Something to sell, something to give away

I love Techdirt.  Many of the ideas I present here are based on (or, honestly, stolen from) things I read there.  If you don’t read Techdirt, you should.

Here’s a good article to start on.  It helps that it’s about both my favorite band and one of my favorite concepts.  Nine Inch Nails has made a lot of money recently since ditching the record label and experimenting with new ways to sell music.  Giving away MP3s and other digital content and selling collector’s editions, cds, dvds;  Recently they’ve made concert footage available for people to mix and edit and do whatever they want.

This concept of taking things that you can copy as many times as you want and using them to promote the things that can’t be easily copied, the things still worth paying for, is the future of most media.  TV, movies, books, music – new technology means that you can do so much more with your content, things that weren’t possible even a decade ago.  It just takes a little innovation and good ideas on how to make people want to give you their money.

Take the example of two of my favorite authors, Charles Stross and John Scalzi.  I became fans of both by reading novels they were giving away in electronic form for free.

I first read Stross’ Accelerando a few years ago.  It was, and still is, available as a free download.  Since then, I have had a beer with Charlie, and read most of his books.  I own probably half of them (including a paperback copy of Accelerando, though that’s because I inadvertently put it on my Amazon wish list, and someone bought it for me for Christmas).  I will continue to buy his books as they come out.

I first read Scalzi’s Agent to the Stars at about the same time.  It, too, remains available for free online.  I have not had any personal contact with him, but not because I couldn’t – his blog is widely read, and he really communicates with his commentors.  I haven’t spoken with him because I haven’t really had anything to say, though I read his blog regularly.  I own a few of his books, too.

Both of these authors gave things away for free, connected with fans, and made me want to buy their books.  Will this work all the time, for every author?  Well, maybe not in exactly the same way.  But the model has so much possibility.  Eventually, no one will pay to simply watch a movie or read a novel.  People will still pay to see a movie in the theater, or see a musician in concert.  But the content itself will be free.  Some people won’t be able to make any money any more, and that’s unfortunate.  But many will, and some will make much more than they ever thought possible.  In the end, society will be better off.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]