In a post-scarcity publishing world, the key is to own the most relevant copy

The title of this post sounds a bit cryptic, agreed. Let me try to explain what I mean. The point I’m trying to make is actually very simple. The Web is a giant copying machine. And yet, if people can avoid having to copy something, they will. The problem is that today, the music industry suffers quite a bit from illegal file sharing–a giant copy party. What is going to happen over the coming years is that this copy fest will wind down. Yes, it will! And the reason for that is that there will be services that let people listen to their music without having to copy files and manage them.
Ok, so what matters in a world where p2p is irrelevant? In this world we will instead share and discover music in a giant link-passing frenzy. This is already becoming a reality, only it’s “not evenly distributed yet”.

Here are a number of popular links to Flickermood, a song I released under the alias Forss on Berlin-based Sonar Kollektiv:

…oh, here’s a link where you can buy the song, complete with drm and in worse quality. Feel free to go there and, nevermind.

And then we have Let’s go back to the cryptic title of this post. Since Flickermood seems to be available all over the place, the key, being a music service or a label or an artist in this world of link-passing, is to own the most relevant copy. With most relevant I mean the most happening copy, the most accessible copy, the most usable copy, the coolest copy, the earliest copy, the most exclusive copy, the copy with the best sound quality, the most permanent copy, the most social copy, the most remixed copy, the most authentic copy, the most interoperable copy, etc.

Although the above links are all cool I’ll focus on the last one to further highlight what I mean. It’s a link to the track on SoundCloud, a service I’m currently working on, where you can listen to the full song in a pretty cool player with discussions happening inside the track through “timed” comments. I’m there too, discussing samples with friends and fans. What’s also interesting about this link is this:

  • type or .aiff to get an mp3 or an aiff, etc.
  • type, .xspf, .rss or .atom to get a playlist with all my releases
  • to get a feed of comments
  • sniff the audio with an haudio compatible app
  • go to the url with your iPhone to play it
  • embed the track on MySpace or just about any other place, in a player that is better than any other out there.
  • and to do just about anything with the track.
  • and there is in fact much more… (some of these features are still in development, in case you’re a lucky beta tester)

Good song permalinks is the shit. All this really means is that the track is so accessible, it’s impossible to top. The problem today is that the vast majority of “relevant” copies of songs are in places where labels and artists and other commercial players have little or no control over them. 1% of the listeners may be in a place where labels/artists/platforms are, they may pay, etc, but the other 99% are somewhere else–on p2p nets, on russian pirate sites, on trashy yasn sites, heck, even in their own music players. The key to survival on the emerging media web is to make these copies irrelevant by being drastically more relevant. Downloads won’t survive long in a post-scarcity publishing world–it’s making yet another irrelevant copy of an irrelevant, un-sexy copy to begin with. Just contrast iTunes with SoundCloud. Right now, I just see a lot of lost ad dollars.