Why I Hope the Free Brigade Got It Wrong

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Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you already know about the dust-up between Malcolm Gladwell, Chris Anderson and Seth Godin…

Anderson’s book, FREE, came out a few weeks back, arguing in part that the distribution costs of any intellectual property that can be boiled down to digital format, be it a song, a book, a video or a game, have become so low that you should essentially round down to zero and accept that if you don’t make it available for free, someone else will.

So, rather than fight it, just suck it up and give it all away.

Then, Malcolm Gladwell mounted a frontal attack against the fundamental premise, showing how the major examples cited by Anderson can just as easily be deemed massive failures. At least, to date. And, he pointed to Youtube’s anticipated $500 million loss over the next year and need to pay hundreds of millions to license content to give away for free in order to have something decent enough to attract advertisers as proof that “if it’s digital, it must be free” is not a working business model.

Soonafter, Seth Godin chimed in with a post entitled Malcolm is wrong, backing up Chris and arguing “enough with the arguing,” free is here to stay, it’s the way it is. So, you can argue all you want, but in the meantime, recordings of your argument are being posted all over the web for people to engage with…for free.

Chris, Malcom and Seth are all people who I respect immensely and often read with my head nodding happily along.

But, this time, I have to admit to hoping the Free Brigade have got it wrong, really, really wrong at least as it pertains to scaling itty bitty businesses and creative geniuses who want a life outside of performing.

Because if the Free Brigade are right, if we who create information, performances, music, writings, recordings and any other electronic “commoditized” form of our work are required to give our creations away whenever they appear in digital form, that effectively shuts down one of the most powerful and lucrative ways to scale a small business built around creative or strategic output.

What the hell does that mean?

Okay, let’s say we have Ed the marketer. Ed makes a good chunk of his income working with private clients. But, he’s also only one guy and he needs to generate considerably more to support his family. He could hire a bunch of employees, but that means added overhead, complexity and oversight and that would add so many new processes he despises, it’d turn the job he loves into a mechanical money beast that generates more cash, but empties his soul and leaves his kids wondering who their father is…and why he’s always so pissed off on the rare occasions they do see him.

So, instead, he takes a different path and decides to scale his business by commodotizing his knowledge then distributing it on a mass level at a price that’s a fraction of his private consulting fees. He offers streaming videos, CDs, DVDs, mp3s, ebooks, webcasts and teleseminars.

In doing so, Ed is able to scale his income without adding substantially more oversight and complexity and the market of people who want to work with Ed but can’t afford his private fees are thrilled to benefit from his knowledge at a fraction of the price of a private retainer.

But, if the Free Brigade are right, then Ed’s world is about to come crashing down.

According to Chris and Seth, any time Ed tries to commoditize his knowledge, creative process or intellectual property and distribute it online, he should accept that it’ll end up on bit-torrent faster than he’ll be able to say “I lose” and suck up the fact that nobody’s going to pay for what they can download for free.

Even knowing this, though, Ed should continue to take time away from his paying clients and pour his heart and soul into creating and distributing this content, because it’ll act as great “freemium” marketing for his private, face-to-face services.

But, there’s a problem. Now that he’s lost the 30-50% of his income that was being generated by selling digital versions of his work, he’ll need to either:

(a) double his fees to make up the difference, which would have the effect of either pricing him out of business or making his services available to only the wealthiest of clients and likely eliminating a ton of people he’d love to work with and who desperately need his help,

(b) hire a bunch of employees or contractors and scale his business in the very way that turns what he loves to do into a big fat heap of “my dream career just turned into a suck-ass job that I wish I never started” or

(c) Deal with the fact that he can’t make enough to support his family any more, move to a smaller house, live more modestly and get comfortable with the fact that his master plan has just become his master.

So, if we are to accept that digital now means free (not freemium or some-free/some-paid), we’d also need to bury the single most effective simplicity-driven way to scale a passion-driven small-business or professional practice.

And, Seth and Chris may just be right. This may in fact be the emerging new reality.

As Seth wrote, “Who cares if we want it? It is.”

But, I hope not. Because I’m not all that fond of a world where bands need to accept that a solid chunk of the financial upside of their passion has largely evaporated since they now must give away their mp3’s, dvds and CDs as marketing “freemiums” and be relegated to touring until they’re 70 or charging $500 a ticket to make up for a complete loss of music sales.

Because I want to be able to share years of killer small business modeling, messaging and marketing ideas with thousands of clients through books, videos, seminars and info-products at a small-fraction of the price I’d charge for private consulting fees.

Because it’ll help them and it’ll allow me to earn enough to live well in the world, scale my business and my output in a way that preserves the simplicity I hold dear, continue to do what I love and carve out plenty of time to dance around my living room with my wife and little girl.

Sure, I’ll give some of it away to help market, to build my community. But all of it?!

Seth’s answer to this is…

People will pay for content if it is so unique they can’t get it anywhere else, so fast they benefit from getting it before anyone else, or so related to their tribe that paying for it brings them closer to other people. We’ll always be willing to pay for souvenirs of news, as well, things to go on a shelf or badges of honor to share.

And, here, I come back into the Seth-fold.

But, in carving out content that’s highly-unique, delivered really fast, or tribally-driven from the need to be free, I wonder if Godin has just left the Anderson’s camp, because, as Malcolm writes:

To musicians who believe that their music is being pirated, Anderson is blunt. They should stop complaining, and capitalize on the added exposure that piracy provides by making money through touring, merchandise sales, and “yes, the sale of some of [their] music to people who still want CDs or prefer to buy their music online.”

Anderson talks, in the book, about a Brazilian band who happily allows local DJs and street vendors to dupe their CDs and sell them for 75 cents without giving the band a cut, because that primes the local market and serves as a free advance team that packs the bands concerts when they come to town.

A band with great, original music seems to be just the thing Godin would carve out from the “everything digital will be free” model. It’s unique, it’s instant delivery and it’s tribal. But, Anderson puts it front and center as a prime example of the model at work.

And, indeed, it does work well for a band who loves nothing more than touring.

But, what if the only thing you’re more passionate about than playing great music with people you’ve known since third grade is being a strongly present, involved dad for your kid, knowing that only 5 short years from now she’ll be begging you to drop her at the corner three blocks from school so as not to embarrass her in front of her friends?

What if you don’t want to trash your personal relationships the way so many traveling musicians and artists do, in the name of earning enough to live well in the world? What if you love the studio, but hate the stage?

Here’s where Seth seems to provide an out, but Chris says “go free or go home.”

So, I wonder, when you add in Seth’s carve-outs, do he and Anderson really still agree…kinda agree…or not?

The more I think about it, the farther apart they get.

In the end, I don’t know who wins the free debate. And, at this point, I’m not even sure who’s on what side anymore?

But, though I usually agree with Seth, I know that when he writes:

The first argument that makes no sense is, “should we want free to be the future?”

Who cares if we want it? It is.

The second argument that makes no sense is, “how will this new business model support the world as we know it today?”

Who cares if it does? It is. It’s happening. The world will change around it, because the world has no choice. I’m sorry if that’s inconvenient, but it’s true.

I care.

Because for solopreneurs, professionals, small business owners and local, passion-driven content-creators, performers and solution providers who are trying to put food on the table for their families and build their livings around what and who make them come alive…it’s more than just “inconvenient” if digital scaling goes bye-bye as a source of revenue.

Curious, what do you think?

What’d I miss (Lord knows Chris, Malcolm and Seth are way smarter than me)?

Let’s discuss…

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109 responses

109 responses to “Why I Hope the Free Brigade Got It Wrong”

  1. Jonathan … WOW. You’ve pretty much hit on every one of my fears this morning. Cheers! 🙂

    I chose my profession because I want to be able to make a living doing what I love, and provide for my family in a way that makes me happy. And proud.

    But if what I spend hours and blood and sweat and (sometimes, yes) tears producing is distilled down to little nuggets that anyone, anywhere can copy and paste (even claim as their own) for free, then where does that leave me? My kids? Scary questions, to be sure.

    I respect all of the minds at the forefront of this argument and, in general, tend to feel as though I’ve been struck by lightning when I’ve read the new ideas they’ve posed. But, in this case, I hope against hope that they’re wrong. Very, very wrong.

  2. The steep decline in CD sales hurts music labels (read: loan sharks) far more than it does musicians.

    I look to the Canadian band Metric as an independent success story. They provide premium merch to their true fans (gagging on buzz words, here) and are making far more money than when they were signed to a major.

    For example, I just paid a premium for presale concert tickets through Metric’s website. I love this band; I’m happy to pay extra for advance tickets.

  3. Allan Bacon says:

    Ummph… Disturbingly lucid analysis Jonathan

    It’s got me thinking – who wins? I guess the consumer in some way. But it seems like it’ll ultimately encourage crappier content because people won’t be willing to put in the time anymore – I mean, if FREE becomes the norm, it will be hard to fool anyone into going this route anymore.

    Is it Google who wins? Or other large companies who will buy up the content and then find another way to use scale to make money?

    Great topic – looking forward to the discussion…

  4. Amazing post!

    Kevin Kelley is the grandfather of the idea of free so I think it would also be nice to pay homage to him by having a link to the original article.

    http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2008/01/better_than_fre.php

    I have been putting a lot of thought into the idea of free as well. It truly is at the center of virtually every entrepreneur’s business model, so if you are not thinking about it, you should be!

    I think it is important to remember that the ability to sell digital information easily to anyone on the planet is only about a decade old. The first movers were able to capitalize on selling their information products at premium prices but that doesn’t mean that it will or should last forever.

    Value is dependent on scarcity, and a few other variables that Godin mentioned. Water was free for all of history but that doesn’t mean it will be free in the future. We are in the opposite situation for information products.

    The world doesn’t owe anyone easy passive income. Real contact with real people is difficult to duplicate, so there will always be a market for that. However, any information product will have thousands of competitors so the market will drive the price to zero.

