## Music: How we listen

Most of the music is from artists the listener likes a lot. This is right tail on a bell curve. For example 50% of songs might come from ten artists, 80% from 20 artists, and 90% from 50 artists. The other 10% might come from hundreds.

I don’t have the statistics, but many different players and websites including iTunes and Last.fm include the ability to track what music you listen to. In theory this data from many users can be aggregated. If that happened the picture would look something like a bell curve.

## The top dominates

Most of the music is from artists the listener likes a lot.  This is right tail on a bell curve.  For example 50% of songs might come from ten artists, 80% from 20 artists, and 90% from 50 artists.  The other 10% might come from hundreds.

The same is true for albums: the favorite album by the favorite artist will be even more dominant than the artist was.

## Selling as generic

The problem is that the industry treats songs as equal units.  You pay roughly the same price for a song you’ve listened to 1000 times as one you listened to once, or a song bought as a gag.  But when you actually look at the cost per listen it becomes apparent this is simply silly.

The songs you love cost you tiny amounts: after the hundredth listen to a \$0.99 song it’s less than one cent!  The songs you don’t love cost you more per listen: up to that same \$0.99 for listening to it once.

Shouldn’t the opposite be true?  Wouldn’t you pay more money for the song you love?  Wouldn’t you rather pay less for the song you would delete from your collection except that you never look in that folder anyway?

## Progressive pricing

My belief is that music should look like the following pricing model.  Note that the numbers are fabricated and that actuaries and statisticians could provide much better figures.  This is only a rough model.

For the first ten listens it costs a cent.  Period.  If you like the song and run through ten listens you pay a cent.  If you decide you don’t like it and give up after the first time, it costs a cent.  For the next ten listens it costs a dime.  Listen 20 times and you’ve paid \$0.11.  For the next 50 times you listen to it, that’s \$0.20.  After 70 total listens you would have paid \$0.31.  And for the 100 listens after that, it’s \$0.68 which brings you to the \$0.99 original price.

The money distribution is staggered as well.  The artist makes less money off of the first tier and more of the successive tiers, while the labels and distributors make more on earlier and less on later tiers.

## Choices

There would be some other choices with this model.  If you knew you’d want the song for 170 listens at least, you could pay an initial fee of \$0.89 or such, giving you a discount for buying the song outright.  You could also pay the difference on \$0.89 up to 70 listens.

Even after paying \$0.99 (or \$0.89 if you bought it early) you could choose to pay more.  That money would go almost entirely to the artist.

## The model’s logic

The consumer value behind this model is two fold.  One is to save you money on songs you rarely listen to.  The other is to give you the freedom to explore music.  The current flat price model is prohibitive: how many times would you roll the dice at \$0.99 per roll?

The model also has powerful incentives for the label, distributor, and artist.  People would explore more music and pay a cent each time, but that would add up quickly.  The current prohibitive model generates less revenue than the new model would for all parties involved.

## Other media

This model can easily be extended to be used with movies, television, and text.  The tiering would be different, obviously.  It would not be as effective for news as fiction.  But that’s a detail that can be overcome by changing the target of the model.

Instead of expecting you to pay \$0.01 for each episode of the Daily Show each time you watch it, you would pay \$0.01 for the first three episodes you watched.  Due to that sort of content being unlimited in time (they continue to make new episodes indefinitely) you wouldn’t cut off at \$0.99.  The probable solution would be to tier over an entire season and fix the top-price on a per-season basis.

The option to have advertising fits nicely into this general model.  The advertisers can choose to pay for a tier for some number of viewers: when you go to view, listen, or read the choice is yours to accept the advertiser’s offer and instead of paying you would watch, read, or listen to a short advertisement for the duration of that tier.

## Conclusion

I believe this sort of model, again with the statistics to back up a more refined pricing and tiering system than I’ve presented, will be a boon to listeners, viewers, and readers.  It will also benefit the content creators and distributors.  I hope to see this model become a standard operating model for content.

Let me know what you think of this model.  What’s wrong with it?  What would make it better?

## NewYorkCountryLawyer Sued by RIAA

The RIAA is suing Ray Beckerman (prominent defense lawyer for those being attacked by the RIAA). Shame on them.

What a bunch of crap.  I hope they lose and he gets attorneys’ fees out of them.

Oh, and the truth about the RIAA.

## “Making Available” is Not Infringement

Give it five years and the RIAA will want everyone to be “making available” the knowledge of which content they possess so they can keep tabs on what’s hot. They’ve got their backwards pants on for years now, but within the five next years they will finally wake up.

From the debate transcript:

MR. BECKERMAN: The law runs the country. This is a nation of law, not a country of lawyers who are best paid by large content owners.
PROF. HANSEN: Ray, let’s not get ad hominem. You know what ad hominem means? You’ve got a losing argument and you’re desperate. So just stick to the merits. […]

I guess the insinuation there is that calling someone a lawyer paid by large content owners is an ad hominem in the eyes of Professor Hansen. I found that funny, because it colored the prior statement by Mr. Beckerman darker than it originally read for me.

Anyway, this debate was all about whether simply “making available” equates to an infringement of copyright. That is, whether anyone actually downloads the files, is simply allowing the possibility equal to dissemination in terms of infringing the copyrights of the files?

First and foremost, making available in a more concise definition is simply the announcement of existence some file that is labeled in some way. If I write a hyperlink here: Buy a Time Machine from Jesus I’m making a certain representation about the contents to be found at that link. In practice that link could contain anything.

It could even actually contain Jesus’ ecommerce website where he sells time machines. Without executing the link (that is, generating a HTTP request to the server it specifies for the document it specifies, or otherwise executing whatever command is intended by the semantics of this hypertext document) one cannot know what it leads to.

And yes, that can actually be proven by looking at the halting problem from Computer Science. Basically, if you could prove for all cases what clicking a hyperlink would do, then you could solve the halting problem. Because it can be shown the halting problem is unsolvable, it follows that the link-clicking problem cannot be solved either.

Now, for a subset of links, or in this case the subset is the filesharing software’s function to execute the downloading of a file, it is conceivably provable. But then, it must be shown, in court, that executing that function of the software would result in the transfer of copyrighted content which is particularly described and proven to be owned by the plaintiff. And even then, you’ve only proven that the defendant is in fact “making available” said content.

Now, can making available constitute an infringement on the rights of a copyright holder? Typical infringement refered to as distribution or dissemination is infringing because without authorization from the owner some third party gives possession of the content to another party. This differs from making available drastically. Making available is more like mentioning you have the content.

A software anthropomorphization:

Bill: Anyone got the Hill of Soap song, “Noodles are Cruel?”

Steve: Hey I got that song.

Ah, but that’s even still an overbroad example of making available. One wouldn’t even have to ever respond to a query for the content’s availability! It just has to be in a folder that the software has marked as “shared” to be considered “making available.”

And we have reached the pintacle of the absurdity of “making available” as infringing copyright. You download the file sharing software. You install it. Instantly you have infringed countless copyrights because the software automatically scanned your drive and marked all multimedia folders as “shared.”

So, frankly, making available cannot possibly constitute infringement of copyright. Copyright is there to give an incentive to create content. The incentive is that by creating content you have the exclusive right to distribute, perform, profit from, etc. for a period of time. That right does not include “keeping people from discussing your work,” or announcing or responding to a query about whether they have that work on their computer.

Give it five years and the RIAA will want everyone to be “making available” the knowledge of which content they possess so they can keep tabs on what’s hot. They’ve got their backwards pants on for years now, but within the five next years they will finally wake up.