20 July 2006
SETI League
PriUPS Project


If Music Grew on Trees

There would be an enormous Beatles plantation in Brazil!  Dani, California would be given over from growing Chili Peppers to Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Nebraska flatlands could be indefinitely subdivided into as many plots as needed, and on them would grow all the oldies acts.  40 acres for the Jefferson Starship, 4 acres for Flo and Eddie, a few hundred square feet for Ford Theatre, and maybe a small garden for Appaloosa.

If music grew on trees, there would be an economic balance between the creators and the consumers.  Musicians would grow their music and sell it.  Consumers would buy it and consume it.  If they want more, they would have to buy more.  If a musician became very popular, he could invest his profits in growing more, and there would be more to consume.  If people stopped buying, the musician would take a loss; if the music became more popular, he would make a killing and could use it to plant even more music trees, invest in other music farms, or just retire on the profits.  And best of all, there would be no need for Digital Rights Management, "DRM."

You don't hear a lot about Digital Chocolate Management, do you?  Chocolate follows the "grows on trees" model, and somehow everyone from the grower to the ultimate consumer (that would be me) is happy, or at least content with the situation.  From time to time I will buy chocolate items, from the common (M&Ms) to the exotic (Teuscher Truffles) to the artisanal (Deb's Delectables).  They somehow become consumed, and the larder is replenished by exchanging currency for the desired sweetmeat.

We (in this case, "the world") is going through a phase in which new economic "models" are trying to find a home.  And, as capacious as the world may by, some of them are going to find themselves unwanted.  They will establish a toehold somewhere, and ultimately be beat into submission, cast out, or simply ignored.  The airlines* are going through this right now.  And, although the DRM folks are having fun with their experiments, e.g., subscription music services, iTunes, and a host of hybrids, they are all doomed.  Why?  None of them satisfies the legitimate needs of either the producers or consumers.  In addition, they violate the most basic of economic laws:  "Supply and Demand," in which the unstated assumption "scarcity" doesn't apply.  In effect, there is an infinite supply of music, and only a limited demand. 

This is a blog, not a textbook, so I feel entitled to stop for now.  And, although my typing fingers tend to develop their own volition when I start on this subject, I restrain them with difficulty and the promise that I will generate a lot of additional babble on the subject of DRM and music in the future.  For example, tomorrow I think I shall tell a little story about Wendy.

* My "evil airline scum" softkey had somehow become deprogrammed.  I've fixed it now. 

Richard Factor