    If you are selling your info products now, consider yourself lucky because it won’t last. There will surely be new people to come and offer better quality work for free. Like Godin says, it doesn’t matter if you think it is right or not, it is going to happen.

    We as consumers make that decision everyday. We choose the best value choice, even if that choice is sometimes illegal, as in the case of music or software downloads. The best price is usually free.

    If it were easy to be a doctor, we would have a lot more doctors. If it were easy to be a millionaire, we would have a lot more millionaires. Difficult work tends to pay better because less people are willing put in the effort. Easy money attracts everyone because we all want quick riches.

    Information products are easy work. Anyone can write an ebook in a short time and sell it online for $30 or $40. That is why everyone is doing it. It is difficult to work with people one on one and chase down new clients so that work will once again be the primary way people start to earn money. Real is hard. Virtual is easy.

    In past generations we used to help our neighbors build barns or tend to crops for free, because we expected reciprocity when we needed the help. It would have been ridiculous to expect to be paid for that work. The online world is moving back to those old ways. People will be more than willing to offer those products for free online, just to get an audience and a moment of attention. Those free products will constantly increase in quality.

    Work now is the easiest it has ever been in history. No one is owed easy income in perpetuity. Only hard work will be rewarded.

    However, there is a silver lining to all of this. We are in a world of mass abundance. We produce far more than we can ever consume of everything. Jeremy Rifkin predicted “The End of Work” more than 15 years ago and I agree. The upcoming decades will see large percentages of people shift to volunteer work because there will be no need for them in government or private companies.

    People will someday work primarily for self-fulfillment rather than economic necessity, because there will be base standards of living guaranteed for every citizen. I believe it is already starting. It is getting harder and harder to tolerate starving people when our own nations are getting fat. As more of the world focuses on these injustices, perhaps even the concept of work will disappear.

  5. To be honest, I really don’t know what I think. I can totally see both (or all) sides of the argument being true. What really caught my attention in this post is this line: “Who cares if we want it? It is.” Regardless of who is right or who is wrong, we will soon enough see how it all pans out and what will be, will be. Thanks for bringing up a great topic and giving me something to think about!

  6. Sarah Bray says:

    When I read “Free”, I didn’t really get the feeling that he was saying it’s the only way. It seemed like he was saying that it IS here, and it can work really well.

    I know for a fact that paid can work. A couple of years ago, I would never have paid for information online. Now it’s routine practice for me. It used to be a huge barrier to subscribe to a premium version. Now, I happily fork over money every month or year for stuff like Basecamp, the SpeakEasy at IttyBiz, SmugMug, Remember the Milk, Freshbooks, and on.

    Maybe I’m the exception, but I doubt it. Free can work, but paid works too.

  7. I like the hybrid of the two. I am on a couple of email lists where they routinely post great information but then periodically produce a product that you can then buy or pay a subscription for access. Yes could you then take these e-book files and distribute them freely amongst friends and co-workers, but like rebates, it’s work and people don’t end up doing it too much anyways. Two the information is typically specific to certain circumstances so people will pay for value.

    Look at all the free coupon sites out there and promotion codes, you’d be stupid to do online shopping without using them, but people do. People buy with emotions, and if they find value and joy in a product, they’ll buy it. When you have a global audience, if these people spread it to 10 of their friends, so what?

  8. Joe says:

    Jonathan,

    This was an amazing post that strikes at the heart of what so many of us solopreneurs, online marketers, or whatever you want to call us, fear right now. I see prices dropping for ebooks and much great content given away for free and wonder, “how will I ever make an income doing what I really want to do.”

    I think it does come back to what Seth says, though, that if you create content targeted for your tribe, or your niche, there will always be an opportunity to make a living. It’s just going to require much more speed and targeting than it used to.

    Thanks again for thought-provoking post.

  9. Brandon W says:

    Despite Godin’s claim that he’s on board with The Free Brigade, I’m not so sure he is. He says “People will pay for content….” They will? That’s NOT FREE! Oh, he says, but they’ll only pay for it if it’s truly special. To which I would respond that one man’s Quarter Pounder With Cheese is another man’s Purple Cow.

    Arguing that providing knowledge is something people should do for Free is like arguing that engineers ought not be paid for designing cars or televisions. Their intellectual production is replicated hundreds of thousands of times and sold. We are now in the Information economy. That is, what is most valuable to produce is information – intellectual property. In an information economy, your most valuable asset is your ability to create. Your best chance at a livelihood and a successful life revolves around your ability to think, innovate, and express your creation. To argue that giving away your most valuable asset for Free is fair, sensible or even rational in a real-world economy is to argue that human beings have no value except as cogs in a bigger machine that owns us. Our intellect and creativity is meaningless. That our only way of surviving is to be a worker bee in a bigger collective. How very Borg.

  10. I care, too.

    Heaven knows Seth is brilliant. I’ve been a loyal fan, follower and student of his works for years. But with regard to the last quote, I’m surprised and a bit disappointed that he made such a statement.

    Are we supposed to just throw in the towel, throw up our hands and walk away from digital revenue streams just because Seth says “free is the future”? Since when do we, as consumers and business owners have no say-so or control over what’s going on in our own lives and businesses?

    I’m always thrilled to find for free valuable online information that I need.

    But a large portion of what I find for free is typically less than high quality OR is missing critical pieces to the greater puzzle I’m attempting to complete. Often times, I simply don’t have time to gather, sort and compile the info I need/want.

    As an online entrepreneur, I’m an avid consumer of digital products and GLADLY pay for the insights, wisdom and organized information of other entrepreneurs. Expecting everything to be free would degrade and diminish the value of my own products.

    On the other hand, if you’re a seller of digital products who’s always bitching and moaning about having to pay for others’ digital works and expects everything to be free, I’ve no doubt you’ll attract those who feel the same when it
    comes to buying your products.

    If Seth’s commentary is intended primarily as a reminder that we need to focus on continually upping the ante when it comes to digital product “remarkability” (uniqueness, speed of delivery, quality, etc.), he’s spot on.

    But the statements quoted at the end of this article feel more like the kind of commentary that leads to self-fulfilling prophecy on the part of those who live and die by the gospel according to the “gurus”, rather than owning (and reveling in) the fact that they create their own realities and success.

    When people believe that the fate of their finances is determined primarily by external forces–a “down” economy, a corporate employer, a guru’s predictions, etc.–then that’s what they experience.

    If you believe you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to success and take “right” action in accordance with that belief, then success is yours for the taking–no matter what seems to be going on around you.

    This article is a superbly-presented summary of the debate at hand… coupled with a lot of good food for thought about taking ownership and charge of your own life and financial destiny–along with your belief system.

    Thanks, Jonathan.

  11. […] Fields also has a great article on this topic. Please read my comment there, as I discussed all my thoughts on the […]

  12. If FREE is the future, let’s look at one of the greatest pioneers of free: the Grateful Dead.

    The Dead decided if you came to one of their concerts you could record the show for free as long as you brought the tape recorder. You were free to distribute the show to anyone, in any way. Odds are if you wanted to hear the Grateful Dead you could find someone with a good bootleg (or twenty) and get a copy. Even if you factor in the costs of the blank tapes, it’s as free as you can get for a physical item.

    From those bootlegs the Dead sold out countless tours and have a total of 18 gold albums. Gold means at least half a million copies have been shipped to stores. Think about how many records they sold and shows they sold out. All because they used free to promote themselves.

    The modern day equivalent for you, Jonathan, are blogs and podcasts and ebooks. You are already following in the footsteps of this model. Worried about free? Why? Libraries already offer the knowledge of the world to anyone who goes there for free. Books, DVDs, CDs, Internet, all free. We do not have to own any of those things if we don’t want, we could just go to the library and borrow it. People still buy, and they will continue to buy because people want to own stuff. They want their own clothes, their own house, their own food, and any convenience they deem worthwhile. We buy books so we don’t have to go anywhere to reference them, we buy DVDs and CDs to enjoy them any time we want to, and we pay for the Internet to come to our homes so we don’t have to go somewhere else for it. If you can help someone, honestly help them, and you can lay it out digitally, some people will always buy it.

    Like the Grateful Dead though, you have to produce something great enough that people will pay for it.

    I think that’s the gist of the argument. Free is only part of the equation.

  13. steve weaver says:

    I’m a late-comer to the digital revolution but I am diving in head first and seeing a lot of different business models. It seems to me that the people who will be making a living from the new “free” digital economy are: A)Those who have earned enough respect with their free products that others are willing to pay them for more in-depth advice. B)Those who stand out from the crowd by being entertaining as well as informative.C)People who use free to turn “lurkers” into clients. and/or D)Some combination of the above.
    While it’s true that digital can be copied and reproduced for free easily enough, there should remain plenty of people who willingly pay for content in order to save the time it takes to track down the free version. Or who pay just because their values tell them that the creator deserves compensation for their work. Integrity may seem to be disappearing if you pay too much attention to the news, but if you really pay attention to those you deal with, you’ll see it’s alive and well.
    We shall see how things eventually work out. It’s not like we have a choice…or do we? We can continue to pay creators we feel have earned it. We can change how we charge, by asking customers to please pay whatever THEY feel the product was worth to them. There is always choices. How we make them is up to each of us. I, for one, will always be willing to pay for value received. I believe there are plenty of others just like me.
    Only time will tell.

  14. I believe that people will pay for quality content. In marketing, it is common to give away a free sample to whet the appetite or draw in customers. But the main purpose of a free sample is to make them BUY something. No matter if it is digital or otherwise.

    Regarding the music business: Correct me if I am wrong, but the purpose of touring is for fans to buy your music. I don’t believe the bands make a profit on the tour. In fact, I think they often lose money. That’s why they have huge corporate sponsors. Remember the case of Toni Braxton & TLC who were broke, despite big record sales & tours. The music business benefits the record industry, not alway the musician.

