Holy Sales February 4, 2009

Written by: Digitally Approved
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In 2009, we still find ourselves running into the question “Why should we hand over our content to the consumer?” Brands and content producers for decades have guarded content and its distribution doggedly, and for good reason too — there was money to be made. The majors don’t call the reel room “the vault” without cause.

But in the era of open borders and open source culture much of that content has started to seep out into the hands of the consumer. We’re all well aware this created a significant reaction from major studios with lawsuits announced as often as releases in the early 2000s.

Anyone remember these ads?

But in the last decade a very strong argument for consumer controlled content has slowly emerged. One of my favorite articulations of this argument can be found in Matt Mason’s “The Pirate’s Dilemma.” To quote Publishers Weekly:

Music journalist Mason, a former pirate radio and club DJ in London, explores how open source culture is changing the distribution and control of information and harnessing the old system of punk capitalism to new market conditions governing society. According to Mason, this movement’s creators operate according to piratical tactics and are changing the very nature of our economy. He charts the rise of the ideas and social experiments behind these latter-day pirates, citing the work of academics, historians and innovators across a multitude of fields. He also explores contributions by visionaries like Andy Warhol, 50 Cent and Dr. Yuref Hamied, who was called a pirate and a thief after producing anti-HIV drugs for Third World countries that cost as little as $1 a day to produce. Pirates, Mason states, sail uncharted waters where traditional rules don’t apply. As a result, they offer great ways to service the public’s best interests. According to Mason, how people, corporations and governments react to these changes is one of the most important economic and cultural questions of the 21st century.

Indeed, Mason’s question is important in the present moment. How are brands reacting to this shift in content control and distribution?

Well, we’re not at the point of total refusal anymore. Most brands are interested in justification now. They want to be convinced that opening the vault is worthwhile and that in this new market, there is still money to be made by doing so.

Enter Monty Python. We read recently that Monty Python has seen a DVD sales increase of 23,000%. No typo. That’s 3 zeros. Here’s what happened.

Thousands of clips had been illegally uploaded to YouTube by thousands of fans of the Monty Python franchise. These fans faced a shortage of content in the marketplace and satisfied their own demand by posting various quality, various length clips of their favorite Python moments. In retaliation, the Python team did the following: they burned the safe, they digitized their content, and they cut, tagged and titled everything. And they made this:

And with the handing over of the show to fans, Monty Python sales exploded, climbing as high as No. 2 on Amazon’s Movies & TV bestsellers list.

This is only one case and point, but it’s a good one to use when working with brands who need to see that sharing content directly with consumers has its benefits not just for CRM but for the bottom line.