In case you've been missing it, Gary Trudeau's Doonesbury comic strip this week has been addressing the music industry. Strip stalwart Jimmy Thudpucker in today's strip (February 24, 2005) being interviewed:
"So Jimmy, You really think the collapse of the recording industry would be good for music?
Absolutely. Without record sales to worry about, musicians can focus on performance careers. In this new world, talented musicians will prosper and bad ones will have plenty of time to practice.
And the suits?
The suits will die off, and Pepperland will be free again!"
John Perry Barlow, Grateful Dead lyricist, rancher, cyberspace activist, and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has said that "Information Wants To Be Free," which may be taken as a rationalization for unauthorized use and misappropriation of digital assets. All of us prefer free. Me too. But Barlow's assertion may be rooted in the Dead experience as well.
The Grateful Dead was perhaps the worlds premier concert band. They encouraged Dead Heads to make recordings of concerts because their business model was rooted in concert (and perhaps merchandise) revenue, but not mainly in record royalties. So it's probably no accident that Barlow asserts that Information is Experienced, Not Possessed.
Some musicians may wish to adopt the Grateful Dead / Barlow business model. But for those who don't tour -- Steely Dan during the many years when they were just a fabulous studio band -- and those who are not the blockbuster stadium acts, royalties from recordings may be their main livelihood revenue.
DRM technologies should be a foundation for giving consumers and musicians choice among business models.