  15. Dan Holloway says:

    I’ve been following this debate around the web like a stormchaser following tornadoes.

    I would like to offer my opinion as a poor, unpublished writer trying to create a living for myself doing what I love.

    I have three fundamental points to make. First, we all wish for a perfect world, we wish every talented crative could get paid. But that ain’t the case, and it never will be. The wonderful thing about free is it gives more people a shot at the pie that’s sitting in consumers’ products.

    Second, I very much resent those on the inside who tell me I SHOULDN’T give my work away free because it deos them out of a living. No oneis owed a living as a creative. It’s not good but it’s the way it is. If freemium is a bad business model, or the stuff being given away for free is terrible, I’ll soon go away. If it isn’t then maybe those already on the inside SHOULD be knocked off their perch.

    Third, freemium means performing, doing it in public, so it’s bad. Where did that come from? I’m a writer. I woe what I am to my readers. I love my readers, and I want to engage with them. The writer who loves their writing mor ethan their readers isn’t producing culture they’re engaged ni tehrapy.

    OK, so I put those points bluntly because of space, but I’ve spoken at great length elsewhere (see http://www.danholloway.wordpress.com for links). I am passionate in te power of giving work away for free to give the public access tomore great art and artists access to more great public, which is why I organised the global Free-e-day indie culture festival, and why my own novels will always be free.
    It’s freevolution, guys, le’s not get stuck in another creationist “this is howit is, was and always will be” rut

  16. Robbin Block says:

    After scanning through all this thought-provoking stuff, I’m wondering if it’s too reductionist to boil it down to the phrase, “You get what you pay for?” And P.S., I’m with Brandon W.

  17. ViolaMaths says:

    I am a consumer of music – quite a lot of music. I listen to as much music as I possibly can for free, on the internet, through free downloads, through streaming on myspace etc. If I LIKE the music, I will then spend considerable amounts of my (not very large) income going to gigs, buying merchandise, buying physical CDs. However, I cannot afford to buy CDs or go to gigs just on the off-chance that I might like the music. For me, those who give me something for free in the first instance are far more likely to receive my custom later on – simply because I know what I’m going to get.

    As far as making a living is concerned, there is a simple economic fact – something is only worth what somebody will pay for it. Many people enjoy doing many things and work very hard at them – some of these things make money because people value them and are willing to pay for them. Some don’t. Perhaps the small businessman who is unable to look after his family should reconsider the business he is in. Is he working in order to feed his family, or is he trying to enjoy himself? Millions of people go to work every day in order to earn money to feed, house and clothe themselves and their families. Those who can enjoy that work are privileged and very lucky.

  18. […] This post was Twitted by bfkunz […]

  19. Writer Dad says:

    WOW, Jonathan. Granted I’ve neglected my reader a bit lately, but that has to be the best thing I’ve read in weeks.

    Here’s my take. I agree with Mary Anne. Though I like Seth, a lot, I’m disappointed in that statement. I plan to make my living through content creation of all sorts, from fiction to information. I love to write, and though I slave away running several blogs that traffic in “freemium” content, I have no intention of giving away free forever. I’m giving away free because I’m paying my dues, and though I’m sure I will always have plenty of free content to provide, when I have a book to sell I am going to SELL it.

    I reject the idea that people are unwilling to pay for what they can get for free. Yes that does exist, but there are plenty of people who will pay to support that which they believe in. My favorite artists earn my money because they create the things that make me separate coin from pocket. There is nothing that will ever change that and there are millions of people like me.

    I also reject the black and white of it all. Some people will succeed by giving away free content and some people will succeed by charging. There is no one recipe. There isn’t now and there hasn’t ever been. Life and human behavior are made up of the hundreds of thousands of hues in the middle of all the black and white.

    The free brigade may not have it wrong, but they also don’t have it right.

    P.S. I care.

  20. edwardboches says:

    Jonathon:
    Pretty thorough post and thinking. The main point you hit on that I agree with wholeheartedly, is that someone has to pay because someone has to get paid.

    Assuming their content is of value and has some uniqueness. Anderson’s argument that you can get people to provide free content in return for reputation building is true, but is it the highest quality content, the best of breed? If someone will give it away for free, it’s either only OK, or they’re getting significant value in some other way.

    I blog for free because it further legitimizes me with clients who come to Mullen and pay us for social media services. Ed the marketer might give his content away to someone who in turn helps generate enough awareness and business for him that he could afford to build his business, but otherwise his initial model makes more sense.

    The problem for Ed is that if someone else will give away the same content for free he has a real problem. In fact, he’ll have the basic challenge of pricing anyway, for as content of any kind gets less and less expensive, the threshhold for what people will pay continues to drop.

  21. Felix says:

    Awesome post, and a cogent look at the different sides of the debate.

    It seems to me that if Free is here to stay – which it mostly certainly seems like it is – then the question quickly becomes “How can I build such a strong brand that my tribe is gladly willing to pay for what I have on offer?”, not “Oh no, I keep losing money on people who have a weak affinity with me and my work because they get it all for free elsewhere.”

    Free effectively cuts the fat from your following, weeding out those who likely wouldn’t have paid anyway.

    I don’t see Free as a death knell for small entrepreneurs, I see it as an opportunity to do things right!

  22. Mark Silver says:

    Thank you, Jonathan, for such an in-depth post on all of this flibber-flabber. 🙂 I believe there is a crucial point being missed in this entire conversation.

    So far, it’s all been from the marketer’s point of view. “Will they pay? Won’t they pay?” And, not only that, it’s based in the assumption of a transactional reality. That business and economics all come down to a utilitarian “what’s in it for me?” approach. Even Seth’s “getting close to tribe” is based in the “What’s in it for me?” assumption.

    However, it’s been shown over and over again that people are happiest when they give. That people want to give, they want to be helpful, they want to serve.

    If you give away all of your content for free, and have no avenue for people to give back to you, financially or otherwise, then it’s really hard to create lasting connections with people. Without the cycle of giving and receiving, relationships crumble.

    We’ve found that there hasn’t been any slowdown in purchases of our content products, and I believe it’s because we love to give, and our tribe also loves to give, and so we end up giving to each other.

    I’m not worried. 🙂

  23. Alora says:

    At Interactive Austin in April, someone asked a question to which one of the keynote speakers (@whurley, in fact) answered: “Old media and new media will have a baby, and that’ll be what we end up with.”

    I think, flippant though his comment was (and specific to a smaller niche), the sentiment has merit: you can get evangelistic about whatever you want, but there is a fundamental part of Seth’s point (and Chris’) that is right. Whether we like it or not, the ease of distribution of intellectual property fundamentally undermines many of the classic underpinnings of an Industrial Age economy.

    Is “free” the future? Not likely. (And, to be fair, much of Anderson’s point in the book is based on the idea of freemium, more than strickly free.) But the old school model is dead. And those who fight it (traditional media, anyone?) will die a flaming, painful death before our eyes.

    Organizations like Creative Commons have been fighting the legal side of the battle for a while now, but it’s so much bigger than that. In the end, new models will have to emerge simply because the old models ONLY worked as long as distribution was centralized. But we’re never going to figure out what new models work as long as we continue to insist on looking at the problem from an Industrial Age point of view.

  24. […] This post was Twitted by soniasimone […]

  25. Dan Holloway says:

    Felix, absolutely. As a producer of culture I really believe the 1000 true fans model. I want loyal fans who love my work, and I want to engage with them. It seems to me a model that allows me to give my work away and find those fans has to be a good thing. And with more content available to more people, it seems to me that perhaps we are on the verge of a society wghere the pie is divided more evenly, with more people having the 1000 fans they need to maek a living, creaming some of the “I buy it cos it’s there and everyone else does” away from people who already make more than enough.

    I know exactly why there’s so much negativity from the culture industry. it’s because the losers from all this aren’t consumers, aren’t the really creative people with a shedload of talent and an original voice. They’re the middlemen – the publishers and record lables – and the producers who can currently earn their living only because they have access to restricted distribution portals. I just wish their arguments would be openly admitted to be the protectionism they are, and that people woukld stop thinking they’re really about what’s best for culture. The arguments aren’t about what’s best for producers – they’re about what’s best for THESE producers.

    Personally, I’d rather we stopped focusing on the producers altogether and start accepting the people who matter are the consumers. They’re the people I care about, the ones I want to build a relatiosnship with
    Dan
    http://www.freeeday.wordpress.com

  26. Hi Jonathan

    What a thought provoking post and debate you have here. I love all the authours Godin, Gladwell, and Anderson however in this case I would totally agree with Gladwell.

    ‘Free’ will never happen because if you look at the psychology of ‘Free’, the very fact that it is free undermines it’s worth and consumers perception of it is radically altered to not only being ‘free’ but being worthless.

    When somebody pays for a digital product they are motivated to learn from it, read it, listen to it, watch it or whatever, however if it is free it will sit on the digital scrapheap in the hard-drive.

    We are also forgetting not everybody is like us. Marketers, bloggers and web enthusiasts are in the minority and we tend to think that everybody has the same level of knowledge as us when it comes to computers. That couldn’t be further from the truth, most people still haven’t a clue about the internet and it’s capabilities so the majority of people will still buy legitimately.

    Just a few thoughts.

  27. Trent Hamm says:

    Come on. People pay for “free” content with mindspace.

    We visit Jonathan’s blog. He presents something compelling. We devote some fraction of our mental energy to his ideas, and if it’s particularly compelling, we share it with others so that they can give some fraction of their mindspace to Jonathan. His name sticks around in our mind and perhaps we recall it again when we see his book at the bookstore or his name on a speaker’s list.

    Jonathan (and any other content producer) has the option of selling some of that mindspace to advertisers, who will happily pay for the opportunity to capture even a sliver of that mindspace for their product. Jonathan can either choose financial reward – keeping 90% of his earned mindspace and selling 10% of it – or not run ads and retain all the mindspace, likely somewhat increasing his personal value.

