1. Content
  2. Index
  3. Search
  4. RSS/Subscribe

Music is Expensive, Copies are Free · 30 July 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

I think the main reason people are finding it hard to figure out how much to charge for MP3 files (variable? higher? lower?) is that they shouldn’t be charged for at all.

All such revenue is being extracted from the residual momentum of the copyright based business model as it slowly grinds to a halt – as that dwindling market of copy customers gradually realise how silly it is to pay for digital copies.

The pragmatic answer to pricing is that the price of MP3 files should gradually be reduced until it reaches zero or the purchase decision/hassle cost (thus maximising revenue extraction from a shrinking market). Unfortunately, those charging for MP3 files have an assumption that there is a sweet spot price that is non-zero.

The baby elephant in the room is the natural law that digital copies of published music shouldn’t and can’t be charged for – an elephant soon to reach adulthood. Ultimately, published music has to be free of charge – because it belongs to the public. Rather than the tragedy those brought up with copyright imagine this to be, it has its benefits to musicians in the digital domain. Freely copyable music provides free reproduction, free distribution, free promotion, and thus builds up the size of the paying audience.

“Eh? ‘Paying audience‘? I thought you said music had to be free?”

No, I said PUBLISHED music has to be free. After all, why should the public pay for what they already have? Such an unnatural notion only arises from the unnatural privilege of copyright.

A musician’s audience (their customers) pay the musician to produce music. After all, the musician is who they want to pay, and the music is what they want to pay for. The audience has no need to pay the musician (or their agents) for copies, given they have clearly demonstrated they can make those quite easily all by themselves1.

So, the musician’s new slogan is effectively “Get this one free, buy the next one”.

In more words: “The recordings currently freely downloadable from my website have been paid for by my keenest fans. I invite you to join them in commissioning future recordings.”

Don’t sell copies. Sell music. The market for copies has ended. The market for music continues unabated.

1 They can’t make vinyl pressings however, so there’s still a market for those, but the musician doesn’t warrant a cut (unless you still believe there’s a future for copyright).

lucy - elemental consulting said 5605 days ago :

hey crosbie
thanks for your comments.
so is your overall vision a mass-patronage model? people make payments to a musician in order to support and finance the production of the music which the musician then makes available for free in digital fashion?
and if so, does the entire public get to receive the music for free, or is it some kind of ‘club’ where only those who financed get access to the music?

Crosbie Fitch said 5605 days ago :

I really think the idea of selling copies of digital information is like a cartoon character that’s run off a cliff and hasn’t yet realised the ground’s disappeared from beneath its feet. Only the people’s faith in tradition is keeping everyone up, but as people gradually recognise the natural law they’re violating and lose faith in the idea they can walk on air, they end up falling back to earth.

Mass patronage can take several forms (simple pledge drives or simulating retail pricing), but yes, this is what I envisage as the logical solution to payment for music (and any other digital art).

Just as the Internet makes selling copies ineffective, it now makes communicating/haggling with the public at large effective.

There are two aspects to my business strategy in exploring en masse transaction mechanisms. The first is to create a general purpose market (ContingencyMarket.com), and the second is to explore the various ways in which it can be used. Such websites that I’ll develop will inevitably be in accord with the natural rights philosophy I’ve since recognised – that explains why copyright is the sandcastle and diffusion the tide, rather than vice versa.

So, the Contingency Market is commission free, can be used by anyone, and is agnostic to any use. The websites I produce that are based upon it however, will probably stipulate that any IP sold should be copyleft, or at least public domain. It is still quite possible that the IP is only initially distributed to purchasers – one doesn’t need to oblige public availability. However, a restricted initial circulation is by no means equivalent to a ‘walled garden’ business model.

When people realise they want to pay the producer of the art rather than the copies, especially when they discover that the producer of copies gives none of their payment to the artist, they’ll want to pay the artist directly. People will only pay for copies if they add value to the art – in which case any sale must logically only accrue to the copy’s added value, and not the art.

Audiences Outnumber Individuals · 30 June 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

As I observed last month in a comment on Rob Myer’s blog, if mass media didn’t have such an entrenched mindset that it was in the business of selling copies to the largest audience possible, it wouldn’t end up producing such ‘lowest common denominator’ pulp to meet such an objective.

