The internet is abuzz with protests of SOPA — the Stop Online Piracy Act that has the online community in a huge tizzy. Users are terrified of their sites/content being censored by the government. I think my favorite tweet about this topic is:
“Under SOPA, you could get 5 years for uploading a Michael Jackson song, one year more than the doctor who killed him.”
SOPA is here because of an industry’s attempt to control rather than to pivot. The music and entertainment world is terrified of online piracy, of losing dollars while users absorb their free content. Welcome to the club, guys. The print industry has been living with this issue for years. Yours is not the only industry to experience a giant shift in how people consume and share your content. But this is not the end of your earning potential, and this is not the death of musicians everywhere. Here are three ways that you can still make a living:
1. Partner with freemium services like Vevo, Spotify, Pandora, etc.
I am so confused by the concept of musicians thinking that a stream is somehow a “missed sale”. The inherent shareable nature of streaming music exposes people to new artists that they would not otherwise have seen if not for their social streams. If you’ve never heard of an artist, what better way to prompt a sale than by streaming your music where people are spending their time.
2. Eliminate the middleman.
The publishing industry is already here, with authors putting out books on Amazon without any big name backers. Louis C.K. recently sold his own content online, resulting in a million dollars for the comedian. Consider releasing an online-only single, or host an exclusive paid webchat. Fans respect that you need to make money. They DONT respect when you attempt to sue them for using your song in their video of their kid taking her first step.
3. Get Creative and Shift Perception.
If no one knows you, you can’t sell concert tickets, merch, or any of the other revenue streams that artists inevitably have. What if artists actually USED sharing to their advantage? What if they had brand ambassadors actually THANKING people for using their music, or linking to their music, and offering them the opportunity to help promote the artist? Justin Bieber’s entire career was made because he offered brilliant free content on YouTube. When you’re good, you’re good, and nothing’s going to stop you.
The sharing of music has been around for decades– think of the mixtape as the quintessential “you’ve gotta hear this” gesture. There is no question that companies that do not have a way to compensate artists and distribute their content through piracy should be held accountable– but massive government regulation that would hurt the everyday user is not the answer.
Musicians, government officials, and the internet community need to think harder and better about how to remodel this changing industry before it completely implodes.