Back Talk: Billy Bragg on Making Money from Online Music

Billy Bragg is a living legend of the British punk and folk music scenes who writes about politics and romance with equal passion. He’s also an activist for progressive causes, known on both sides of the Atlantic. This spring he released his twelfth studio album, Mr. Love & Justice (Anti-Records).

What’s the best way to monetize that contribution?
The way that the music industry has done it so far is to go after the users. I prefer a different model. Users don’t pay for radio. But that doesn’t mean it’s not being paid for. The business is paying because it uses the songs to attract advertising, and it pays some of the advertising revenue to the content providers. Rather than trying to criminalize their audiences, we should be looking at the business models that use music to attract advertisers and build community. People have said that websites give people free publicity. But I don’t see how that’s different than radio. Radio still pays a royalty. It’s music and the ability to hear and exchange music that’s driving a lot of the technology. Everyone says that music has value–I think they question whether it has a price. The users have found that it’s very easy to get music, and unfortunately business has decided that music doesn’t have a price anymore.

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