But then this is what happens when you let mass producers determine what gets mass produced – instead of leaving things to peculiar artists in pure pursuit of art. Moreover, peculiar artists patronised by their peculiar audiences directly, rather than by populist publishers of copy-prohibited content via retail.

Now that the bottom is falling out of the market for copies, we are seeing the original market resume – the market for art. In this more natural market, copies are made by the audience – for why would they pay the artist for such an unimaginative task? The artist is rewarded for their irreproducible art, not the mass production of trivially reproducible copies.

This is not news to Vin Crosbie who has committed strikingly similar heresy that I wholeheartedly endorse. Read his keynote at the Second Annual Global Conference on Individuated Newspapers.

Plainly, for every artist and each of their works of art there is an audience (if only the artist themselves). But, whilst we are all artists and are all unique beings, our interests invariably overlap and we find ourselves members of many audiences. Indeed, there is a world of audiences, not just one – not just that like-minded planet the corporate publishers pretend to be serving. What’s more, the number of audiences in this world of audiences vastly outnumbers the population of individuals upon this Earth (see Metcalfe’s Law). Therefore, incredible as it may seem, there are many audiences out there for which no artist has yet produced art.

Big Buck Bunny is just a glimpse of the diversity of art that will prosper when the artist no longer pursues the greatest audience, but instead pursues the greatest art. All peculiar audiences then pursue their particular art and those peculiar artists who produce it – and this is the natural order of things.

At the end of our 300 year obsession with copies and their artificial sanctity, we now see the dawn of the second renaissance.

gurdonark said 5614 days ago :

The appeal of the new technology goes well beyond the IP/PD debate, of course. The use of PD or liberally licensed work among people transcends the old audience/artist distinctions. The audience may, in mail art form, be fellow artists. The audience may be an audience of one. The artist may create for an audience of 12, rather than 240,000. In analog technology this was possible, but in digital technology it is inevitable.

Lately, I enjoy creating tiny, child-like melodies for 30 second videos of birds at a feeder for a friend in Spain, to be posted on youtube. I use a CC license to avoid encumbering this sharing with undue burdens—I could easily imagine using a PD release as to my own music on this.
The goal is not to reach the world or profit from my venture—but to provide roughly 100 viewers with light enjoyment, in 30 seconds.

This renaissance is inevitable even if not one jot of current law is changed, so long as volunteers are willing to create this new media.

Publicly Funded Digital Productions · 9 June 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

Remember The Digital Art Auction? Perhaps you even remember The Street Performer Protocol? Related, but distinct ideas that no doubt sprang into many people’s minds at the peak of Napster’s popularity. Not all of the people with these ideas bothered to write up and publish them. Some of us even tried implementing them – some of us are picking up business, some of us are still tinkering in the workshop.

These ideas arise from a perceived necessity to enable the sale of digital art without relying upon a monopoly on the manufacturing of copies (copyright), and adopt the solution of collecting of a fund from the interested public in order to commission the production and/or purchase the publication of a digital artwork. The Digital Art Auction arrives at a single price paid by all covering bidders, whereas the Street Performer Protocol simply collects all pledges, large or small, should the total prove agreeable.

There are many variations already out there, e.g. microPledge is an implementation of the Street Performer Protocol, and PropagateLtd [now LiberateIP.com] is an implementation of the Digital Art Auction. See Fund and release for more information and links to other implementations.

As for myself, I’m currently working on the Contingency Market, a commission free exchange that is designed to enable anyone to roll their own website that relies upon large numbers of users exchanging money contingent upon the outcome of future, public events (such as the publication of a digital artwork).

So, have no doubt that sales of digital art are possible even without copyright.

Kort E Patterson in his recent article Copyright History and How to Escape It provides further discussion of this area.

Art for Money, Money for Art · 4 June 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

Lucas Gonze raises some great points concerning the paradigm shifting upheaval and changing roles in the music market, particularly with regard to record labels.

What I think we’re seeing is a market inversion1, that we’re currently bang smack in the midst of.

