Almost three years ago, in Febraury 2010 (yeah, I know – three years!) the Economist ran a supplement called “The Data Deluge“, about Big Data and how it was transforming businesses all over the world. In the middle of the supplement was an article called ‘Clicking for Gold‘, in which there’s a quote from Tim O’Reilly, who says that companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook ‘…are uncomfortable bringing so much attention to this because it is at the heart of their competitive advantage. Data are the coin of the realm. They have a big lead over other companies that do not ‘get’ this.’ For the intervening time, I’ve been quoting this to telcos all over the world, and they nod their heads, and – for the most part – don’t do much about it.
On July 4th, Amazon (U.S.) ran a promotion where you could download any mp3 version of the United States national anthem for free. There were 692 items to choose from including a number of times the same song appeared on different anthems (it came as no surprise that the Jimi Hendrix version was included on multiple albums). So, if we discard the repeats, the ringtones and the karaoke versions, we are still left with 500 versions of the same song that today (not July 4th) would cost $0.99 each.
So this got me thinking, first as a great example of the long tail at work, where because creation and distribution costs are so low there are many versions of the same song. And even when distribution costs are higher, there are 175 CDs, within Amazon’s CD store, that include the “Star Spangled Banner”. But perhaps more importantly, I think this demonstrates the value of encouraging creativity by having something in the public domain that could be interpreted by so many different artists without worrying about song licensing fees.
Digital Rights Management (DRM) has been very much in the news these past few days – from the Queen’s iPod and whether it violated copyright law, and Apple rolling out their no-DRM variable pricing. I am not sure that no-DRM and variable pricing should be linked together although the record companies would like everyone to readily accept no-DRM from Apple as meaning some songs cost more.
With regards to Apple’s, Amazon’s etc. new pricing, I wonder if it will work.From a consumer’s point of view – the cost of a song is all over the place. Taking Leonard Cohen’s and Lady GaGa’s new CDs as an example. Continue reading