Tuesday, December 05, 2006

On Making Money On The Web

Someone writes to me complaining that a site that 'gives away the music of bands to make money for bands' is not promoting the art, just trying to make money. Well, so far giving away music hasn't made me as much money in ten years as playing in a local nightclub for one night. Maybe I just don't know where to leave the virtual tip jar or what the web's versions of "FREEBIRD" and "SWEET HOME ALABUMMER" are.

If it makes you feel any better, I’ve seen some posts on other lists where that same question is asked. It seems your generation is just waking up to the fact that you are not communists, just poor capitalists. The web was founded by pirates (not the Internet; it is a technical accomplishment of DoD, DARPA, and universities), but the web and it’s culture is founded on piracy and piracy makes it go. Some are just waking up to the fact that this is a race to the cultural bottom but it has made some who think programming made them smarter richer. They can’t create content so they steal it and they are applauded by the generation before them that created the web by stealing technology and standards from others and were applauded for it by a generation of big company software and solutions vendors who stole their designs from the universities, DoD and other companies. From TimBL forward, it’s been burglary and shameless self-promotion and now that is the shape of the WWW as inspired by its founders. It was a witless fielding and we will live the cultural effects of their witlessness for many years to come.

Those who can make content do. Those who can only program steal content. Those who can neither program nor make content buy it from the makers, the pirates, or steal it from both. The allure that is the web in your generation was rock ‘n roll in mine. A lot of us gave it a whirl only to discover there is only one Beatles, one Elvis, and one Rolling Stones. That was our race to the bottom as we tried to duplicate their success. The founder of the Beatles was killed by an insane fan, the founder of the Rolling Stones was killed by his carpenter, and Elvis killed himself. Everyone around them are doing very well and living comfortably on their reputations, not their current work. Money won’t make you talented or a genius. It will buy you comfort. Full stop. See Clockwork Orange.

All the gold in California is in a house in the middle of Beverly Hills in somebody else’s name…. The Gatlin Brothers

You can still make money honestly but you have to have a lot of patience, perseverance and willingness to sweat and risk. You have to control production, guard products, sue the living hell out of anyone that screws you, be faster than your competitors, cut profit to the bone if that is what it takes to get the deal, never ever buy the business, but in some cases, wipe out competitors by any means legal that you can live with. That’s capitalism: only money matters.

If you don’t want the money, live as a Hotei. Make sure your wife and kids are Buddhist monks as well. Otherwise, quit trying to sell ideals about how much better you can make the lives of others when in fact what you need to sell are services so they can make their own lives better by smartly applying the services they pay for. Do recognize a scam when you see it if even in the mirror. In this life, God helps those who help themselves. Helping others is what you do for the next life wherever that may be but you do it in this one so you pay for it by different currencies at different times. It may be free labor, it may be cash, but it is always something of value and the values are yours, not the person or person’s to whom you give. If you give, give without thought of reward. Otherwise, it is a scam.

Or take up an art form and practice it. It is all practice. You are never done. That’s why it is the fun thing and the long-lived thing if you are self-preserving enough to keep the world from killing you. You don’t ever have to quit. You may have to accept that at some point, you are no longer notable. That’s ok. You will find that if you last that long, you no longer care to be noticed because your eyes have turned outward and you have the same relevance to a culture full of pirates as a mirror on a wall has to a room full of debutantes.

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