The recent decision by Radiohead to release their new album with a user decided cost ( http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2007/10/03/bmcolumn103.xml ) has made me wonder about art and its perceived value in general. The media has gone crazy on this story, musing on whether this will effect the future of the music industry in general.
Will most people pay for this album and reward the artist, or will they happily consume it as a freebie? Would you pay for something you didn’t have to? Is it just plain stupidity to pay for something you can get for free or is it an ethical question?
I think this issue ties in quite nicely with the issue of “security” that comes up on RB occasionally – the idea that consumers can simply right click and save a copy of your art. Early indications from the Radiohead camp say that “most” people are paying for the album. Most! That means that given the choice of freebie or payment, many are choosing to pay for art. I wonder how much this means for us, as artists. Does being fair and allowing the responsibility to rest on the consumer instead of controlling it by restrictions and watermarks, actually make people act ethically!?
Why are most people paying? Is Radiohead’s attitude on this point the reason people are choosing to pay? By standing their ground ethically, does this roll over onto the consumer? A kind of contagious morality?
I think this makes people think about the value of what they are paying for and receiving. There are always going to be some people who want everything for free and will right click and save your work or download the album for free. But were they ever going to be your buyer?