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Paying pirates

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It sounds too strong in the Czech environment: in March the music band Wohnout offered its album Karton veverek for downloading in a digital form for a price that listeners chose themselves. After two months the musicians have done the first accounts and they can celebrate. They do have a reason.

Though the average price that fans paid for the CD is not high at all – CZK 65, when we multiply the price by the number of downloads (more than 45,000) and include other payments for the purchase of individual songs, the band has so far earned CZK 257,000 from this album. “We consider it success,” Wohnout’s singer and guitarist Jan Homola told “We wanted to be pioneers in this sort of sale that will probably be a common matter in a few years”.

The news arouses even more enthusiasm as there still remains the feeling of collective guilt for the failure of Michal Jeník. In his restaurant U petrské věže in the centre of Prague, Jeník introduced the event “Pay for your meal how much you want!”. And after a few days he had to close – most of his guests did not pay at all or they paid CZK 30 for a three-course meal. These are seemingly two separate worlds – materialistic and spiritual – but there is a binding element between them. Metaphorically, we could speak about the culture of consumerism, for example.

It is also good that the brave attempt of the band Wohnout came at a time when a harsh sentence against two founders of the portal Pirate Bay, one of the main pirate crossroads on the internet, was delivered in Sweden a few weeks ago. Publishing companies have been calling for harsher and harsher repression lately, instead of looking for new economic models. When the representatives of internet generation tell them that the world they were living in is unsustainable, they are attacked for approving of thefts. However, apparently at least some music lovers are willing to pay for a recording, if its price is not immoderate.

Two weeks ago Pavel Třešňák wrote in Respekt that what makes sense nowadays is looking for a new business model with a freely reproducible electronic content, such as films or music. “It’s not easy at all, but there is no other way out”. Thanks to Wohnout and its fans, there are tourist signs for such a first road even in the Czech Republic now.

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