Every single market that is subject to the risk of piracy improves because of it.
We have international shipping lanes today because of piracy. (The British Royal Navy found it easier to combat piracy if all the merchant ships were sailing the same routes.)
We have CDs because of audio cassette piracy. We have DVDs because of video piracy. We have hulu because of piracy.
On the macroeconomic level, the existence of piracy is wholly good for market development. The consumer always wins when there are pirates about.
Things may look a little different on the micro level. ie if you are the copyright holder for an information product that is easily pirated. (And almost all information products are easily pirated.)
I know a whole lot about this. I have worked in digital media for some of the world’s leading broadcasters (Discovery Channel, BBC, etc).
So here are some tips for navigating pirate infested waters.
1. No one cares what you want
Do you want me to buy your horse shoes just because you feel like selling them?
What you want to sell doesn’t matter in the slightest. It’s what your customer wants to buy that matters.
They don’t want to pay for your book? Have you tried selling them a webinar?
Don’t go blaming pirates because you really, really, really just want to be a blacksmith but no one is buying your horse shoes. The world has moved on.
You may have been lucky enough to read the amazing interview with Lady GaGa in the Times of London the other week. (I’d link to it but it’s behind a paywall now. Ironic, given the subject of this post.)
Basically, she explains that musicians are lazy. You can make $30 -$50 million dollars doing a world tour. Quit complaining that people aren’t buying your CDs because that’s never going to change. Get your music out to as wide an audience and then sell something that people actually want to buy… Like an awesome concert.
2. Don’t blame it just because it’s new
Let’s talk music.
For almost a hundred years consumers have had continuous access to free music which they use to determine what artists they like before they spent any money.
It’s called radio. Except now we’re the ones in control of the discovery mechanism. Which is all torrents are – a discovery mechanism. Music pirates spend more on professional music than regular consumers who do not.
Think about that in the context of pirated occult books. Over the last few days we have had a number of bloggers put their hand up and say “I have a bunch of pirate pdfs.”
But magicians are also what we refer to in marketing as ‘superconsumers’. Do you know anyone who spends more on books than you do?
So why in Jebus’s name would you leave your discovery mechanism in the hands of the software Borders uses to automatically select its occult range?
Back to music: There is no need to pirate music anymore. Because there is spotify. And yet I still spend the same amount on music. (Which is about thrice the national average per year.)
It’s all about the discovery mechanism.
3. Find your fans
The truly incomparable Seth Godin makes the following point:
If you have five thousand fans, how much money do you need to extract from them per year to live comfortably? Twelve bucks?
What if you had fifty thousand fans. Two bucks?
The wider you cast your net, the more consumers you can turn into fans, the easier it is to monetize your information product.
People are still making money.
Newspapers might be making less but app developers are doing just fine. Metallica might be making less but Lady GaGa is doing just fine.
It doesn’t stand to reason that people aren’t buying anything just because they’re not buying what you want to sell them.
So the next time a pirate ship runs up the colours and fires grappling hooks at your tea clipper (I’m a pirate nerd) try and view it as an opportunity.
And if you’re a blacksmith it’s time to re-train.
Yo ho ho, me hearties.
- Frater AIT kicked this off with a thoughtful post on the impact of digimob.
- Jack followed up with a detailed exploration of occult piracy and its pros and cons.
- Be sure to read Jason’s comment on either of the above posts.