Seth Godin: Making Money in a Culture of Free Digital Consumption

In yet another insightful blogpost, Seth Godin examines the changing landscape for creative types (for example, filmmakers working outside the studio system). Godin understands that the old rules just aren't working for most creators of digital content (e.g., music, film, text) because "[m]ost people, most of the time, don't buy things if there's a free substitute available."

Many of us have accepted this new reality - and we're exploring ways of making something that our core audience will pay for. This means creating special events or merchandise that our core audience will pay for - in addition to the free downloads they've come to expect. As Seth Godin observes: "Lady Gaga's music is basically free. It's the concerts that cost money."

The problem that Seth Godin identifies in his post is that while the new world of free content is exploding (i.e., the expectation that digital content will be available for free is becoming pervasive), the old world system of getting paid for the non-digital content (e.g., a Lady Gaga concert or a "special event" where the filmmaker appears after a screening) generally still requires old world marketing budgets and hours and hours of hard work.

If your film is downloaded by fans for free, a niche filmmaker can still get paid for a live appearance - but alerting your fans to that live event and covering your costs is an increasingly expensive hump. As Seth Godin puts it: "There's a growing disconnect between making something worthwhile and getting paid for it. The digital artifact is heading toward free faster and faster, and the inevitable leap to a paid version of the same item is going to get more difficult."

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