Kevin Kelly: “Sell things that can’t be copied.”

Like it or not, free music is here. But how does a business survive when its primary product is available for free?  In a must read post on his Technium blog, "Better Than Free", Kevin Kelly suggests a new way of thinking about free, as well as, a way forward.

Free man
internet is a copy machine…Unlike the mass-produced reproductions of the machine age, these copies are not just cheap, they are free.

If reproductions of our best efforts are free, how can we keep going? To put it simply, how does one make money selling free copies?

I have an answer. The simplest way I can put it is thus:

When copies are super abundant, they become worthless.
When copies are super abundant, stuff which can't be copied becomes scarce and valuable.

When copies are free, you need to sell things which can not be copied."


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  1. Good blog post; many good ideas and strategies.
    I have some problems with the language though. Copies ARE NOT ALL simply free. Many only have the appearance of being free because they’ve been copied by users illegally…which is precisely why there is a law against doing that. I’m NOT saying that we can control this aspect of digital music today, but I am saying let’s at least recognize this.
    Internet access also has a hefty price attached to it, look at your monthly ISP bill. The convenience of having these freely obtained copies is exchanged for a lot of money which does not go to the rights holder. Of course, if something is truly given away freely by those that have a right to make that choice, then yes it can be called free in essence.
    I’m in no way denying that content appears to be free online, there is no arguing that…any artist would be smart to realize that and investigate alternative ways to deal with this new reality.

  2. This is a very interesting thought process. I do think the music industry will move towards free, but I also believe that each track has its own product lifecycle. In this product lifecycle record labels need to know at which stages they are able to make the most revenues and for the remaining stages they need to maximise profits. I definitely believe there is better than free, but record labels need to find it or someone else will.

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