    Worried about scrapers? Scrapers are defeated by consistent audience and word of mouth. We come HERE to see what Jonathan writes, and because of that, Jonathan can capitalize how he sees fit.

    Free earns mindspace. The more valuable your writing, the more you’re giving away for free, thus the more mindspace you earn. Can you capitalize it?

  28. Dan Holloway says:

    @Melissa “I chose my profession because I want to be able to make a living doing what I love, and provide for my family in a way that makes me happy. And proud.”

    I chose what I do because it will pay mea living. I would LOVE to be paid for doing what I love, but I have to conceed I have no right to be, and nor should I have the right to be. If I’m going tobe paid to do what I love, then Ihave to prove I’ve got something people want to buy. For me, giving my work away for free is the way of proving it. I write mid-list literary fiction. I would not LOVE writing anything else. It woldn’t occur to me to expect a publishing house to pay me forwhat I write – a readership of a couple of thousand just doesn’t make sense. But it would be enough for me to live on and get by.

    I respect and admire everyone I’ve ever met who does get paid for doing what they love. All I ask is that those who are lucky enough to be in taht position don’t tell those of us who aren’t that we don’t have the right to try and that – if the market decides we’re up to the mark in a way some of those on the inside “aren’t” we have arght to take that bit of pie.

    I just want a level playing field where the consumer decides. That means gicing them a choice from everything. Of curse, at the moment, it feels like that will lead to a sprawling mess, but the model to use, surely, is planetary accretion. Just after the big bang things were a mess. But matter soon started to accrete. That’ll happen in the new cultural landscape too – people will find trusted single portals for the culture they love (like Free-e-day, like specialis sites). But – and for me this is the great thing – those portals will work bottom up and not top down.
    Dan
    http://www.freeeday.wordpress.com

  29. Karen Swim says:

    Jonathan, exceptionally well done post that gives voice to both sides of the argument. I care too. In truth, the cost of free is never $0, the costs are shifted somewhere else. Your music example illustrates this beautifully. The other issue with free is that people tend to devalue “gifts.” Admittedly I take advantage of free too, but I carefully consider buying decisions that require cash and as a result I do assign it greater value.

  30. Anyone who took psych 101 knows that the bird will keep pecking the red button if he/she receives a pellet of food intermittently.

    At first, the bird receives a food morsel every time the beak hits the button, but after a while, only every so many times.

    Likewise, providers of intellectual content will at first produce content to get praise, but eventually, they want real food (money to pay the bills) If the writer or musician keeps giving stuff away and there is no compensation, the creative person stops trying. In the end, we all need to make money – either working for ourselves or for someone else.

    Infinite Free will not stand. Especially if it is worth buying. I believe that eventually, crummy content will continue to be free in hopes that people will later want to buy. The really good stuff will end up being paid for because the provider/creator will not continue working for nothing forever.

  31. I must admit I am relieved to hear so many commenters chime in on the “value” issue.

    Creative innovation still rule and cause disruption in the marketplace. The question we need to consider is “how can we use ‘free’ to attract business and add value?”

    People pay for value always have, always will. We must create business models that strike a balance between free and for fee. It’s the business model.

  32. As a soloprofessional and passionate content-creator I have to say I find it a bit disconcerting that these influential minds are purporting that this may be the end of profitable digital info products. I have to agree with Robbin that you get what you pay for. Producing quality, unique and highly relevant content will continue to be profitable. What we will see weeded out will be the mediocre, the copycats, the same old same old.

  33. Dean says:

    I listened to the free copy of Free on my iTouch and it was thought provoking. The discussion here makes me think of the following two points from the book:

    1 – the word free generally evokes a strong emotion … pro or con depending which side of the business table you might be sitting on. Anderson goes into a bit of the discussion in the book.
    2 – my take away is something along these lines … we have had some versions of free cycling in and out of business for quite some time, the digital world puts some new spin on it that requires a new way of looking at some things, and finally we have to acknowledge and work with what’s changed. Many aspects of business may follow the cycle, and we will not know how it ultimately will play out.

  34. Leo says:

    It’s not a matter of what we hope. It’s a matter of what’s actually happening, and what will almost undoubtedly happen.

    If you charge for information, and guard it as a secret, others will give away information that’s just as good for free, and people will go to those guys.

    While many people have made a lot of money by charging people over and over for something they created once, that’s not going to last for long.

    Competition will win out. It’s too easy to publish these days — it costs almost nothing. While you could have a near monopoly on news when you were a publishing giant in the past, or a monopoly on distributing music when you were a music corporation, that monopoly has been shattered.

    Writers and creators of all kinds, if they’re good, will always be in demand, and the good ones will easily make a living because people want quality. But the days of passive income are limited. We’re going to have to work for our money, my friends. 🙂

  35. bill says:

    I read all three authors you mentioned. They all write interesting stuff, but they’re all being elevated to more than their worth.

    I don’t think there is a black and white answer to this questions.

    In the end of day, the market will place a value on the product/service you provide. If the content is scarce and in need, people will pay for it. I recently published a “premium report” and made it available for sales on scribd.com. People’re paying for it because it’s information you cannot find any where else.

    Given the information flow, I’d argue that people want to pay for content if they’re well-aggregated and will save them time/effort. Instead of spending 80 hours research on my own, I’d be willing to pay for $40 to get a prepackaged/well researched reports in my area of interest.

    It’s about value creation and supply/demand. Some content will be free, and some will still be premium. A simple statement such as “everything will be free” is a headline to generate book sales. It’s not an insightful observation.

  36. Mike Thomas says:

    I hope Seth and Chris are “sort of” wrong. My business relies on the ability to market and sell concert footage we produce with the artist.

    I appreciate “free” on YouTube but I will ALWAYS purchase my music because while the big companies receive a lion’s share, at least some of the money gets to the artist. Artists should be compensated.

    Besides, just because we CAN get things for free, doesn’t mean we should.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  37. Shane Arthur says:

    Free is here to stay, huh Seth?

    Kind of like the Free Love generation that did wonders, huh Seth?

    Seth’s already made it the non-free way. Would it be too much to ask that he not promote an ideology that hampers our ability to do likewise?

    If, from this point forward, Seth accepts $0 from all his books, appearances, etc, I’ll fall in line. If not, I’ll consider his advice a source of data to FREELY ignore.

  38. This discussion is based on the assumption that people will really pay nothing for a product that can be had for the price of zero.

    But a lot of people *will* in fact want to support their artists because they care about them and want them to have an income.

    Leslie

  39. Anyone who says that everything digital will be free is going to be wrong. Anyone who says it doesn’t make sense to give stuff away is going to be wrong.

    The trick is to look at what is actually happening and find ways to capitalize on reality–not what you want reality to be. Bands that find their music is popular and is being shared without their permission have two choices:

    1. Try to sue their fans.
    2. Try to leverage their popularity to make money in a different way.

    Option 1 doesn’t help the band make more money–in fact it may just make people hate them. Option 2 can help the band make a whole lot more money and if done correctly can massively increase their popularity.

  40. Dan Holloway says:

    Leo, agree with every word you say.

    Leslie, the same too. I read an article in Metro (London’s free morning paper for those on the other side of the Pond) about a band called The Boxer Rebellion, who’d got to number one on iTunes without a label or a CD. They’d got to that position by giving their work away to get fans. That’s not my point. I thought the story was interesting because I love indie culture, so I listened to their free dowwnload. I loved it. I’ve been to 4 of their gigs this year, written an article about them for a major US indie mag, bought all their CDs now they’ve brought them out, and a T-shirt, and tonight my wife and I booked two more gigs with them. They’re now able to do it full-time. And they still sell their own merch and drink with the fans because they cared about them (and when I wrote aspeculative e-mail to their management about permission for press photos, within 12 hours I was having a half hour phone interview with their guitarist who offered to call me back so I didn’t have to pay [I declined, of course]). The point is if you do something great and respect your fans/readers it’s human nature those fans will support you. Back to Kelley and 1000 true fans. That was the whole reason I set up Free-e-day (www.freeeday.wordpress.com), as a place where fans and artists could get together, celebrate culture, and see if any of them got along. For free.

    Dan

  41. I review free netlabel & Creative Commons albums to say thank you to the musicians and to publicise their efforts as much as possible.

    This may come as a surprise, but many CC musicians are happy to accept donations; they’re also rather keen on using free content to build a fanbase that will pay for their commercial output.

    Having said that, I don’t agree that all digital output should be free. Creative Commons licences create an alternative revenue stream to traditional business models, but they’re not a panacea. They do, however, constitute a useful tool in the fight against music piracy; if music will inevitably be pirated (and it will), why not cut out the (criminal) middleman and exercise some control over how free output reaches the consumer?

    I think there’s room for more than one business model. It doesn’t have to be either/or.

    You may now proceed to castigate me. 🙂

  42. Matt says:

    It’s an interesting debate. I believe free may get you in the door, but to make a full impact you need to have powerful content or consistent high quality to back up your ideas.

    Being involved as a writer in the underground music industry, I’ve found that bands need to develop relationships in order to sustain impact at all levels. I think that’s why you see bands touring more, offering direct contact experiences so that the relationship can be long term rather than short term.

    Your music is important- and I still support the physical sale of product. But I do agree with Chris Anderson’s assessments that you need to offer the consumer ways to get it in more than one model- as the internet has brought shopping to more of a personalized way than ever before.

  43. Mark says:

    Food for thought – this article lists 8 things that are better than free … http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/kelly08/kelly08_index.html

  44. idv82 says:

    We should all continue to pony up big bucks for CDs and then be contend with admiring what the so-called artists buy with our money on MTV shows like Cribs!

  45. […] Read the original post:  Why I Hope the Free Brigade Got It Wrong | Awake At The Wheel … […]

  46. Dan Holloway says:

    Steve, no castigation, on the contrary, I’ve invited you to take part in a webchat on how Creative Commons can help culture producers, because it’s something we’re often hearing in the forums, but I wonder how many actual culture producers know the ins and outs.

