Sorry record labels, music does not need you anymore. ChangeTip arrived on Soundcloud this week. The prolific sound-sharing platform that attracts more than 175 million new listeners a month, according to their own data, is bringing the opportunity for an online tipping culture to the mainstream.
Ever since the Internet's boon into ubiquity, artists and media magnates — at least some of the really wealthy ones with stacks of royalties built on their past successes — have had serious difficulties bringing in expected profits from their art.
Before we were able to copy and paste a song “from here to China” in a matter of seconds, distribution was a much more complicated process. Songs were scarce and tied to hardware, not virtually free to duplicate.
Music labels saw this distribution problem and, throughout the 20th century, rose to the challenge of turning young talent into gold and filling each other's pockets. Record labels supported the marketing and promotion, charging hefty commissions on sales. Over time, fewer profits trickled down to the artists, raising a fair amount of resentment that arguably fuels the age of so-called piracy.
The phenomenon, a byproduct of the industrial revolution that gave us vinyls and music tapes (square CDs), created a market where very few could and would be selected by record labels. But if they were, they became stinking rich and stinking famous. Limousines, mansions, movies, you name it — the dream of the 20th century rock star was to be immortalized in the memories of international audiences.
Sort of like these guys:
And then came that pesky Internet, dwindling both profits and the ability to hold copyrights over very expensive and voluntarily created productions. Thanks to Bittorrent, for example, there are no paywalls against information sharing, and this has steadily dwindled the profit margins of music labels, movie production powerhouses like Hollywood, and other pre-Internet, content-distribution industries. (Think e-books.)
Various solutions are being attempted to solve the problem of monetizing art while leveraging the Internet.
Legacy Media's Solution? Policing the Internet
In an attempt to undo the “damage” done by the Internet, the rich and influential media corporations and their supporters have lobbied and lawyered up, trying to police the Internet and persecute entrepreneurs like Kim Dotcom, effectively waging a war on “piracy.” Doing so, they are waging what has been called the “war on general computing.”
This is a technological attempt to take away your control over your computer, by installing hardware such as Intel AMT chips that can keep you from copying (I mean … pirating) specific copyrighted art.
One of the names for this tech is Digital Rights Management (DRM), and while the legacy media have yet to win, they sure are putting up a fight. If they do win, you'll have to have permission from some hierarchy to copy this or that and share it, effectively breaking the Internet as we know it.
The Solutions of the Innovative
Others like 50 Cent have embraced the Internet and rolled with the punches, creating video games of himself in a gangster's paradise and most recently accepting Bitcoin for his albums.
Still others have resorted to accepting the end of the industrial era's artistic gold rush, and have gone on the road selling tickets to their live performances instead, promoting their tours on social media, and any other way they can. Like in the good old days — not becoming stinking rich, but making a living.
Some music artists even successfully crowdfund their album productions, like Tatiana Moroz with her own artist coin called Tatianacoin, making money after release through other promotions or just from tips.
Some, however, have taken to creating shaming campaigns against “pirates,” perhaps realizing that they can't win on technology, nor find a compelling enough reason for people to give them money.
Like this guy:
The shocking thing to me about this attempt to convince people that copying information is a bad thing, is that it is somewhat effective, isn't it? Many people would agree that consuming a lot of artistic content without at least promoting the content or finding a way to support the artists is, well … not in line with reciprocity. However, to police, persecute and try to break the Internet is not only violent, but far from fair game. So what is one to do?
The Rise of the Bitcoin Tipping Culture
Tips work. Waiters and waitresses all over the Western world make a living mostly on tips. Friends cajole each other on the proper tipping etiquette — “15% dude!” The restaurant industry in the West is arguably sustained by a social etiquette that is not built on technology or law enforcement, but on a general agreement that tipping as a reward mechanism works. If you don't like the service, tip less or don't tip at all. But if you do, then please tip something.
Bitcoin companies like ChangeTip are making this possible. Virtually nonexistent fees and the speed of Internet transactions make micro payments a reality, and ChangeTip is without a doubt leading the charge. Thanks to their hard work, you can use almost any social media platform to tip your favorite artists, cutting out the middlemen (PayPal, Visa, music labels). You can give your money straight to the artist, while at the same time promoting Bitcoin! This is a great opportunity.
This week, ChangeTip was made available on SoundCloud, letting you send financial tokens of affection to the artists who make you shake your booty. Let's ease the frustration of artists and send them a virtual cookie — if you like what they do, of course.