Thursday, January 31, 2008

Free stuff?

I'm not giving away free stuff, but rather will be talking about free stuff on the Net. Clearly there are loads of free things you can get off the internet: music, photos, videos, software, to start with the basics. It seems to me things don't really last for free for long.

Producers need to capitalize on the Internet platform; I don't blame them. They spend their time and energy creating something; they should be paid for their creative efforts.

I had a free counter in my old blog that tracked the number of my visitors and which countries they are in. I've had visitors from all over the world, and knowing that is mind-blowing. There's no guarantee they actually read my posts, but it motivates you to come up with thoughtful and (hopefully) thought-provoking posts that (can) enlighten, inform, even entertain. If not, at the very least, this space for my mental dump can be viewed by people from all over the world.

Anyhow, I visited the same site to get a counter for this blog, but alas, it's no longer free. You get a trial version for a measly 15 days then you'd have to pay afterward.

Of course it boils down to the issue of intellectual property and copyright serving as incentive for producers to create...against which I can attempt to argue that producers are merely using raw materials from culture. But that's minimizing the value of their creative effort.

I just find it sad that ultimately all things can be commodified and reduced to monetary value.

I do enjoy all the free stuff I get off the Internet -- like my Asian music. Oh, and all my music. I hardly buy any music anymore, and I'm not guilty for it. Not much anyway. I pay loads to watch live concerts, which I much prefer. I like to think I am being fair that way.

Music downloading isn't legally a crime in Canada (if it's for personal use) -- yet. Time will come that the U.S. recording industry will succeed in pressuring Canadian government to enforce strict copyright laws. I find that ridiculous really -- it's not like the artists themselves are benefiting from their own creative work. It's the moguls up there who are pocketing most of the money. I think they have more than enough of it. And it's not like any music nowadays is completely original.

Truth is, the music industry will have to update its outmoded business model to go along with the times. It's inevitable. Some are living up to the challenge: Radiohead for instance lets their fans pick how much they want to pay for downloading their new album. That idea may be ludicrous to record labels, but I think it's brilliant: this kind of selling attracts loyal fans who will of course come to all of Radiohead's live shows and buy all their "merch." And isn't live music so much more enticing and participatory for music artists and fans alike?

Furthermore, it's not only by selling CDs or digital versions of the music that the music industry generates income -- with the new digital economy, there's a whole new world of income-generating opportunities (ringtones for instance are no small business for the industry).

Take Asian boy bands as another example. Fahrenheit, my favourite Taiwanese idol group (mostly because Jiro Wang is in it -- haha) earn most of their income not through selling CDs, but by acting in dramas and endorsing products (in commercials, print ads, etc.). It's quite remarkable how the Taiwanese model is like: jack-of-all-trades artistes sing, dance, host, model and act. Rainie Yang, F4, Danson Tang, S.H.E -- the list is extensive and these are just a few of the acts I'm familiar with -- all are prized idols by their management companies; they do everything. I hardly think that with the decline of CD-buying, these artists will lose incentive to produce (as the logic of copyright and intellectual property dictate).
Here's something amusing: a Chinese knockoff of Facebook -- format, layout, the works -- apparently are exactly the same. I wonder if Mark Zuckerberg has a problem with that. I'd like to think he hasn't been corporate brainwashed yet, considering he was a college student too not so long ago.

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