    Matt – yes, relationships are everything in culture – I believe with writers as much as bands. Very best
    Dan

  47. Chas says:

    To my eyes, Free is the coming wave, all set to wash out Money as a Medium of Exchange. To be fair, the hard work has already been done. Once Money became a Commodity, how could it hope to function in it’s former capacity?

    Our children’s children will look at Money the way we look at shells and beads and cocoa pods. “How naive”, they will think. “Its just green paper, numbers on a spreadsheet.”

    Mark Silver hit the nail: the Heart wants to Give. Everything else will sort itself out.

    “Birds do it, Bees do it, Even flowers in the trees do it…Consider the lillies of the fields…

  48. I actually speak on this topic from time to time, and I don’t think either camp really has it. I think the issue is that we are in a transitional phase in the media/content business, where old business models are collapsing (or have already collapsed).

    In the future, rest assured that there will be a business model that allows content creators to make a living off of their labor. What will it be? I have no earthly idea. I theorize something to do with microtransactions and pooled distribution, but it’s just theory.

    In the meantime, we’re left to struggle with the free/not free debate. Every creator needs to try to answer it according to their own needs, and the needs/desires of their customers. It’s not an easy question to resolve for most folks, and I sense the frustration folks feel when they try to figure this out on their own. As a thumbnail, though, I tell most content creators that they should assume that they will make little or no money on their materials, because sadly that will be the case for 99% of them.

  49. Evan says:

    Hi Jonathon, Well this post is free. Are you making money, if so how and how does this post fit in.

    I haven’t read Free yet, I’ve got it on hold at my local library (and will read it for free). Does this mean loss of sales for Chris? I doubt it.

    One possible model for benefitting from free is ‘to give away the principles and sell the applicaation’. I got this from Darren Rowse (I forget who he was quoting).

    Free is usually used as marketing. I haven’t seen it eating in to sales of quality digital product. It may be that the problem is to do with lifetime and success – starting out people want to give away lots of free stuff to get known, then when famous want to guard what they produce. I think it’ll be really interesting to watch how this develops – I bet there’s going to be some surprises.

  50. Naomi Niles says:

    Wow, this is such a great post with really insightful comments. And I’ll admit, it scares me to death too.

    I’m a web designer and as a service provider, I have to spend a lot of time doing services to generate a livable income. I’ve thought a lot about selling digital products to diversify, but haven’t come across anything that I could sell at a high enough price point to make it worthwhile for me after putting the initial time investment. That’s very difficult because you end up hitting the ceiling where your income is limited to the number of hours you can physically put in. This eventually takes away from time spending time with your family and doing things you care about, like Jonathan says.

    Anyway, that’s just restating the obvious. What I want to comment on is that several people have commented that people will spend money on quality. I think that quality is actually one of the last reasons people buy myself.

    People buy ways of life, hope, things they need, things other people buy, pretty things etc. But, I’d venture to guess (hopefully without offending anybody) that many people often don’t know when an item is of quality or when it isn’t.

    For example, people come to me for a new web design. Lots of times, they don’t know what makes a good quality web design. That’s my job. They are trusting me to do that for them and it’s assumed that I will do the job to the best of my abilities. That’s probably not the reason they approached me though. Maybe they approached me because they need more subscribers, to increase sales, to have a web presence, etc. etc.

    What I’m trying to say is that if you are going to sell something, quality should be a given. After that, you need to find other ways to be remarkable in order to make sales. There are lots of different ways to do that if you are creative and open to trying new ways of doing things. I think people will still buy if they feel they have a strong enough reason or necessity to.

  51. Great article and comments. I hope that this doesn’t spell the death of creativity. If artists aren’t paid for their work how will they be able to keep on creating? While copyright is becoming more and more hard to protect, I think that it’s still important for people to understand that artists/writers/musicians own their work and that they depend on being paid for it. I think people actually do understand this and want to support their favourite artists/writers/musicians by buying their work. There will always be some people who don’t want to or can’t afford to pay for it but as long as enough can and do then creativity will live on.

  52. tim says:

    “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”

  53. Wow, so much can be said here.

    First, thank you to Jonathan for the post and to all the amazing conversation, I have signed up for many of your feeds and am looking forward to learning more from each of you (free of course for now)… Which leads me to say that once I follow you, and if your message resonates with me, I will in turn “pay” or contribute to your journey in any number of ways; blog posts, referrals, purchasing of merchandise, et al.

    Second, Dan Halloway should meet up with Mark Silver- I think you two would have an interesting conversation.

    Third- Leo says we are going to have to work for our money and that the way of passive income is slowly slipping away.

    Does this mean that my e-books, blog posts, podcasts, or other services are worth less if they available in digital formats and that the only way to produce money is one on one interactions?

    Banks have always made passive income. They hold your money in their accounts for any number of days and then collect the interest off of your principle balance. That is the only reason checks are not made available immediately, even though the entire industry has become automated!

    As a yoga teacher I make a set rate for each class or private session- should I expect to make less for every subsequent class? I didn’t whip up any of my content overnight. There is research to any project and if I put it out there to be had then I think it is reasonable to hope for, if not expect, that I will get something back in return. Maybe not money all the time, perhaps the accolades of my peers or the satisfaction that I have contributed to someone in an valuable way and have impacted their lives.

    That brings me back to what Mark Silver said, that we give freely and it makes us feel good. We must therefore offer a way to receive from those who wish to also give back to us. Money or otherwise.

    Why should anyone think that what they have to contribute is any less valuable than anyone else? There will always be people who could learn from you and also people you could learn from. Why not support each other in the forward momentum?!

    At the end of the day I expect to work hard, and am happy to do so in an industry that I am insanely passionate about. I believe in the idea that we can harness our passions and use them as leverage to manifest a living, and living means a fulfilling life and ability to pay my bills.

    That’s what makes me a Career Renegade!!

    Love and Light,

    Shelley Adelle

  54. Jonathan Fields says:

    HOLY COW! WHERE DO I START?!

    I am blown away. By your ideas, your openness, your contribution, your insights, your generosity. What an incredible gift you’ve given me by not only reading this post, but sharing in the conversation. So, to all who’ve commented and all who have yet to comment…THANK YOU!

    Rather than reply as comments rolled in throughout the day today, I held my tongue, because I had faith that you guys would develop a dialogue that was 10 times more engaging and interesting than I could. And, indeed you have. Most of what came to my mind with each additional voice was explored and responded to powerfully.

    My purpose in writing this article wasn’t really to come to a big fat love-in resolution, but rather to explore the question from more of a man/woman on the street level. Because much of the discussion around the concept of rounding “digital-capable” content down to free has taken place in the vast ecosphere of big business, especially the news industry. And, that’s a bit too removed for most people to care about it beyond just having fun taking sides.

    A couple of added thoughts…

    My desire to preserve ways to scale small, creative-driven businesses has nothing to do with being afraid of working hard or wanting to kick back and live off of what I see as the “myth” of passive riches.

    I work my ass off. Always have. Always will. Because I love to work hard, that’s just how I’m drawn. And, I’m not a huge believer in the long-term viability of set-it-and-forget-it passive income models. In fact, in a post I wrote a while back, I pretty much trashed the whole concept of info-products being “passive,” as they’re often touted by those teaching how to create and market them.

    My real concern and maybe even my quest is to preserve and create modalities to scale creative output in a way that minimizes complexity while maximizing ROI and allows for the opportunity to spend the greatest amount of time doing what I love with people I cannot get enough of while making enough to live well in the world. Dont, however, for a minute, confuse the quest for simplicity-driven scaling with the desire to slack off.

    Also, as I mentioned, I’m all for freemiums, they’ve been a staple of how I build businesses for years. But when freemiums move from being a healthy sampling of what I have to offer to a massive chunk of what I have to offer, a lot of vehicles for economic survival get closed. And, that’s something that, yes, I admit openly, I care about.

    Sure, the idea of advertising, sponsorships and other monetization schemes have been offered up as alternative ways to make money off content that’s given away for free, but truth is, we’re all seeing just how unstable that model is right now…and how much control it takes away from the creator.

    I honestly don’t know what the answer is.

    But, I do know that what Edward Boches shared in his recent post on subject (http://is.gd/1Jxet) is dead on…someone, somewhere in the chain has to pay. The love of the game doesn’t put food on the table.

    The question is not if, but rather who, where and how.

    Again, thank you so much for continuing to share in this conversation. I am truly blown away.

  55. Matthew Bowe says:

    Jonathon… have you read the book? I haven’t so, I can’t really comment. But I did listen to the interview on Amazon.com and found myself differing in terms of how I perceive the issue.

    The biggest understanding is that the price for Zero will be out there. Can you use “Free” as a marketing technique to lure a small portion of your audience to pay a premium.

    Google costs nothing. If you click, someone pays for the click. So, free is a model, not an absolute eventuality. You use it as a way to access Premium Buyers.

    One can still create scarcity (only 500 copies will be sold) to form premium value. Or a premium product will create paying customers.

    Here’s the example. I downloaded Chris’ version of his book that was FREE… the audio version. But, I can’t quote the audio (until a podcast converter to text comes along), so I wish I had the book right now so I could refer to a passage so I could help the readers. I have a choice. Do I buy the book or do I not? Is the premium product (print) worth spending money on?

    The other contention, is, that some people will be willing to give things away that have equal or greater value (ie-music), in order to gain an audience. According to C.A. 90% of content online is given away w/out a direct revenue model.

    Chris’s final commenting in the interview was, “Are (twitter/facebook) willing to screw up their relationship with users in order to become profitable….. The question is not(for those companies w/out a clear revenue model), can you make money from free, but when should you and when, and how so as to not ruin the magic of what you have.”

