James Spencer On “Content Production,” Money, and Morality

James Spencer is one of the best people I know (so, for that matter, is his partner-in-beer Andy Sparks) — and he’s good at what he does: Producing “content” for his website, dvds, podcasts, etc. (Among other things, he’s responsible for what I regard as the single best interview I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot of ’em.) (*1) So when he speaks, people oughta listen. Taking a bit of a liberty here (hey! It’s my website . . . ) to “bump up” a comment he made on an earlier blog entry of mine because it relates (and I hope adds credibility) to my   “ain’t no free lunch” rant.

As another independent content producer, I have to make one point. If you don’t want to pay $15 to see the movie (and live discussion afterwards), I hope you’re not waiting to download a pirated version of the movie somewhere else. I’m not going to see the theater showing, because the nearest theater is about two hours away from me. However, I will put it on my Netflix list when it’s available. Just as I am willing to pay a higher price for great beers from independent brewers, I’m willing to go through the proper and legitimate channels to support content from independent producers.

As a fellow “independent content producer,” I say: Amen. (And the “Beer Wars” dvd comes out in August.)

____________ *1: You can hear that two-part interview by visiting the basicbrewing website. Click on radiocasts and then the archives for 2006.

5 thoughts on “James Spencer On “Content Production,” Money, and Morality

  1. Not surprisingly, I’m also opposed to piracy, but . . . – Even though I plan to pay $15 to see “Beer Wars” tomorrow my perception going in is that is overpriced.- I buy used books. Even though I know authors (that would be me, and your Maureen) don’t get a royalty. Books are meant to live on and be read.p.s. I hate your captcha. Akismet has knocked off more than 200,000 spams for me in less than two years without that extra step.

  2. First off, wow! I didn’t mean to create such a big splash.Stan, regarding used books, somebody somewhere paid for the book, assuming they didn’t steal it from the bookstore new. So, the author got paid once, and even if it’s resold, the physical form limits the number of times the book is reused by someone else.Unfortunately, in this digital age, a person can purchase a DVD, rip it, and post it on the Internet for countless numbers to download and view, in a form that is indistinguishable from its original source. We video producers are at the mercy of our viewers to ensure we’re compensated for our efforts. Big studios may be able to absorb the cost of piracy, in the same way the big retailers account for the “shrinkage” of shoplifting. However, for small producers, every purchased copy counts.I’m a small business owner. If the DVDs don’t sell enough to cover costs, then I am forced to switch my focus to more profitable areas. I’m assuming the producer of Beer Wars is in the same boat.

  3. I agree that books are meant to “live on and be read.” Problem is that the authors need to eat, too! (Which, Stan, I know you know.) It’s the reason I’m support public libraries and have done all my life: they represent a way to provide information for everyone, not just a privileged few.Still — it would be wonderful world indeed if people realized that “content” is the result of someone’s hard work.As for the spam thing, jeez, I had no idea, and don’t know if I can figure out how to change it. I was so f**king happy that I could post a comment at my own blog w/out being “moderated” by myself that I just accepted what was handed to me. I will check into it when I get back from CA.

  4. I think the best way for a content producer to maintain control of his materials is to make it available for everyone. If there’s no incentive to make copies and give them away, it won’t happen. Basic Brewing is a great example – freely available content that is accessible anywhere, anytime to anyone with an internet connection. I’ve yet to see it anywhere outside of James’ control. If it were only distributed through a set of CDs, or a traditional radio show, I can guarantee it would be ripped and placed in the control of a third party.The problem is that the simple distribution of a lot of content is longer a viable business model, since anyone can do it – for free. Something else has to be offered to make it desirable; in the case of Beer Wars, it’s the theatre/live show experience that one can’t get with a digital copy of the movie.As a side note – my local PBS station (yes, I support them) produced and aired a show about the history of the local (Sacramento, CA) beer industry, which is freely available on the web. I’ve yet to see any piracy of it 🙂 http://www.kvie.org/programs/kvie/viewfinder/on_tap/default.htm

  5. Joe, FYI – I have had to chase down people who were serving my podcasts on their servers out of my control. Luckily, they were cooperative and shut down their operations.The podcasts are free, but without the continuing support of people who purchase our stuff (DVDs, logbooks, shirts, etc.), Basic Brewing wouldn’t survive. Plane tickets and hotel rooms at beer events, Internet servers, phone lines, equipment, and so on cost money. I do have other sources of income with my little business, but I won’t use them to fund a losing proposition.So far, we’re fortunate in that the business model we’ve chosen is working. Our listeners and viewers are supporting our efforts with purchases, and I’m getting good feedback from those who enjoy the products and find them useful (http://freerangelibrarian.com/2009/03/26/dvd-review-stepping-into-all-grain/)…>I enjoy producing the podcasts, and I also enjoy the fact that I don’t have to beg for subscriber contributions, as I do during fundraisers on-air for my local NPR station.You’re right when you say that the traditional distribution business model is changing. But, Maureen is also right when she says that “content” isn’t free.

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