Reddit Founder Alexis Ohanian's Open Letter About The Music Industry And The Band

Editor's Note: On Wednesday, Reddit founder and Y Combinator "Ambassador to the East" Alexis Ohanian debated professor Jonathan Taplin, director of the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab and former tour manager of The Band, about copyright, pay vs. free models, and the principals behind failed legislation SOPA—at our Innovation Uncensored event in New York City. Immediately after the debate, which seemed far from over, Ohanian posted this response to his website, referencing Taplin's arguments about The Band, whose members have run into financial difficulties due to the current state of the music industry. We're reposting it with his permission here, and we welcome those who didn't get to ask their questions to sound off in the comments section. Also, we're happy to publish Prof. Taplin's response, should he decide to respond, and keep the debate going. A video of the debate will be available soon.

Thanks for debating me this evening at Fast Company's Innovation Uncensored conference here in NY!

Like I said on stage, I wanted to offer a solution to help make right what the music industry did to members of The Band.

It reminded me of the story Lester Chambers told on reddit a little while back: "I am the 99%. Screwed by the industry."

I'm hopeful that innovations like the ones I discussed tonight and the others that are being worked on by entrepreneurs right now will continue to do right by artists and cut out those who'd mistreat them. Please take a look around kickstarter and reddit and you'll quickly find that the former is already crowd-funding projects in the millions and the latter does not in fact hurt artists in any way (quite the opposite, it's full of communities of music makers sharing tips and comedians making oodles by treating their fans respectfully and directly selling them DRM-free content).

Like I said on stage, it would be an honor to gather members of The Band together to produce one more album with unreleased content or something to honor Levon Helm — really any kind of creative project they'd like to produce — (this time funded on kickstarter) and we'll gladly launch it on the IAMA section of reddit.

I'll have my credit card ready, as I'm sure many other redditors (and music fans) will. Oh, and thank you to FastCompany for inviting me!

[Image: Flickr user Alec Perkins]

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  • Johnathan Loos

    I'm a bit late in seeing this, but this is bizzarely coincidental. First off, good debate, though I wish the format would have allowed for a longer discussion and more back and forth. I've used kickstarter before and it really is an excellent way for those who lack access to typical sources of funding to create something great. I'm a musician, and though it's tough, I believe people want to and do pay for art. And the potential listenership is larger than ever. Now, here's the coincidence, speaking of kickstarter and Levon Helm. Levon Helm is a legend. He lived to play music and played music to live - the release of his two solo albums in tandem with his battle with cancer proves this. He is a tremendous inspiration to all artists who aim to align their life with their work. When he died, 14 local musicians around Winston Salem, NC started organizing a tribute album for Levon. We launched the kickstarter page 2 days ago and have 27 days left. We are raising money to pay for distribution and the licensing of the songs. If you believe in the grass roots style artistic development that kickstarter encourages, then please help us honor Levon Helm. Check out the promo video. Just $5 will get you a copy of the cd, - it's due to be released in August.

  • Lloyd Kaufman

    Troma Entertainment (The Toxic Avenger, etc.) has existed for nearly 40 years, and may be America's longest running indie movie studio, in large part, because we have embraced our fans and have embraced much of what Mr.Ohanian propounds.In fact,I believe a major reason that we still prosper in spite of the conglomerate-fueled media-industry's economic and legislative blacklisting us,is thanks to file sharing.Our fans' time is their most important asset,more important than money,in my opinion.If we can attract their world wide attention and time,I know that Troma will receive revenue one way or another.