Kevin Spacey gave a speech at the International Television Festival in Edinburgh late last month with a big focus on the implications of Netflix's "House of Cards" for the tv industry. He emphasized a number of points about piracy and giving the fans what they want that are quite relevant to the music industry as well.
Kevin Spacey's speech is making the rounds in the form of video excerpts which are circulating widely.
"Give people what they want"
Spacey's comments on the "Netflix model," which currently includes providing all episodes of a season at once for binge streaming, caught people's attention:
"And through this new form of distribution, we have demonstrated that we have learned the lesson that the music industry didn’t learn: Give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price, and they’ll more likely pay for it rather than steal it."
He then hedged it a bit less forcefully:
""Well, some will still steal it, but I think we can take a bite out of piracy."
Unfortunately "giving people what they want" and still running a business is not as easy as Spacey makes it sound. Given that "House of Cards" was available initially only on Netflix and that many audience members would probably prefer to simply be dunked in a stewpot of endlessly fascinating free content, I'm not sure that the "Netflix model" is the one true solution.
There are good arguments for tiered releases but increasing evidence suggests that the heart of Spacey's comments are correct:
"Give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price, and they’ll more likely pay for it rather than steal it."
The audience is "rooting for us to give them the right thing"
Spacey also discussed the audience's desire for stories, meaning "great" stories, and I think that can be applied to great music as well:
"And the audience has spoken. They want stories. They’re dying for them. They’re rooting for us to give them the right thing. And they will talk about it, binge on it, carry it with them on the bus and to the hairdresser, force it on their friends, tweet, blog, Facebook, make fan pages, silly GIFs, and God knows what else about it. Engage with it with a passion and an intimacy that a blockbuster movie could only dream of."
"And all we have to do is give it to them. The prized fruit is right there, shinier and juicier than it’s ever been before. So it’ll be all the more shame on each and every one of us if we don’t reach out and seize it."
Spacey could easily be describing how music fans respond to music and musicians they care about.
And not only do fans want to spread the word but many want to support the musicians themselves. By giving fans what they want in the form they want it, the music industry can tap into Amanda Palmer's admonition to shift from making fans pay for music to letting them.
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch/@crowdfundingm) also blogs at Flux Research and Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.