I’ve had quite some fun lately. First to mention is a three week-long vacation in the
South-West of this lovely continent. Portugal has quite some nice things to offer, most memorably
its famous Port wine. Having gotten into it
already some time before the vacation, those three weeks took care of a decent addiction — an
addiction that might get pretty expensive in the long term, as Kim noticed while tasting different
sorts at a winery where mostly wines from smaller wineries are being sold. Most of Portugal’s (or
more specific, the Douro region’s) wine is being sold by bigger corporations, Sandeman for example.
There are about 30 of those. Lately, there is a trend towards more independant distribution, and
Vinologia (the shop we visited for a couple of times to taste and learn more about this special sort
of wine) specialises in this. As a result, they’ve got some very fine “single quinta” wines (wines
from one particular winery). I’ve came to think about a business model that allows those smaller
distributors to circumvent the big corporations and in the course make the Port wine experience in
the rest of the world more special and diverse. I’ll most probably get back to the owner of that
store with my ideas, since they were planning for making better use of online shopping anyway.
Last weekend, I’ve been to Haldern Pop, a small
music festival in the west of Germany. Nice about this festival is that it’s pretty
non-commercialised. Sure, they have a main sponsor, but that’s a local brewery. Most of the needed
commercial stuff (think food, drinks, t-shirts) there is being done by locals, a bar that took care
of an ‘Open Air Music Bar’ at the camping site, local food stores supplying the music fan with good
food and drinks, and pretty much the most exciting thing is a small lake amid the woods, horse farms
and right next to the festival where you can swim in the summer sun. Pure relaxation.
At the festival, I talked with Thorsten, a friend of mine (and obviously a big fan of music)
about his relationship with the music industry. Thorsten collects vinyl records and I think he puts
quite some money into that hobby. Yet he’s completely fed up with how the music industry deals with
him as a customer. For example, he wants to listen to music in his car but not necessarily take the
special edition CD with booklet in his car to save it from damage, being stolen or covered with
lemonade accidentally. If he’d bought the CD, he would’ve been forced to break the law by copying
the CD and using that cheap copy in his car — while he paid for it. Or even worse: he gets a virus
on his PC for free, or is not even able to play the CD he bought on his computer.
He has also not the slightest problem with paying for a nice CD or vinyl record, yet the
music industry does it’s very best to criminalise his way of using the product he bought and in the
course of that, pissing him off.
A festival such as Haldern Pop offers a way out. At those festivals, and at a lot of smaller
concerts as well, you can buy CDs or records directly from the artist. Often, those CDs are produced
by smaller lables which do not (yet?) act in the same way as Sony, Warner, Bertelsmann and all the
others big companies that are seriously ignoring what the customer wants for more than a
decade already. Personally, I’ve been a good customer of the local CD store quite some time
ago, but completely refrained from buying music some years ago. Right now, I’m getting my fix from
services such as Last.fm, Simuze
and also buy CDs at smaller concerts, but I’m just not anymore picking the kind of crap the music
industry (and in pretty much the same extent the software industry) is trying to push through to its
Clearly, the way everybody would’ve preferred it if the industry would’ve used the new
possibilities that arise from globalisation and the rise of new technologies such as the Internet to
make products the customer wants? Why is it so much easier to download a movie from an illegal
source than paying for it, getting it in high quality and be able to play it? Note: I’m
willing to pay for it, it’s just not possible, while the technology is there for
several years already. One would assume that if there’s a demand in the market, an offer will arise
quickly. The fact that this has not happend shows one thing very clearly: The system is broken in
that respect, it just does not work in situations where large corporations can decide not to offer a
solution for a demand. Corporations that do not act in reponse to a demand have — in our current
system — just no right to survive, and that’s a good thing. This principle takes care of the supply
of the people, be it music, software or even food. And that means that one of the very basics of the
society I’m living in — and the society itself — is being undermined.
So why did I write down these three anecdotes?
I think that Free Software projects such as KDE should make use of that feeling of being fed
up and ignored by the big industry and at the same time use the distribution channels offered by the
Internet to change the way things go. The way the industry is dealing with consumers will cause this
very feeling of not being taken seriously as a customer to grow, and to grow more. With companies
getting bigger and bigger, they also seem to take less care of their customers.
KDE as a free software project and other projects such as Simuze, Wikipedia and all
those free content providers out there should stick their heads together and give the user back what
he deserves. His freedom.