When this inversion is complete, instead of a label acting as an artist’s promotional agent maximising the sale of their music to their audience, we’ll have an audience’s discoveral agent maximising the discovery and commissioning of the music they like.

A label in this case will be just like 4AD, but instead of representing a common je ne sais quoi character of the signed bands, will represent a common undefinable taste of the represented audience members.

The audience will subscribe to the discoveral agent and this agent will then patronise/commission those musicians it believes can deliver what will most please and swell its audience/subscriber base. Members of an artist’s audience can of course also patronise/commission their favourite musicians directly.

It’s all very similar, it’s just inverted.

But, don’t worry, the musicians still get paid! (although it will be a bumpy ride through the transition)

See Doc Searls’ ProjectVRM to find others who have already twigged about this inversion.

1 The inversion is actually a reversion to nature – due to IP reverting from its unnatural inversion by copyright, and also helped by the fact that individuals are once again able to participate as first class citizens in the market place (instead of passive consumers to mass producers).

The Market for Digital Art · 28 April 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

A digital artist creates works of digital art. They do not create copies.

People have got a heck of a lot of copyright deprogramming to go through if they persist in thinking of the creative process as an artist creating ‘the first copy’ and then ‘making and selling copies’.

The ‘copy’ as a first class concept in our digital domain is disintegrating before our eyes and yet people stubbornly persist in thinking of digital art in terms of copies.

We are rapidly moving toward a digital production process that produces digital art in only three phases:

  1. Non-existent
  2. Created (private/unpublished)
  3. Published

There is no ‘copy’. There are no ‘copies’ to exchange or purchase. There is no market for ‘copies’.

Except as a fundamental operation to computer scientists, even the term ‘copy’ will soon lose its original meaning and deteriorate into an archaic term for ‘private sharing’.

For example:
“Do you have a copy of the artwork?” will become an old fogey’s way of saying “Are you privy to the artwork?”,
and “Then would you please give me a copy?” will become an old fogey’s way of saying “Then would you please make me privy?”.

For published art the word ‘copy’ disappears even from old fogeys’ vocabularies, e.g. we’ll just hear them saying “What was the name of that piece? Who’s the artist?”. However, I suspect even those queries will be ever more rarely spoken given pervasive access to metadata for all media, e.g. “Who sang the second song I heard in the coffee bar yesterday morning?” will be a thought easily answered on one’s PDA (and the singer consequently micropatronised).

So, if you want to understand the future market for digital art then you have to stop trying to understand it in terms of a market for copies. There will be no market for copies. The market for copies has ended.

The future market for digital art will involve exchanges between the artist and those who value their art (nothing to do with copies). Exchanges will occur between the three key phases I outlined above, i.e. payment to create art where it did not exist before, payment to become privy to art to which one is as yet not privy, and payment to publish private/unpublished art.

There is no copy.

This article is based on my comments at Against Monopoly Thanks to ‘Kid’ for prompting them.

Solomon said 5687 days ago :

Great article, which hits the nail right on the head! I have heard so much on this subject lately, and I was wondering when someone was going to seriously address it.

The other serious subjects need addressing are the galleries and institutions, which will be there to offer permanent credibility to creations of this emerging digital media, specifically for the public and private marketplaces.

Crosbie Fitch said 5687 days ago :

Thanks Solomon. One of the very few galleries I’m aware of that exhibits published digital art without recognising any significance to copies thereof is Jamendo (music recordings). I’d be interested to know of any similar galleries for other forms of digital art such as images.

Phil Bradley said 5685 days ago :

If ‘there is no copy’, could I please ‘make others privy’ to this great post by reblogging it?

Crosbie Fitch said 5685 days ago :

Of course Phil. :)

I’d be very grateful.

NB Although you’re probably already appreciative of this, while I encourage you or anyone to reblog all my published works without needing to seek approval, you are reminded to be accurate in any attribution (even if implicit by omission).

1p2U - Mediawiki · 22 January 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

To make things a little more transparent I think I’ll have a go at using Mediawiki as the CMS for 1p2U.com. Apologies for my design, but it may encourage others to produce far superior Mediawiki skins.

This means everything will be written as a plug-in to Mediawiki.

