Sunday, March 23, 2008

Bragg wants Bebo cut

From a delightful "Dorset, England" byline, Billy Bragg delivers a piece for the New York Times taking a surprisingly Capitalist view of the AOL takeover - namely "lets have a bit of that stock action":

Michael Birch realized the value of his membership. I’m sure he’ll be rewarding those technicians and accountants who helped him achieve this success. Perhaps he should also consider the contribution of his artists.

The musicians who posted their work on are no different from investors in a start-up enterprise. Their investment is the content provided for free while the site has no liquid assets. Now that the business has reaped huge benefits, surely they deserve a dividend.

What’s at stake here is more than just the morality of the market. The huge social networking sites that seek to use music as free content are as much to blame for the malaise currently affecting the industry as the music lover who downloads songs for free. Both the corporations and the kids, it seems, want the use of our music without having to pay for it.

We can see where Bragg is coming from - if music helped fuel Bebo's growth, then shouldn't the makers of that music be rewarded? But how would you even attempt to apportion any cash on that basis?

To say nothing of Bragg missing the point by a country mile: what is being sold when Bebo is flogged to AOL is not the music embedded in the site, but the people who are Beboids or Beboites or whatever they'd be called. The value in a social network lies not in the stuff people do on the network, but in the people who are attached to the network. If anyone should be getting a slice of the AOL gold, it's the members, not musicians, surely?