The internet already allows for zero cost content distribution to large amounts of people with technologies like BitTorrent.
As the time goes by, labels will be lucky if they’re still getting artists signed, sites like Bandcamp and YouTube empower artists to go directly to their fans.
The tools at hand no longer create barriers for non popular genres to reach their audiences, the adoption and advance of smartphones and mobile networks will make it even easier to distribute content to your fans, right to the palm of their hand.
I believe the long tail of music taste is a far bigger market than the one the big labels have been focused on all these years, and that long tail is very reachable today by anybody with internet access (which is starting to spread massively on mobile devices).
When most content creators in the planet realize this, the attention of file sharers will be scarce and I think it will come to a point on which they’ll be willing to pay to reach the very audiences that will care about their work, at that point they will pay to share (think Google Adwords for content). Relevant discovery and recommendation tools are be very important for the massive amount of independent content being created every day.
Bands already want to share, Creative Commons licenses are here to show us what copyright should be like on the internet, The tables are turning and the channels are here and getting better and better.
They keep talking about how they made DVD deals that make no sense no more because people are watching their movies for free the day after the release online on pirate websites. Why on earth are you putting the financial fate of your indie film solely on a format that’s dying? hint, the people that are pirating your content aren’t doing so on DVD, they’re getting it through the internet remember?
Then you go on to say the solution to your problem without paying attention to your own words “the pirate websites are making money on advertising and we can’t do anything about it!”
Are you listening to yourselves?
The solution is doing exactly what the pirate websites are doing Make your content free and monetize it on ads YOURSELF, use your film to advertise itself and merchandise around it GLOBALLY.
Here you have the cheapest most effective content distribution tools available in history at virtually no cost and you’re not using them. Sharing your film with a Creative Commons license gives others a clear signal to share the content for you, you don’t even have to be there to give people permission when you do it in advance.
When your movie is done, give it for free on YOUR website, on BitTorrent, on youtube, put ads on it and around it, and place links for people to buy your DVD, Blu-ray, T-Shirt, Special Edition Sets, Action Figures. etc.
Make your content available through Creative Commons licenses, allow for it to be remixed, let your cultural impact reach others in ways you didn’t imagine, a Creative Commons license forces the sharer or remixer to give you attribution and incredible things can happen to your film when it reaches audiences you never intended in ways that you never intended.
Sharing your content is FREE MARKETING that can open so many business opportunities for you. And all this time you’re stuck on selling tickets and DVDs, the most expensive 2 ways to distribute your films, the worst distribution channels controlled by box office and retail mafias that will take a big cut of the sales, when all this time you could be saving so much on marketing and distribution worldwide. It’s almost unbelievable that you’re still missing out on these opportunities and saying the film industry will die when it now has a worldwide audience instantly.
Put your movie on YouTube as well and apply for monetization, you’ll get millions of viewers WORLDWIDE there too and get a great CPM rate on video advertising.
If you make it hard for people to see your movie while others are making it easy you are pushing business away, no matter what technology or law they pass, if someone really wants to see your movie and it’s not easy for them to access legally (not in theaters, not in DVD, or they just can’t afford to pay you) they are going to get it so it might as well be you spreading the content, tracking all the views, and monetizing all those free views yourself.
If it works out for the pirates, it will work 10 times better for you because you are the source of the content, you will be ranked first on search engines, and you will sell copies and merchandise, guaranteed.
You’re the only people complaining about having too many customers. Stop thinking of a scarcity based business model, you have a product that can be copied endlessly, why not make use of that amazing feature?
Update: I just want to say that I’m super happy that all this SOPA/PIPA happened, it has raised awareness not only on problems but it’s made people look at those of us who have been working for years on solutions for content creators around free based models. In this post I’ve talked about film, but all my talk doesn’t come out of thin air, it comes from the experience we’ve had working day and night with musicians, here’s more if you are interested on what we achieved in 2011 with Creative Commons, BitTorrent and open minded content creators (don’t miss the statements of singer Kellee Maize, who has come time after time back to the bittorrent community)
Update 2: I also want to clarify, that I’m not saying “drop selling and go free 100%”, I’m saying do both. Giving content for free on the internet will not affect your sales at all, if you remember it’s already being copied for free, it’s just not being done under your supervision. The people that pay to see your movie on DVD or on the movie theater are used to that experience of those form factors and they will keep doing it because they’re used to it.
Have your content easily accesible online, have both free and paid versions of it online, convenience and availability is the best antidote for piracy. Once the content is free there’s no motivation for the pirates to do anything, it’s already free and you can even use the opportunity to grow a much larger community of fans around your content, even if they don’t pay for it, they’ll love you and spread the word about it.