The first thing to do is to hook Mediawiki’s authentication mechanism into the Contingency Market.

This could be hairy.

A Sketch of 1p2U.com · 22 January 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

I’ve just posted a rough sketch of how I envisage a 1p2U.com website would work out.
See Sketching 1p2U.com.

No doubt I’ll find a better way of documenting things. Mediawiki perhaps?

Crosbie Fitch said 5797 days ago :

A new captcha is now also installed.

It’s ngd_recaptcha by Sara Jacobson.

1p2U.com · 21 January 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

A Penny to You – Your Word to the World

I have now registered a domain name for what I have been calling the the ‘penny per post’ project, i.e. 1p2U.com.

Short and sweet. Does what it says on the tin.

Scott Carpenter said 5797 days ago :

Depending on how this is implemented, I’d be interested in trying it out. (And would be happy to offer feedback to help shape that implementation.) :-)

My blog readership is small, but some of them may be interested in experimenting with something like this. (And that’s how I’d likely promote it, initially: an experiment in compensating free culture producers.)

Scott Carpenter said 5797 days ago :

Looks like pennyperpost.com is available also…

Crosbie Fitch said 5797 days ago :

That’s great Scott. I look forward to the day when it’s ready to try out. All feedback gratefully received whether sooner or later.

However, there’s a long way to go before the widget is even created let alone ready to try. So far, there’s just my pair of hands and they aren’t exactly fast by any means.

But, yes, as you recognise, this is all progress toward enabling producers of free culture to be rewarded.

Making the production of digital art rewarding…

Crosbie Fitch said 5797 days ago :

If anyone wants to register pennyperpost.com and create a parallel or similar project they have my full encouragement.

All the source code and website content residing on 1p2u.com will be continuously available (free). Naturally, private information concerning its users (bloggers and readers) will not be published unless the persons concerned consent.

The whole point of 1p2U.com is to provide a demo and encourage people to create variations on this theme of free culture patronage.

The sooner the idea of funding free culture via public patronage gains credibility, the sooner we’ll all be enjoying cultural freedom in the digital domain.

Penny per Post · 17 January 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

An overview of a new site that provides bloggers with a widget that lets their readers sponsor them.

A blogger has some readers, the most enthusiastic ones probably being interested in encouraging the blogger to continue writing such good articles. The blogger, in consideration of this likelihood visits the new site to register and obtain a widget that they can put on their blog site.

Once this widget is embedded, the site will keep track of all the new articles published – it is also now assured that it has authentic details of the blogger to whom any credit or monies should be given.

From now on, any of the blogger’s readers will see the widget. This enables the observant and interested reader to click the widget for details of how they can sponsor the blogger to the tune of 1p per post.

For all the readers that decide to become sponsors, their accounts have 1p debited each time a new article is published – as indicated by the blogger’s RSS feed. The blogger in turn has all these pennies credited to their account. The blogger can either withdraw them or use them to sponsor other bloggers, e.g. those bloggers from whom they draw most inspiration.

Bearing in mind that there’s not much point sponsoring a blogger unless the pennies pledged actually turn up, both the sponsor and blogger will receive a weekly e-mail detailing the state of their account with any monies due. This will have a link to enable the payment or withdrawal of funds.

Tel said 5799 days ago :

It’s an interesting concept you have working here, I think it needs a bit more explanation at the fundamental level.

For example, how do I check the level of my own funds? I presume there must be a centralised database of all transactions somewhere (i.e. a bank).

Similarly, how do I check whether someone I might consider dealing with has the ability to pay me?

Crosbie Fitch said 5799 days ago :

The Contingency Market is the database that keeps track of all the events, contingencies, offers, deals, and who owes who what, etc. The penny-per-post site simply turns RSS news into events, and sponsorship into deals on contingencies dependent upon those events.

It is then via a Digital Productions PayPal account that dues can be settled, e.g. 50 readers’ pennies ending up as 50p credited to the blogger, but only 37p available to withdraw until 13 other readers get round to paying their dues.

Some readers will have accounts that say they owe a total of 6p given six bloggers they’ve sponsored have sinced published an article. They may by that time be sponsoring 38 bloggers, so they could pay 44p if they wanted to pay their dues and cover up to 38 more articles. They could wait until they owed a couple of quid. It’s up to the reader.

