Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

For Sale on iTunes, Free on YouTube

Here’s a YouTube ad for a $1.99 iTunes video, featuring a pre-Victoria’s Secret Bob Dylan, going electric at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 and getting booed.

And here’s the full version of the song, for free, also on YouTube:

As the New York Times points out, the first version comes from The Speek, a British firm that specializes in selling vintage music videos, most of which are available for free, with a minimum of work, on the Web.

The Speek is never going to be a big business, because video music downloads are a small business that’s getting smaller: Last year, Americans paid a mere $36 million for videos, down from $41 million in 2008. But the fact that there’s any business at all is a good reminder that you can still sell digital goods even when the Web makes it easy to get them without paying a penny.

Another reminder: Music sales, period. The digital era has poleaxed the music business, shrinking it from a $37-billion-a-year industry to a $16 billion one in a decade. But it’s still a $16-billion-a-year business, which means that plenty of people are paying for stuff they can find for free with a couple of clicks.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work