    Again, we all assume, prior to reading the book that somehow “Free” means giving it all away. No, it means “Free” is a business model we’ll have to contend with at varying levels of organizations and business.

    Anyway, bro, I appreciate the discussion.

  56. @Dan: I’ve read each of your posts here today and I respect what you’ve said. This is a complex issue and, to be honest, I don’t know what the answers are (none of us does; that’s why we’re here).

    I am grateful each and every day for the fact that I am able to earn a living doing what I love: writing. I make no apologies for it; I think I’m good at it because I love doing it so very much. But make no bones about it, I work my caboose off in order to make that living. That I love what I do doesn’t make it easy. And whether any of us loves our jobs or not isn’t really the point of Jonathan’s post, I don’t think.

    Do I have a problem with giving my work away to a certain extent? Of course not. I’m all about sharing. But there has to be a point at which we can say, “NO.” Somewhere, sometime, someone’s got to ante up, otherwise anyone with original thought or a quality product will eventually stop, because, as JF says above, love doesn’t put food on the table. I think it’d be really neat to be able to send my kids to college. Buy groceries and stuff.

    Writing, thus far, has given me the means to provide for my kids. It also makes me happy. I’d be loathe to give it up because I was no longer able to support my family, simply because free-conomics said I had to.

    Scary times, these.

  57. The only piece I have to add is that as an avid reader, thinker, and music fan, I spend a lot of money on content. It’s the one area where I’m virtually unable to cut my budget. As is evidenced by the shelves of books, piles of magazines, and stacks of CDs in my living room – not counting mp3s and other online content.

    Free is great, and I’m happy to consume it since it helps me get to know the quality of content and the provider, but I will pay for good content, and I don’t plan to change that anytime soon!

  58. […] Awake@The Wheel Blogger Jonathan Fields had an interesting post on this recently. His site  generated lots of interesting comments but few readers it seems, had actually read the book. […]

  59. What an intriguing post and wide range of thoughtful (free) opinions.

    We can paid in a very important non-monetary way: with attention. That can be worth more than money. Granted, we can’t be paid *only* with attention but that can be reward enough. We’re leaving comments for free.

    As Chris Anderson points out, free has a cost. Paying in money can be cheaper than paying in time (e.g., buying a song rather than searching and downloading an illegal track of questionable quality). Paying can also provide peace of mind (e.g., guarantees and support).

    Recently Problogger ran a 31-day series on building a better blog. Rather than printing out the free posts, I bought the nicely formatted ebook instead. This was also a way to pay Darren for the ideas he shared for free.

  60. Dan Holloway says:

    @Melissa thank you so much for taking the time to reply, which is much appreciated.

    I think the differences that exist between us have to do with cryatl-ball gazing rather than any fundamental priciple. I have never met someone in the literary trade who works anything other than ridiculously hard, and deserves every penny they take home. And I would never tell them to give their work away. All I ask is to be allowed to try and find a market for my own writing by giving it away so that I too can work ridiculously hard at my writing for all the hours I have available for such things in the day rather than working myself to the bone for my employer and then doing everything I can to bring my books to an audience. I would never begrudge you your slice of the pie as I’m sure you don’t begrudge me my shot at a slice of the same pie. I guess the only point I have to make on that issue is I am happiest in a market where it’s the consumers of the writing/nusic who decide what they spend their money on, rather than us as producers assuming they should spend their money one way or another.

    I think our differences lie, as I say, in what we think WILL happen (no moral anything involved). (Melissa, this paragraph gets general – none of it is directed at you personally. You have taken the time and effort to explain why you disagree with me, and for my money that places you head and shoulders above anyone I’d want to criticise. Thank you.) This, of course, none of us can know (which is part of what makes these both worrying and exciting times). I’ve written extensively on this elsewhere (http://streamwriting.com/blog/?p=116 for example) and I admit I may be wrong (it’ll be interesting to see. I would love to have a retrospective in 10 years’ time with everyone who’s joined in the discussion so we can all laugh together about how we were ALL wrong :-)). But I have always figured the only real data I have to base my behaviour upon as a cultural producer is my behavious as a cultural consumer, and if I turn out to be the ONLY consumer who behaves in that way, fine, I’ll lose out as a writer, but if I’m that unique, hey, I should be able to do something with that! And my experience as a consumer is that I like to try things. I like to find things. And I’m broke, so I do that with free stuff. But if I find something I like, I will go out and pay for things by that band/writer. What amazes me is how negative people are about human nature. I’ve read lots of posts here from consumers/fans, and it seems to me that many producers of culture either don’t believe them or just aren’t listening. The fans are saying if we like what you give us for free, we’ll pay you. Maybe I’m naive, but I trust the consumer, and I respect the fan, and I kinda thought in my hickish non-MBA way that was some sort of rule in business. I had an e-mail last night from someone I’ve never met and with whom the only contact I’ve had has been a couple of tweets. She said, I’m not going to just go download your book. I’m going to wait two weeks till it’s out on Amazon and buy it. My point is fans are, by their nature, altruistic. They’ll do what they can to support the artists they admire. And for me, I want a cultural landscape where it’s those people, the consumers, who have the final say over what their money gets spent on. Which means giving them access to everything and letting them decide. The argument against that seems to be in such a landscape consumers won’t spend their money on what matters. Well heck, that might be true, but I’d rather not make my money from having to dupe people into paying for something they wouldn’t want to pay for if they have the choice. If I have a hope for the future, it’s for a landscape where consumers/fans are the ones who decide who gets paid. And I don’t believe in that landscape anyone who has something great to offer and cares about their fans will lose out, because – and I really have to emphasise this strongly – unlike the worried commentators, I know what it’s like to be a fan, I know what it’s like to be in a room, a stadium, a festival full of fans, and based on that, I fundamentally trust them.
    Dan

  61. […] This post was Twitted by igloosarecool […]

  62. Ola says:

    Talking as a consumer, it’s all about quality. When Radiohead released their last album In Rainbows and made it available to download from their website for a donation (you could also just skip the payment and download it for free), I was happy to pay what I would have paid for a CD because I love this band and their music brings me so much joy I just had to give back at least a few dollars.

    I have also made donations to a few bloggers whose articles have helped me tremendously, even though they were free articles. If they weren’t free, I probably wouldn’t have found them.

    I have also bought books and ebooks from bloggers who have proven in their free articles that their work is of great quality and I didn’t mind paying for their products.

    If something is of truly great quality, I show my gratitude and pay. I’d love to bake a pie for someone who has just made my day with their music, book or film, or just call them up and say how amazing their work is and show my appreciation that way, but somehow I think they also need some cash to keep doing what they’re doing in the present world.

  63. Holy shit, Jonathan you tapped a vein with this one! My random thoughts:

    Free is a great lead-in/lead-generator to premium content.

    People are always willing to pay (and through the nose) for information they feel is valuable enough (that’s what marketing and selling are for).

    More importantly, people are willing to pay through the nose for access to the right people–people who can really give them a return on that investment. This is why consulting time is at such a premium.

    Only a very small group of people are really having this discussion on these terms. The rest of the world has no idea what’s going on. I’m going to do a webinar for my job that people paid over $80 a head to be in, when they could find the info for free on the web. That’s just how it goes. Many people still don’t feel a thing is valuable if it’s free. The more something costs, the more value they assign to it. That’s been proven over and over.

  64. Dan says:

    Its these mindsets and discussions that keep me from turning my printed books into ebooks. I don’t want my work cut up and redistributed all over the internet without having any control over where it goes or what is done to it.

  65. Trent Hamm says:

    Chas: the “tragedy of the commons” ensures that what you describe will never happen. As long as humans are greedy, the socialist utopia you hint at will never occur.

  66. Derek H says:

    There is one thing we should have learned from Starbucks over the past few years. People don’t want to pay for commodotized products anymore; they want to pay for experiences.

    And that’s what both the free and paid brigade overlook. They’re so worried about the price of their products that they ignore the importance of the experiences that their product provides.

    But don’t get me wrong. There are some companies who are nailing down customer experience perfectly…

    Think about Trader Joes… Build A Bear… Aveda…

    Teddy Bears, Face Cream, and Supermarkets aren’t new. But the experiences these innovative companies provide? Those are new, and people love it.

    Now you may ask, how does this apply to information?

    Just take a look at Teaching Sells, or the SEO Black Hat Forum, or the SEO Book Community…

    SEO? Making Money Online? These aren’t new niches. However, all three programs offer something else in addition to their commodity content…

    …the chance to experience a community of ambitious people who are trying to grow their business. That’s why people pay for those programs.

    So now you need to ask yourself one question. What are you doing to provide a unique experience to your customers?

    And once you can answer that effectively, trust me, the issue of price won’t matter. I mean, I just spent 5 bucks on a coffee while I sat down and typed this blog comment.

  67. Kirsty Hall says:

    @Annabel Candy – you wrote: “I hope that this doesn’t spell the death of creativity. If artists aren’t paid for their work how will they be able to keep on creating?”

    It won’t spell the death of creativity – nothing could. Artists will do what they do now and what they’ve always done; they’ll find sponsors or work an extra job. The majority of visual artists – the field I’m in – already don’t make a living simply from their artwork. Almost all the artists I know (even quite established ones) have other income streams, usually part time or full time jobs.

    I think many artists are worried about the way the net is destroying incomes but actually, there’s a lot of opportunity online as well. I know some visual artists who do quite well selling their work online. Given that a standard gallery cut is 50%, artists who establish a fan base online can actually have MORE chance of making a living from their work.

    Of course it’s different when you’re selling an actual physical object and I agree that we need to figure out how to fund creative people in the long term. I do agree with Jonathan that it IS a problem and that totally free content is untenable for most creative people. Like everyone else, creative people have bills to pay and need to eat. And some art forms are a lot more expensive to produce than others.

    I think as the dust settles, we’ll find solutions to the problem. Creative people are already experimenting online with various ways to fund themselves – from donation buttons, adverts, sponsorship, community funding, online merchandising and the like.

