So stumbled upon this piece in the NY Times today by Billy Bragg about Bebo’s sale to AOL and the buzz at SXSW music – how musicians can make a living in the Age of the Internet (sic). My immediate thought was, well, you should have come a week earlier to the SXSW interactive bit… My second thought was about something more troubling.
In the piece, Bragg muses about the time Bebo’s co-founder, Michael Birch, came to see him shortly after he had That Spat about residual rights and his music with MySpace. Bebo wanted him help and advice on building an “artist centric platform”.
Bragg is bemoaning that the artists still have had no offer of payment as “thanks” for attracting the community and helping to build something worthy enough of the millions. But I am getting really bored of this.
The reason why is because these platforms, services and “communities” are not all about the professional artist. Yes, music and other parts of popular culture give people social objects to talk around and to build conversations and groups upon. But it is a complex ecosystem. Without the people themselves making the ties, the conversations, the fan art or wom tributes around these artifacts, there would be very little value.
So where do you draw the line? I am reminded of Cory Doctorow’s proclamation that content isn’t king – conversation is. Content just gives people something to talk about.
If Bragg feels he has the right to gain financial reward why can’t the other “sharecroppers”, as Nick Carr puts it?
We hear again and again that service a, application b would be nothing without the cast of community characters who make it so and give it its flavour. Well then, isn’t it about time we/they were recompensed too?