Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Paul McGuinness

U2's manager, Paul McGuinness, gave a speech at the Midem music industry convention about P2P music issues. I laud his enthusiasm for defending his personal interests. However, I don't fully respect people who use arguments that border on fallacy. Granted, most things you say are going to be a little skewed in your favour. Still, I like bulletproof arguments, and many of his were pushing the limit of reason, or were misleading.


"Sadly, the recent innovative Radiohead release of a download priced on the honesty box principle seems to have backfired to some extent. It seems that the majority of downloads were through illegal P2P download services like BitTorrent and LimeWire even though the album was available for nothing through the official band site. Notwithstanding the promotional noise, even Radiohead’s honesty box principle showed that if not constrained, the customer will steal music."

For several days right after the release, the In Rainbows website was at capacity. There were simply too many people downloading the album legitimately. The only other avenue for getting the music was (surprise, surprise!) P2P, which is perfectly tailored to short-time, high-demand downloading. Why do you think World of Warcraft uses P2P to distribute patches? This is also one of the few cases where you can't really claim people are 'stealing' the music - it was free in the first place. I dislike Paul's portrayal here.

"[Steve Jobs] probably doesn’t realize it but the collapse of the old financial model for recorded music will also mean the end of the songwriter. We’ve been used to bands who wrote their own material since the Beatles, but the mechanical royalties that sustain songwriters are drying up."

This is a bit far-fetched. He predicts the "end of the songwriter," whatever that means. Taken literally, I suppose that means the end of music! No more songs. People are going to stop composing songs altogether due to the shortage of "mechanical royalties that sustain songwriters." I do not believe this holds much weight.

"I believe that in mobile music we have the chance to avoid the problems that have bedevilled the recorded music industry’s relationship with ISPs: and I'm not talking just of their tolerance of copyright theft. Other problems, like the lack of interoperability between services and devices; the lack of convenient payment mechanisms except via credit cards - which of course are not available to all music users; the hacking and viruses that have undermined people's trust in online payment. All these problems can be avoided in the mobile sector..."

I'm not sure what exactly he's saying here; whether "these problems [in online payment]" refers to the undermined trust, or the hacking itself is unclear. If he means the undermined trust, fair enough. I doubt people will want to manage their music entirely on their phone, though, just as people didn't manage their 8-track collections entirely in their car. The computer and the mobile phone are forever linked, so I don't think you can sustain a business that depends on the separation of the two. That's getting a little speculative, though.

If he means that malware doesn't exist for mobile phones, he is incorrect. Google "mobile phone vulnerabilities," there are plenty.

It's always good to hear people speak their minds. Paul's speech presents some interesting ideas, but I don't feel they will terribly unremitting.

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