Why (and how) will we pay for music?

I was adding links to the roundup of mesh08 coverage that I’ve been keeping both on the mesh blog and also here, and I came across a post by Chris Clarke that mentioned some of his impressions of mesh, and also described how he asked a question during my keynote conversation with Ethan Kaplan of Warner Brothers Records, but didn’t really get an answer. The question was “Why should I ever pay for music again?” Ethan responded in a comment at Chris’s blog, but also posted it on his own blog. Here are a few excerpts:

“You pay for music regardless of whether or not you actively consume it. That’s what sync/performance/publishing licensing is for.

The challenge is not “how will you pay for music again” but more “how do we as a producer produce something worth consuming.”

Anyhow, your question “Why should I ever pay for music again?” is not so simply answered. Why should you? Hopefully because you find something worth paying for.

Our challenge… is to figure out the theories, rationality, psychological reasons and such as to what the transition into a homogenized and representation-dependent, decentered and binary-data media system does to modes of consumption.”

As Ethan points out, these kinds of concerns aren’t solely the province of the music business. Other content-related industries are struggling with the same issues: if content can flow in dozens of different ways, and in many cases is effectively free, how do content producers generate something meaningful that people will be willing to pay for?

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