Archive for February, 2008

SanFran MusicTech Summit

Monday, February 25th, 2008

At today’s very well produced SanFran MusicTech Summit on a panel called “The Paradise of Infinite Storage” said that the existence of a recording industry protected by copyright is a very recent phenomenon and conjectured that one could take the position that all of the music created to this point is enough. I don’t recall whether he spelled it out, but the implication being that all music should be available for free and we shouldn’t worry about the creation of more music.

This really upset someone in the audience who identified themselves as representing songwriters for decades. This person righteously stipulated that music has value, musicians must be paid, and that if recording copyright is recent, so was the abolition of slavery. It is really he didn’t make reference to Nazis instead of slavery. Hmm, they did use slave labor.

Unfortunately Godwin said he did not agree with the conjecture and agreed with the vacuous statement that music has value (duh, consumers spend valuable time listening to music). But if the conjecture is not plainly correct, it is at least extremely weighty. Given that a vast amount of music exists and much more will be created regardless of protection, any harms done (e.g. to free speech and innovation) in the name of incentivizing marginal additions to this vast supply must be viewed with extreme skepticism.

There are basically two perspectives in the ‘Music and Technology‘ conversation. One’s priority is to ensure copyright holders are paid, with a strong preference for protecting existing revenue streams, and the other’s priority is to build cool stuff with new technology. Both were present in every part of this conference that I saw.

Probably the most significant example of the latter present was Lucas Gonze demoing the Yahoo! Media Player, which does a great job of playing media linked on a web page, with nice affordances for that environment.


Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

Three times I’ve linked to the 2005 column If pirating grows, it may not be the end of music world about the music industry in China.

1: Witness massive production of art where expected profit from sales of copies and licensing is nil, both outside the content industry and where restrictions on copying are not enforced.

2: There is some very imperfect evidence from China that without copyright mass culture will still be star-driven and repulsive.

3: But we can also look to markets that started from a very different place, e.g., China.

A new BBC story, ‘Chaos’ of China’s music industry also says that pop stars earn through sponsorship:

The singer made about $2000 (£1,000) a month from music royalties and live shows with her band Mika Bomb when she lived in London.

But in China, her band Long Kuan Jiu Duan can almost double that by singing just one song at a commercial gig.

At these gigs, artists get paid a set amount by companies or promoters regardless of how many tickets they sell.

I assume a “commercial gig” is some kind of promotional event, but I’d like to read a more in depth look at the economics of pop music in China. (I have little doubt that the economics of music worth listening to is little different than in the U.S. — made for love at a financial loss or sometimes subsidized by grants or academic employment.)

This post is also an excuse to link to Let’s Do Like Them, which expresses one of my top peeves.


Monday, February 18th, 2008

There are a number of fun things about a sketch of Uberfact: the ultimate social verifier. The first is that the post could be written without mentioning . The second is that the proposed project is a nice would-be example of political desires sublimated entirely into creating useful and voluntary tools. Third, Mencius Moldbug is a fun writer.

Something like Uberfact should absolutely be built, though I’m far from certain it would hit a sweet spot. It may be too decentralized or too centralized or both. All points from enhancing Wikipedia to the Semantic Web (with Uberfact somewhere between) are complementary and well worth pursuing, particularly if that pursuit displaces malinvestment in politics.

Relatedly, but no time to explain why:

California nightmare

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Some of the best points are blindingly obvious. Will Wilkinson on good peopleracists who advocate apartheid:

Presently, whites are well less than half the Cailfornian population. Hispanics make up just more than a third. Asians at 12 percent are nearly double the black population. I’d guess it won’t be long before Hispanics pass whites to become a plurality.

Now, if my fearful commenters aren’t simply making things up in their paranoid dreams, wouldn’t California be a complete disaster already? Of course, we all know that, were it a country, California would be the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world. The median household income in California, $54,385, ranks 11th in the U.S., and would put California right near the top of the world rankings.

More data: California population born in a non-U.S. jurisdiction: 26.9%, entire U.S.: 11.8% (excluding California should be about 9.8% for the proper comparison).

Some people do think California is a giant burning parking lot, but that isn’t remotely true, even relatively. There are things to dislike about California (e.g., San Francisco is a pathetic parochial town instead of Sanhattan, Scientologists in LA), but approximately none of them have anything to do with the presence of non-U.S. citizens. I’ll take California over Oklahoma (4.2%) any day.

The American citizen race

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

Where have the immigrants gone? in the Chicago Tribune on the impact of Oklahoma’s new apartheid law, HB 1804, the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection[ist] Act:

“You really have to work hard at it to destroy our state’s economy, but we found a way,” said state Sen. Harry Coates, the only Republican in the state Legislature to vote against the immigration law. “We ran off the workforce.”

No, they didn’t run off the workforce, they kept the American citizen race pure:

Carol Helm, director of Immigration Reform for Oklahoma Now, says the Oklahoma law was necessary to stop a burgeoning population of illegal immigrants from “multiplying faster than the American citizen race” and overwhelming the state’s social services.

I’d like to offer Helm amnesty.

According to the article, HB 1804 does the following:

  • Makes it a felony to harbor, transport, conceal or shelter unauthorized immigrants
  • Restricts access to driver’s licenses and identification cards
  • Terminates several forms of public assistance
  • Expands authority of local law-enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration law
  • Requires verification of employment eligibility using a federal database

Historical aggregator profits

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

Kevin Kelly on Eight Generatives Better Than Free (i.e., 8 post-copyright business models) with a factoid:

For many years the paper publication TV Guide made more money than all of the 3 major TV networks it “guided” combined.

I haven’t bothered to verify this, but it doesn’t seem impossible.

As a kid in the late 70s I used the presence of in a home as a bozo indicator for the residents, conveniently allowing me to feel superior to nearly everyone. Including my parents, who I felt did not subscribe due to cheapness and religiosity rather than not having poor taste.