Kevin Spacey's anti-piracy business model: Give the audience control

The star of "House of Cards" pats Netflix on the back for understanding where the music industry went wrong

Published August 27, 2013 3:27PM (EDT)

Where was Kevin Spacey when the music industry really needed him?

Over the weekend, Spacey gave a lecture on the lessons of "House of Cards" at the Edinburgh Television Festival in Scotland. The bottom line: "The audience wants control." If the audience wants to binge, or watch TV on their phone: let them!

Through this new form of distribution we have demonstrated that we have learned the lesson that the music industry didn't learn. Give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it, at a reasonable price, and they will more than likely pay for it rather than steal it.

If you are under 30 years old, you might be wondering what the fuss is. Well, duh! But if you're over 40, you are probably still puzzled why the music industry took so long to figure out what now seems to be obvious. It's not like they weren’t warned. From the moment the first MP3s start circulating in the wild in the late 1990s, it was clear that the music industry would be forced to adapt. By taking a confrontational approach; by treating music lovers as the enemy, the music industry paved the way for an outsider like Apple to set up shop in what should have been the music company mall. But Steve Jobs figured out what the studio executives could not grasp.

But Spacey also made a more subtle point. The audience wants "stories," he said. "They are dying for them. They are rooting for us to give them the right thing. All we have to do is give it to them."

If there is anything that the current golden age of television has proven it is that we crave quality and will embrace it, on any kind of device, at any length, in any format. One wonders how much stronger a position the music industry would be in right now, if it had paid as much attention to developing great artists as it did to the supposed scourge of file-sharing.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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File Sharing House Of Cards Kevin Spacey Music Industry Netflix Online Piracy Piracy Video