    Personally, I’d like to see some kind of online micropayment system where it would be easy to reward creative people who’ve brought me joy. If it was easy to do so, then I would happily pay a small set fee once a month that could then be distributed between the various bloggers whose work I’ve found entertaining or thought-provoking during that month. The key to this sort of thing is making it both easy and responsive. I believe that a lot people would happily pay a little bit if all they had to do was click a couple of buttons. The key is that it needs to be as easy as sending out a tweet or linking to a blog post.

  68. Ed says:

    Free is not sustainable. It wasn’t sustainable in 1999 at the heart of the dot com boom and it’s not sustainable now.

    The very heart of our capitalistic society relies on risk takers/entrepreneurs being rewarded for their risk – and rewarded with cold hard cash – not just kudos!

    Sure people will always produce content for free but entrepreneurs will not take risks if they can’t see reward – and quality, innovation and variety will suffer.

    Our greatest advances in medical science come about because of the massive potential rewards which await those who create life saving drugs or drugs which vastly improve the quality of life. If there was no financial reward for this, the scale required to develop these drugs in the first place would never be achieved.

    Free will always exist but so will paid for services.

    We are in the middle of another web bubble – wait till it comes crashing down and these free services dissapear just as they did the last time.

  69. Jonathan – you amazing thinker – for us
    I’ve been fussing and arguing with myself and others… fans of all 3 (usually) yet…. you took us down the path of point-by-point thinking of not feeling crazy but knowing that all cannot be free for creatives and ANY other biz to survive
    Now I can move on back…. to creating, giving and selling

  70. Excellent summary of the debate and its implications.

    For me, the elephant in the room of the Anderson/Gladwell/Godin discussion is relationships.

    Content doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s created by human beings and exchanged (for free or fees) in a marketplace made up of human relationships. The quality of those relationships is a big factor in the perceived value of the content.

    When I’ve paid for digital content, it’s usually because I’ve established some kind of relationship with the producer, via their free content (blog, e-mail newsletter) and other online interactions (comments, Twitter, e-mail etc). They have earned my trust and respect, to the point where I wouldn’t dream of taking the free content, then going to bit-torrent to download an illegal copy of their premium content, then showing back up at their site for more free content and interaction.

    It would feel like burgling someone’s house, then showing up for a dinner party to enjoy their hospitality.

    And it’s not just the relationship with the content producer that matters. Publishing free content and interacting with an audience can build a vibrant community around a blog (or other node in the network). A training program with a forum or other means of interacting with fellow members means that you’re partly paying for closer ties to a community of like-minded people. Which I don’t believe comes with your average bit-torrent download. 🙂

    Or am I being naive?

  71. As a photographer specializing in scenic landscape and travel imagery, I’ve seen the glut of oversupply and ease of digital transmission push prices down. Yet I’ve remained a vocal advocate for artists valuing their work.

    Do Seth and Chris give away their books in full PDF format for free? If no, why not?

  72. Gary Crabbe says:

    (opps – sorry – missed the Company name thing…)

    As a photographer specializing in scenic landscape and travel imagery, I’ve seen the glut of oversupply and ease of digital transmission push prices down. Yet I’ve remained a vocal advocate for artists valuing their work.

    Do Seth and Chris give away their books in full PDF format for free? If no, why not?

  73. christine says:

    Love the conversation and I think there is a bigger issue here.
    1. there is a principle called ephemeralisation= more with less, ultimately everything with nothing.This is the natural order of emergence.
    2. To sustain ephemeralisation we need a change in the fundamentals of how we live and work with money, currency, exchange etc. Our current system is not working, and the free issue is just a sign of a larger issue that is a dinosaur in lag and needs to be retooled.
    A great example of this is that of England where at one stage 25% of the labor as energy came from slaves, and yet within 1 year of abolishing slavery new systems were created and people moved to a higher order of living. The world did not stop, as slave owners thought it would. 🙂
    So the bigger conversation is not about free, which I agree is inevitable around some goods and services, but about our currency, how we live and work towards a future that supports ever more people with ever less.
    Old models need to be created for a different future, and out thinking and acting needs to change.A New order of thinking etc etc as Einstein would say.

  74. JasonB, Roomba AI Team Lead says:

    Just finished reading “Free”. Has a lot of compelling arguments that make sense until you enter the real world. Almost every “success through Free” example he uses seems to ignore a having a significant start-up capital or well ensconced existing business brand to support going “Free”.

    He never really addresses a viable scenario of a one person (solo) business making money by giving away content or Intellectual Property on the web to draw a large enough audience to make any money.

    Sure Google made it big on “Free”, but by his own statistics they have to be huge (close to 90% market share) to enjoy the economies of “digital” scale that make bringing additional products and services to market for free worthwhile.

    Is it too cynical of me to want to point out that both Chris and Seth made their fortunes the “old” way?

  75. […] sentimental favorite this week is a post by Jonathan Fields, who writes so eloquently Why I Hope the Free Brigade Got It Wrong. In all that I’ve been absorbing, since I read this little book with the big buzz attached to […]

  76. chas says:

    Trent: It’s not people who are greedy, it’s a small sliver of people. The “tragedy of the commons” is that it has been stolen. I recommend Life Inc by Douglas Rushkoff for a full discussion of money as a medium of exchange and how corporatism stole the commons.

    Not a socialist, btw. And there was a time when the largest chunk of people’s lives wasn’t spent “making money”. When people did things and created value for many reasons beyond making money. and there are places in the world where this is still true.

  77. […] Why I Hope the Free Brigade Got It Wrong – Jonathan Fields (sent in by @enlightphoto) […]

  78. Dan Holloway says:

    @Derek H I agree entirely about experience. I don’t think we’re ignoring it at all. Like I said, with my Facebook novel The amn Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes, I’m trying not only to draw readers into the story, and have them discover the story across the web, but I’m trying to draw them into the process of writing and editing. It’s an experiment, but like you say, we need experiments. What I’m doing is based on the desire to create an experience like a band’s tour ora festival – something that readers will be involved in, feel part of. I’m sure there are all kinds of authors doing similar things. What we need is some kind of meta-analysis of the overall picture to see what works and what doesn’t at engaging people – though as so many people have said, i get the impression this will, in the end, largely boil down to the quality of content.

  79. Dan Holloway says:

    @Christine I agree we need new ways of thinking. I also want to bring in Chas’ point about the fact that we have to see this issue globally if that thinking is really going to work. Global internet access ahs to be one aim, allowing global access to the market for content creators.

    I think Free is one way of democratising market access – it gives more people access to consumers. but that’s only one aspect – global access to a global market has to be the goal if we actually care about the future of creativity. This, of course, is a real anathema to those of us lucky enough to live in the west, because it emans someone in the slums of Sao Paolo with talent has the same acces to consumers willnig to pay “first world” prices as a profesional writer in California. I can see just how scary that could sound, but to me it sounds fantastic – I have to stick by my principles and say that just as I want the right to distribute free and take market share from those currently on the inside, so I welcome the chance for those currently without web access to have that access, and come and take my market if they’re good enough.

    I think if we see free and universal internet access (and not just that – global internet access has to go with global banking access – if the teenage girl in Sao Paolo doesn’t have a paypal account she can meaningfully uise, what’s the point of the rest of it?) as part of a global model for rethinking the way we look at how culture is remunerated we could see a quantum shift – my own feeling is we could see far more people get paid for their work, with the people at the top earning less. That in turn will lead to a far more cosmopolitan culture, and, as people in developing economies see culture as a way of escaping poverty, we will see a whole new class of culture consumer emerge, and a whole new way of looking at, and valuing culture.

    So that’s my discussion point. I wonder how many people see the internet and think “global”, which is just nonsense. I also wonder how many people at the forefront of the culture/free debate are really prepared to engage with the full meaning of global cultural access, and whether the fear over free is actually the tip of a much deeper fear over the appropriation of access to paying consumers. Unpublished “first world” authors are disenfranchised and angry. But they’re only the very tip of a disenfranchised iceberg. I can see how scary that may seem. I can also see how exciting it is. I hope others agree, and wonder just how many people are thinking about this question (and, of course, whether organisations who ARE grappling with it would like to offer me a job as futurologist and consultant :-)).

    Dan
    http://www.danholloway.wordpress.com

  80. […] conversations around building and sustaining a business on Free.  Jonathan Fields’ Why I Hope the Free Brigade Got It Wrong is the most personal, man-on-the-street perspective on Free I’ve seen, certainly better than […]

  81. Mouli Cohen says:

    As a creator of ecast.com, one of the gen-1 digital music services, I’ve seen this debate grow from a small, impassioned, niche issue, into a full-fledged challenge to the livelihoods of artists. Digital music and intellectual property will always be in competition against hard-copy, because there will always be those consumers who feel connected to the artifact representing the art.

    Just as there are those who will forever enjoy a subscription to the New York Times, there are many who feel the need to possess the full album, art-work, liner notes, of a favorite musical act. Also, even though the technology and speed of access to the internet are improving daily, there are still millions of people who do not use bit torrent or other file sharing programs either because of a moral stance, or technological ignorance.

  82. Mouli Cohen says:

    I’ve seen this debate grow from a small, impassioned, niche issue, into a full-fledged challenge to the livelihoods of artists. Digital music and intellectual property will always be in competition against hard-copy, because there will always be those consumers who feel connected to the artifact representing the art.

    Just as there are those who will forever enjoy a subscription to the New York Times, there are many who feel the need to possess the full album, art-work, liner notes, of a favorite musical act. Also, even though the technology and speed of access to the internet are improving daily, there are still millions of people who do not use bit torrent or other file sharing programs either because of a moral stance, or technological ignorance.

  83. Thank you for sharing. I am glad that we are all talking about this. It certainly fills up way too much of my time, when I would rather be out with my family or being a photographer.

    How are we ever going to keep making money at photography?