A blogger will be fully informed as to how much sponsorship they have been pledged, and how much has actually been paid (available to withdraw). They can also find out how much they are currently being sponsored, and what proportion of that sponsorship is liquid (covered by the sponsors concerned).

No-one needs to pay to participate, but then the whole concept is only expected to appeal to those who do want to pay. Tyre kickers will be welcomed. Moreover, no-one will be chased for defaulting on their pledges. Indeed, bloggers and readers can pull out at any time, being able to withdraw all pledges received, and be refunded any unspent pledges.

Scott Carpenter said 5799 days ago :

That sounds better. I thought there would be individual emails for each reader and it seemed like a lot of overhead for such small payments that way.

(I commented on this post yesterday and initially saw the comment, but then it went away.)

SirStark said 5798 days ago :

Sounds like an interesting way to deal with financing the web publishing. Where can I find a website using this widget?

Crosbie Fitch said 5798 days ago :

Apologies, Scott, if comments disappear. Perhaps the captcha failed? I guess a captcha failure isn’t as obvious as it should be.

Crosbie Fitch said 5798 days ago :

@SirStark: Glad you think it sounds interesting. I’ve only been talking about the one I’m about to develop.

As far as where you might find a website using such a widget already, there’s a sort of widget for people who will blog for advertisers/marketers here payperpost.com. Also check out www.blogitive.com for something similar.

I’m not yet aware of any website where you can find a penny-per-post widget that lets readers sponsor the blogger, but do let me know if you find one.

SirStark said 5797 days ago :

Thanks for the links. If I find any websites using this kind of penny-per-post widget I’ll post the links here.
Btw, the captchas here are rather difficult to read. Especially I’ve got problems distinguishing between B and 8.

Crosbie Fitch said 5797 days ago :

And I’ll see if there’s a better captcha – I need glasses myself.

Testing the Contingency Market · 16 January 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

I think it’s time I embarked upon a worked example with which to test the Contingency Market.

As you may already be aware, the Contingency Market is a web service that enables the specification and observation of events, and the making of bargains that depend upon the outcome of those events (contingencies). It’s designed to facilitate very large numbers of contemporaneous bargains concerning the same events and parties to them, e.g. bargains between a musician and their audience concerning the release of a particular work (qv QuidMusic).

For my first worked example I will start off with a similar idea. This will be a sponsorship facility to enable a blogger’s readers to pledge the payment of a penny for each new article subsequently published. Essentially, each time a new post appears in the blogger’s RSS feed, the penny pledged by each reader is credited to the blogger. So, it’s not a charitable donation, but a commercial bargain, i.e. “If you publish a new article, I’ll pay you a penny. If you don’t, I’ll pay you nothing. My sponsorship will continue for as long as you keep publishing great work”.

Most importantly, the Contingency Market enables participants to fund their bargains. PayPal can be used to do this, although it does charge a significant commission for doing so, i.e. 3.4% +20p. This means that in order to deposit £10 one must pay PayPal 56p (3.4% of £10.56 is 36p which +20p=56p leaving £10). In terms of pennies this means that a penny to a blogger costs the reader 1.056p. Which at just over five hundredths of a penny is paltry compared to the 21p it would cost if they wanted to pay a penny to the blogger via PayPal directly.

I should add that the Contingency Market has no commission or membership fees of its own. It is to be funded by the very same revenue mechanism it enables, e.g. sponsorship – if a user wants a specific feature sooner rather than later, they join in with everyone else in pledging something for its implementation.

The source code to the worked example will be published throughout its development (under the GPLv3). Everyone is encouraged to follow along, contribute, produce parallel sites, etc.

This is to be a work of free culture.

Next Steps

  • Register a domain to host the example site.
  • Write an overview of how it’s all expected to work.
  • Produce a rough project plan.
  • Start work and blog on progress.



Recent Articles

Recent Comments



Contingency Market


Digital Art Auction

Free Culture Logo



Digital Constitution


Digital Art Auction


Contingency Market


















The Ransom Model


1p Subscribe