Anytime a musician writes an opinion piece in the newspaper, there's justifiable cause for concern. Some of those concerns were removed when Billy Bragg dropped the world "piquancy"in this New York Times piece.
Billy is understandably concerned about the current state of the music industry and its ability, or lack thereof, to produce profits for artists while fans share music files all over the web. Unfortunately, his proposed solution - at least the one he uses as an example in the article - is a non-starter. Bragg suggests that the recently-acquired social networking site Bebo pay artists on the site a royalty due to the fact that, according to Bragg:
"The musicians who posted their work on Bebo.com 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."Sure they are, except for the fact that the musicians never entered into to a monetary arrangement with Bebo. That would have been a great thing to build into the service on the front-end. Interestingly, Bragg goes on to say:
"In our discussions, we largely ignored the elephant in the room: the issue of whether he ought to consider paying some kind of royalties to the artists."So there was an opportunity to discuss this issue - an opportunity that was, apparently and unfortunately, lost. That's a shame because that conversation at that particular time could have changed the course of the music industry, streaming/sharing revenues, etc. Honestly, Bragg should have and could have brought it up at that time. If he did, he may not be complaining about the state of the industry right now.
The solution to this gnawing problem will ultimately mesh with the way consumers find, use and share media while also assuring fair revenue for the artists who produce the sought-after content. Music lovers don't care if that means a $.01 per listen revenue trickle, a $850 million cash flood or something in the between as long as it's easy, affordable for the listener and profitable for the artist.