Dan Connolly's tinkering lab notebook

A Return to Patronism

Everybody wonders how artists and publishers are going to survive in the age of digital distribution.

I tried running ads here like everybody else does. For about a day. I hated it.

I don't know how business models for record labels, newspaper publishers, and movie studios will evolve, but as for artists, I hope to see a return to patronism, where the customer is the fan, not the advertiser.

My favorite paper from the W3C Digital Rights Management workshop in 2001 was Mark S. Manasse's  Why Rights Management is Wrong (and What to Do Instead):

Readers, viewers, and listeners are fans, not thieves. ... Mechanical enforcement of licenses should be lax to non-existent. Strictly enforced licenses would either be so permissive as to be useless, or they would make it difficult to loan an album to a friend, or to bring a video to a party. ... Legal enforcement of licenses is good, however ...

Then in 2002 I had an eye-opening chat with Aaron Swartz:

03:28:52I think ... preventing people from playing songs without a license is counter-productive. song-playing should be encouraged because it makes people more likely to buy the song (i.e. if they like it)

03:31:04but if I can play my song without a license, what motivates me to acquire a license... or to compensate the artist in any way?
03:31:46do we just bag the idea of compensation for recorded music? go with the services model? i.e. pay for concerts?
03:32:06I don't see that happening.
03:32:07you pay because you want the artist to live well and continue making music (the same reason people are paying lilo)
03:32:32(or K5, etc.)
03:33:05is lilo getting more than trivial compensation?
03:33:18this seems to involves a substantial cultural shift.
03:33:29DanC: that's what we're looking for
03:33:37 which recently raised tens of thousands of dollars for its sysadmin
03:33:50ah, $37,000
03:34:03DanC: completely different cultural activities will be promoted, when only those that inspire their audience to donate can get funding
03:34:32people might even get what they want, rather than what's advertised to them

Journalism Will Survive the Death of Its Institutions by Knight 2007 News Challenge Winner Lisa Williams had such an impact on me that I had to include it when presenting Changes in the Languages of the Web at Web Directions North in Feb 2009, exploring a big picture around digital media, free culture, and the freedom to tinker while giving my perspective on HTML 5.

Then in May I discovered an interesting model in Trelgol Publishing: each work initially has a traditional per-copy price, but once its "world price" is met after so many copies are sold that way, the work is released to the public domain.

And just recently, among the discussion surrouding Diaspora:

This is an approach adopted by some forward-thinking musicians: for example, Jill Sobule funded her last album in the same way, garnering $75,000 in pledges from fans.

I thought the pledge/escrow system was pretty nifty; at Christmas time in 2007, I used it to organize support for a friend after a tragedy. I tried to use it again today but I see that fundable closed permanently in October 2009! Kickstart and kapipal seem to be in the same space, but they have somewhat different models. But there's always the basic tip-jar approach:

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