Last night I caught the excellent Danish documentary (I never thought I'd use all those words together!) Good Copy, Bad Copy on Swedish television. (Full video in the link provided.) It's a well-researched, pacey glance-over of all sorts of issues concerning copyright, from sampling rights, alternative models of copyright, the viewpoints from all sides of the copyright debate and so on, with pertinent interviews from Russian street vendors to the head of the IFPI.
The documentary really excels in the second half, though, when it looks at business models in developing countries with no functional copyright legislation. The two examples used are the Nigerian film business, aka Nollywood, and Brazilian music genre Technobrega, both extremely thriving scenes. The former makes money off selling many legitimate copies of cheaply-produced video CDs at a very low price. The latter makes no money off released records, instead using them as a loss leader to earn cash from assembláges (sound systems) and live recordings of assembláge nights.
I love that sort of thing, and these are certainly not the first genres to use alternative methods of earning. What's interesting, I think, is how much music adapts to the business model chosen.
There are all sorts of genres with alternative business models. Here's just three examples. You can make money off...
...exclusive one-of-a-kind records for high-paying clients. The business of making dubplates, exclusive records specially made for use by particular sound systems, has been the backbone of the Jamaican recording industry since the sixties. It's also been a huge driving force in the quick development of music on the island - since the sound systems want exclusive records, there's always been the pressure to innovate.
... making music to strip to. Ghettotech (the real Detroit deal, not the global variant) was created specifically with strip clubs in mind, and artists like DJ Assault would earn their money specifically from performing there and creating as appropriate music as they could. Is it any wonder the genre is booty-focused and misogynistic?
...t-shirts. Heavy Metal bands in the eighties would often tour at a loss, confident at making huge profits off t-shirt sales. Bands like Iron Maiden are almost more like a fashion brand these days than a band - and of course as you'd expect the image-heavy focus of the bands reflects their way of earning money.
Do you know of any interesting alternative business models? What other interesting and music-shaping ways of earning money are there?