Kevin Spacey On Stopping Piracy: Give The Fans What They Want

House-of-cardsKevin 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.

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  1. Although Spacey isn’t wrong, the thing is that Netflixx offers hundreds of TV Series and films and makes its money off of all of them. If they were to finance House of Cards from the revenue they get exclusively out of people watching it on Netflixx, they would’ve gone under incredibly fast.
    For an artist who has one, two, three albums, this model is not applicable. It could only work for a company selling hundreds of records. Sort of like what Spotify does. Spotify makes money out of it, but the individual artists don’t.
    Therefore, applying this model to music is the best way to ensure artists make no money and stop making music altogether.
    If Mercedes sold five cars a year, for a couple of thousand dollars each, they would stop making cars. And if they didn’t, it would take them 20 years to come up with new designs and technologies and the cars would never be great.
    So if we don’t get paid enough for our music, it’s the same deal.
    I completely understand that people want a lot for their money, but writing music, arranging it, recording it, mixing and mastering it, making it available should be worth more than a few pennies. Sites like Spotify don’t even bring in enough money to pay for my website.
    Give the people what they want, sure, but the people also need to understand that quality comes at a price.

  2. As a fan of “House Of Cards” (& I watched this series in that sort of Binge sitting he spoke of), I think the heart of his comments are in the right place. I found out about the show from Facebook recommendations. It may just be a case by case situation. Musicians can’t exactly put all their eggs in one basket (especially independent musicians) but giving “some” of what the people want may work. (Until the brand reaches a certain level to be more flexible?)

  3. Spacey is not advocating giving content away, but rather distributing it the way people want (streaming all episodes available at once) and at a reasonable price. In those ways Spotify is just like Netflix.
    Individual artists have options too, like artist subscriptions: ‘give me $20 a year anD instead of one album I’ll give a steady stream of new musiC, private access, discounts to shows and merch, etc.
    This is not the only model, but its is an option for some.

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