bought blender source from NaN?

it wont ever work except for things like blender, people want to buy something not donate to something that _might_ come to exist

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(A little late to the feast)

In theory it sounds okay, but the part I don't like (speaking as a consumer here, rather than an artist) is the part where if you don't receive enough dough you don't release the chapter, and no refunds. If I paid money (regardless of if it's 'only' a dollar) for something and I don't, in the end, receive that something or get a refund, I am going to be extremely pissed off. If it happens more than once, there's a good chance I won't go back to the author or artist in question. I know that this stems from market-type thinking, but that's going to be very hard to overcome in most people. They pony up the cash, they want what they're paying for. Contributing to the upkeep of an artist who in the end does not produce isn't going to happen for very long.

This isn't about uncertainty in regards to the quality of the goods produced, it's about whether or not those goods in actuality are produced at all. In fact, I wonder how long such a system would last before enough complaints were lodged that laws were put in place requiring release of the material to those who paid for it, regardless of meeting your target threshold.

It's all well and good to speak of the public contracting with you to produce the book, but the idea of 'the public' being a single party to a contract is absurd. In the end, it's more like many smaller contracts between you and every single person who paid money for something they expect to receive. Defaulting on one person's contract simply because you don't have some alloted number of additional contracts seems like a good way to get sued.

Just my two cents, and I'm probably too bound by capitalistic thinking to really understand anyway, so odds are good I'm completely wrong.

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Oooh, you mean I can pay for a complete book knowing that it might not actually ever be finished and I may never actually get to read it in its entirety?

This is indeed a utopian model for book-publishing. Where do I get in line?


I do agree with TANSTAAFL, though. You did manage to be non-boring for one post. Now get outta TANSTAAFL's truck.

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How do you expect big budget productions (major motion pictures and games like Halo 2, Doom 3, Half-Life 2) to survive on this kind of system? They require millions of dollars to put out.

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