  84. Darryl says:

    There are so many people commenting in this thread who have not read Anderson’s book, or at least listened to it (Do so, you can get it for free on iTunes). He never states how things should be, he merely talks about where things appear to be going and how we got where we are now. Business models adapt to changing markets. Remember when you used to rent your phone from the phone company? Remember when you used to pay for a long distance provider? Yes, values shift. I encourage you to listen to the book and wrap your head around some of those ideas.

  85. Jon Pietz says:

    I have to agree with Steve who said
    “…free undermines it’s worth and consumers perception of it is radically altered to not only being ‘free’ but being worthless.

    When somebody pays for a digital product they are motivated to learn from it, read it, listen to it, watch it or whatever…”

    I think we actually don’t want all intellectual property to be free. In fact, we want some of it to be very expensive because we want to value it more highly. The same psychology is at play here as it is when you buy a shirt that costs more because of the little symbol on the breast pocket.

    Here’s an info-product example: the University of San Francisco has an online course in internet marketing, taught by some knowledgeable people. It has 3 modules that are about 8 weeks long each and cost in the range of about $2000 each. This is a good course (called a Master’s Certificate course) which seems to have a pretty good clientele thus far.

    However, the same material could be learned in a number of lower-costing programs and even free resources online. For many people, the USF course is a better choice, because as Steve pointed out, it’s a lot harder to pay $6000 and then not follow through with the work than it is with free info you can find online. Also, with the USF course you’re paying for a better peer group. Just like you are with the fancy-logo shirt.

    Even in an online economy, branding, differentiation and perceptions count for a lot. This is why Chris, Seth, Malcolm can sell a lot of books if they want to. (And we want them to, which makes it easier.)

    BTW, I take exception to the characterization of Chris’ book as being free. This is a free sample, not a free book. Give it away free on Kindle or even as a downloadable PDF, then you can call it free.

  86. Jon Pietz says:

    I take back that last comment. A free audiobook counts as free for me. Thanks for the free audiobook Chris—I’ll probably listen to it after I listen to the ones I purchased.

  87. Does anybody read all these comments? NO. They’re free, but nobody cares. And that may be the real rub. So much is free and so little people really care. We’re swimming in a sea of FREE. In time, free will have a negative value…meaning that if you want to give it away, you’ll have to pay people to consume it!

  88. Evan says:

    I’m one who reads all the comments on this post – and others that interest me.

    I also don’t buy clothes based on logos but on what is comfortable and functional – one of the advantages of not being in the corporate world.

    I value some of the books I have borrowed from a library far more than some I boutht.

    I may be unusual.

  89. Randy Zeitman says:

    “accept that if you don’t make it available for free, someone else will.”

    Really? Then why do I have a Netflix subscription? One again no one values time. I may be able to get something at no outlay of cost but it’s not free. I just spent an hour trying to find a certain show on bitTorrent…found it…been downloading it for a week now…10% done. I think I’ll pay the $5 to buy it on Amazon.

  90. Kirsty Hall says:

    I read all the comments, Leonard. I did so because I found it to be an interesting discussion with a lot of intelligent points, therefore I considered it to be worth my time. Certainly I take your point that in a sea of free, we all need to discriminate and I think that good filters & trusted sources are necessary to navigate the modern digital world. But then, reputations, trust and authority have always been important in how we judge the validity of information.

  91. Wayne says:

    There are a lot of issues here. A tremendous lot and not a one of us is going to be able to predict it well, this is utterly new territory.

    Let me tease out a few issues from an economic and philosophic perspective.

    1. Money is often presented as an evil. Part of the evil capitalist world. It is not, it is a medium of exchange and at root its task is to facilitate value for value exchange. (Ludwig von Mises). This can and has been done in many ways over the centuries. Look for tech to change the methods of exchange and even the need for exchange.

    2. The technology of the Information Age (Toffler’s Third Wave) is changing nearly everything. Information in the Biologicial sciences is doubling every 2 years or so. We all know Moore’s Law of computer processing. No less a mind that Ray Kurzweil implies strongly in his last two books that Moore’s law is just a specific case of a general Law. He has 30 years of successfully predicting the speed of change. He demonstrates that change is accelerating and even that the speed of acceleration is accelerating. (see his videos on TED)

    3. Look at the current state of science and Info tech… if Kurzweil is right as he has been for the last 30 years. Then the knowledge in many of our sciences will double in less that 3 years.. what does that mean for us. Stand by for more change. Ever do the exercise where you put a penny on day one of a Calendar and figure the value if it doubled every day… that is what is going on. (if you havent, do it. the result will shock you.)

    4. For the forseeable future value for value will need to be exchanged between people, but how will we exchange that????? This will be changing at light speed. And we who are making our living on the net are the best positioned to see, understand and effect the outcomes that are coming at us. As a small example… for those of us who sell products on the net. Would you rather have Seth buy a dozen of your products or would you rather have him give you a good word on his blog??? I for one am certain of the answer for me!!

    anyway… I dont mean to pontificate, but look for fundamental change. Nations we see today may not exist in a few decades. The U.S. Dollar may fall apart and not be a store of value any longer. (Strong hints of that are out there every day.) There are growing ranks of people who are more Sovereign Individuals than they are Citizens of any country. This is a unique era, and the most outrageous predictions may be the most accurate… any advice must be boiled down to…be focusd on your Mission and be flexible on how you achieve it… Value will need to be exchanged between value producer and consumer, but the how will change.

    So, the one of the old rules will still rule…produce real value.

    again… I am sorry if I sound pompous here, I havent much time to edit this comment… maybe Johathan could set up a bulliten board on his site to take this discussion to greater depth that can be managed in comments…

    Wayne

  92. Dan Holloway says:

    @Randy you put your finger on a key issue, which is access portals. That’s the problem with bittorrent

    What we will pay for is value addition -it will be true of the expert niceh bookshops of the future, and equally true of the expert online portals who sift for us. The fact that we will pay for expert sifting that we trust, though, doesn’t mean it has to be done by publishers.

  93. Justin C. says:

    Wow, amazing wrap up and comment. I’ve only gotten bits and pieces of these pieces of “free” chatter in the ether but you really summed it up nice and added some really valuable perspectives. Thank you.

  94. […] Why I Hope the Free Brigade Got It Wrong […]

  95. Mark Riffey says:

    The key to what Seth was saying is not that he agrees, disagrees or even that he will change his business model, its that denial and handwringing is of little use as it wont change anything: no matter what *we* want.

    I think Seth is suggesting that rather than fuss and fret about it, those who think harder and come up with a better mousetrap for dealing with it, free or otherwise, are the ones who will be successful in that market paradigm. Kinda like every other issue we face:)

  96. […] Kelly agrees. Malcolm Gladwell disagrees. Seth Godin backs up Anderson. Jonathan Fields respectfully agrees and disagrees with all of them. Instead of rehashing the debate, read what each […]

  97. […] Why I Hope The Free Brigade Got It Wrong […]

  98. […] decide tomar una posición contraria y critica duramente. Seth Godin esta con Anderson. Entonces Jonathan Fields decide estar de acuerdo y en desacuerdo con todos ellos. No vamos a recrear el debate entero, pero […]

  99. Jill Sheldon says:

    Thanks for parsing this important and nuanced debate so lucidly.
    In my experience, deciding to pay for something is one way of choosing what to pay attention to in the vast (and often overwhelming) marketplace of advice and ideas. It gives me a small sense of agency, a liferaft, while swimming in too much free content. Feels a little like being asked to “vote.” Having the ability to choose in this way seems like an argument for folks like us to charge if it does meet the parameters…

    so unique they can’t get it anywhere else, so fast they benefit from getting it before anyone else, or so related to their tribe that paying for it brings them closer to other people.

  100. […] This post was Twitted by jonathanfields […]

  101. […] I would write about it, except Jonathan Fields did in so much more depth. Read what he wrote. […]

  102. […] It seems that people are content to pay less and less for digital goods, and expect more out of them. Shoot, most of us in our Google-filled existence have come to expect paying nothing for fantastic products. (Read Jonathan Field’s excellent post on the FREE movement.) […]

  103. […] with some questioning the validity of its conclusions, others finding some merit to them but hoping that we can find a way out, and others fully embracing them as the inevitable way things will be from now […]

  104. […] Why I Hope the Free Brigade Got It Wrong – Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you already know about the dust-up between Malcolm Gladwell, Chris Anderson and Seth Godin… Anderson’s book, FREE, came out a few weeks back, arguing in part that the distribution costs of any intellectual property that can be boiled down to digital format, be it … […]

  105. […] the ballyhoo of the Free Brigade…there is no […]

  106. Ivy says:

    As a freelance musician AND business owner, I shudder to think that I might have to give away my services. Musicians already exploit themselves enough for exposure. Especially independent musicians.

    Thanks for the article, and the insights. At some point those musicians and artists who continue to give away their services (which drives the bar lower and lower for those of us who don’t) may need to re-evaluate and refuse to go along with current trends. The business of business and the business of music is always changing – keeping up with it is great, but not at the cost of your livelihood.

    ~Ivy

  107. Dan Safkow says:

    I question that “he’s lost the 30-50% of his income that was being generated by selling digital versions of his work”. 90+% of folks online do not know what bit-torrent is and do not have the inclination to access content that way, and most who do pirate content that way, are not true prospects to begin with.

    The digital economy is, and will continue to be, alive and well because when someone sees something that provides an instant solution to their ongoing pain, or a pain they didn’t know they had, they want it now and will gladly whip out their credit card to get it.

  108. Alex says:

    Interesting post, i don’t really know those musicians in fact, but they made their job. what else matters?

  109. Thanks for the article, and the insights. At some point those musicians and artists who continue to give away their services (which drives the bar lower and lower for those of us who don’t) may need to re-evaluate and refuse to go along with current trends. The business of business and the business of music is always changing – keeping up with it is great, but not at the cost of your livelihood.