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Rock stars following in open-source developers' footsteps

Open source rock stars? Sure.

Who would have thought that Thom Yorke (Radiohead) would pine to be Linus Torvalds? Yet this is effectively what we're seeing as the music industry contemplates giving its wares away in order to make a buck. Or many of them.

This is the point Zenbullets makes:

Data is a post-scarcity commodity. Post-scarcity, as the name suggests, is the successor of scarcity, upon which our current economic systems are built. When you consume scarce goods - eat a chocolate bar, or buy a CD - there is one less of that commodity in the marketplace. But when you consume a post-scarce item - download an application, or an mp3 - you copy it. Meaning there is now one more of that commodity out there, not less. This is how the success of a post-scarce product is measured, by the number of times it has been reproduced.

And this is of course very similar to how the music industry works. Or how it would work if you were to take the record companies out of the picture. In a crowded marketplace the greatest issue for a new band is being heard, getting their music to as many ears as possible, not maximising the profit on shifting units. There are a hundred thousand people with the talent to write a great song, but there are only a select few who can attract a wide audience with it. This initial recognition has nothing to do with the pricing mechanisms of CDs, it is to do with reputation. Kudos is the main commodity of agalmic economics.

How do you make money once you have the reputation? Analog. This might mean concerts or facilitated downloads in the music industry, or support or update networks in software. Or it may mean something completely different.

Google has figured out how to monetize that reputation, but it did so after years of simply developing its reputation. Same with Facebook now.

Perhaps it really is the answer to become a "rock star" first and sort out how to monetize it later. My problem is I always want to figure out the money part first, but that may be looking at things bassackwards.