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This is the new model for paying artists proposed by Bruce Schneier, the legendary cryptologist. Essentially, an artist will say "I will release my new work as soon as I have been paid X number of dollars." People interested in seeing said work then send the artist money. When the artist has received X dollars, they release the work to the general public--both those who have contribuited and those who have not. The analogy is like that of a street musician, or busker: they will play as long as enough of the watching crowd chips in to make it worth their while, but anyone passing by can enjoy the music while it lasts.

update (July 24, 2000):Stephen King is releasing his new book, The Plant, online under this protocol. This is, to my knowledge, the first work by a well-known artist to be released like this. I plan to chip in my $1 as soon as my paycheck comes.

Recently National Public Radio did a story about this. The two performers they cited were Steven King and Marillion--the latter have raised over 100,000 pounds by pre-selling copies of their new album that they're currently recording. They have promised all buyers a special 2 CD edition of the album,and their names in the liner notes. They were able to raise enough money to shop around for a record contract and get a better deal because they no longer need an advance to pay for recording. This is not actually the Street Performer Protocol since the work will not be released into the public domain, but NPR seemed fit to think the idea of asking for money before the project is finished was at least similar.

Certainly with all the hubbub about digital media and Napster and all that stuff, the idea that people will actually pay for art because they want it is a radical one. But it will work for some people.

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