Steven Jobs is interviewed in Rolling Stone: Steve Jobs: The Rolling Stone Interview: He changed the computer industry. Now he’s after the music business. (Slashdot discussion: Steve Jobs and the State of Legal Music Downloads)
Interesting to see just how hard it is for him to make his case:
David Bowie predicted that, because of the Internet and piracy, copyright is going to be dead in ten years. Do you agree?
No. If copyright dies, if patents die, if the protection of intellectual property is eroded, then people will stop investing. That hurts everyone. People need to have the incentive so that if they invest and succeed, they can make a fair profit. But on another level entirely, it’s just wrong to steal. Or let’s put it this way: It is corrosive to one’s character to steal. We want to provide a legal alternative.
Of course, a lot of college students who are grabbing music off Kazaa today don’t see themselves as doing anything any different from what you did when you were a teenager, copying bootleg Bob Dylan tapes.
The truth is, it’s really hard to talk to people about not stealing music when there’s no legal alternative. The advent of a legal alternative is only six months old. Maybe there’s been a generation of kids lost — and maybe not, who knows? Maybe they think stealing music is like driving seventy mph on the freeway — it’s over the speed limit, but what’s the big deal? But I don’t think that’s the way it’s going to stay, not with future generations, at least. But who knows? This is all new territory.
There’s a contradiction at the heart of what he’s trying to say. For example, there’s this:
Of course, music theft is nothing new. There have been bootlegs for years.
Of course. What’s new is this amazingly efficient distribution system for stolen property, called the Internet — and no one’s gonna shut down the Internet.
And it only takes one stolen copy to be on the Internet. The way we expressed it to them was: You only have to pick one lock to open every door.
And yet, he gets what really needs to be sold to compete with “free:”
Our position from the beginning has been that eighty percent of the people stealing music online don’t really want to be thieves. But that is such a compelling way to get music. It’s instant gratification. You don’t have to go to the record store; the music’s already digitized, so you don’t have to rip the CD. It’s so compelling that people are willing to become thieves to do it. But to tell them that they should stop being thieves — without a legal alternative that offers those same benefits — rings hollow. We said, “We don’t see how you convince people to stop being thieves unless you can offer them a carrot — not just a stick.” And the carrot is: We’re gonna offer you a better experience . . . and it’s only gonna cost you a dollar a song.
The other thing we told the record companies was that if you go to Kazaa to download a song, the experience is not very good. You type in a song name, you don’t get back a song — you get a hundred, on a hundred different computers. You try to download one, and, you know, the person has a slow connection, and it craps out. And after two or three have crapped out, you finally download a song, and four seconds are cut off, because it was encoded by a ten-year-old. By the time you get your song, it’s taken fifteen minutes. So that means you can download four an hour. Now some people are willing to do that. But a lot of people aren’t.
Not to mention explaining the record industry/artist conflict succinctly:
They feel they’ve been ripped off.
They feel that. But then again, the music companies aren’t making a lot of money right now . . . so where’s the money going? Is it inefficiency? Is somebody going to Argentina with suitcases full of hundred-dollar bills? What’s going on?
After talking to a lot of people, this is my conclusion: A young artist gets signed, and he or she gets a big advance — a million dollars, or more. And the theory is that the record company will earn back that advance when the artist is successful.
Except that even though they’re really good at picking, only one or two out of the ten that they pick is successful. And so most of the artists never earn back that advance — so the record companies are out that money. Well, who pays for the ones that are the losers?
The winners pay. The winners pay for the losers, and the winners are not seeing rewards commensurate with their success. And they get upset. So what’s the remedy? The remedy is to stop paying advances. The remedy is to go to a gross-revenues deal and tell an artist, “We’ll give you twenty cents on every dollar we get, but we’re not gonna give you an advance. The accounting will be simple: We’re gonna pay you not on profits — we’re gonna pay you off revenues. It’s very simple: The more successful you are, the more you’ll earn. But if you’re not successful, you will not earn a dime. We’ll go ahead and risk some marketing money on you. But if you’re not successful, you’ll make no money. If you are, you’ll make a lot more money.” That’s the way out. That’s the way the rest of the world works.
So you see the recording industry moving in that direction?
No. I said I think that’s the remedy. Whether the patient will swallow the medicine is another question.