I’ve often argued that when there’s the means to easily pirate copyrighted material, every wins: the copyright holders who object so noisily are among those who benefit because its very common that people who’ve downloaded music that they like by a new artist will subsequently pay that that artist’s other work.
What I hadn’t realised is just how huge the commerical boost of having all your stuff freely available can be.
A while back, the Monty Python team made a shedload of their sketches freely available in high quality on their own YouTube channel, hoping that as a result people would buy more DVDs. According to this widely linked story, the experiment has been not just successful, but wildly, crazily so. They’re reporting that sales of Monty Python DVDs at Amazon have increased by 23,000% — that’s 231-fold — since they made all that material available on Youtube.
I imagine they’d hoped that sales would double, and would have been absolutely delighted if they’d increased by a factor of ten. A factor of 231 is just … unprecedented.
I found it hard to believe this, but when I emailed my buddy Matt Wedel, he responded:
I can believe it. Over here, there are roughly two generations that have grown up without regular access to Python, and kids these days aren’t going to shell out for a boxed set of foreign comedy–unless they’ve see just how funny it is.
I guess events have proven him right.
It disturbs me to think that all the effort the RIAA and similar groups are putting into preventing piracy are actively hurting their bottom line. Or, no, on the other hand, maybe it makes me happy. These people have never shown the slightest respect for their customers or indeed their artists, so maybe I don’t have to feel bad that their stupidity is hurting them. It won’t be too long before they’re just out of the picture anyway.