we’re not in it for the money

“Ten?! Are you trying to insult me?! Me, with a poor dying grandmother?! Ten!?” Trying to buy music from Harry The Haggler – the tenacious market salesman in Monty Python’s The Life Of Brian – would take some time. But at least he would offer a colourful conversation. And options.

Black and white
Statements from the current music marketplace are distinctly black and white. Reacting to the recent ruling against peer-to-peer file sharing network Grokster, EMI chairman, Eric Nicoli said: “”What the (US) supreme court did was make a ruling that effectively gives the content owners authority to sue.” The music industry’s fight against online copyright theft erupted six, wordy years ago when Napster first showed its cheeky, digital face. And because of the corporate language employed by the industry, the bottom line has usually been presented as…the bottom line. No sales, no money.

But the effect of no money reaches deeper than the pinstriped pockets. As BPI spokesman, Steve Redmond states: “If we don’t demonstrate that copyright law has teeth…countless musicians will lose their livelihoods.” Bob Marley left Jamaica in 1967 because he couldn’t make a living out of music. And I have a hunch that tantrums and tiaras were not his style.

Tuned in
However, amidst the harsh, business sentences, others have been freeing up more colourful options. TuneTribe, co-founded by Tom Findlay of Groove Armada, was launched earlier this year. Its website states that: “TuneTribe is a music shop run by music lovers for music lovers.”

It’s simple and flexible. Labels and artists can sell their wares, at a price that they set, through the TuneTribe website. With a royalty rate of 80%, compared to the industry standard of 15%, TuneTribe will benefit small independents and unsigned acts the most. But as Findlay points out, it could also help the majors: “we are doing them a favour…they can come to TuneTribe and listen to bands they know already have a following.”

Software developers have been building a multi-hued bazaar for years. Some don’t want any money, instead swapping work for postcards and even garden gnomes. Perhaps the music marketplace is expanding; stretching beyond the black and white lines of corporates and pirates. I’m sure I can hear old Harry haggling: “Peer today, gnome tomorrow?”


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