“Thank You” economy in an Internet dominated world of digital content

July 13, 2013
“Thank You” economy in an Internet dominated world of digital content By Simon Knapper

In an internet dominated world of digital content, where copyright is increasingly disregarded and torrent and file sharing sites are people’s main port of call for music, video files, digital and audio books, copyright holders have responded by pressurising governments to enforce laws to halt the hemorrhage of revenue. The recent crack-down on internet piracy by the Russian government leading to the removal of songs on the social network site V Kontakte and users hastily renaming existing files to avoid the sensors is a case in point.

A new Russian site, ThankYou.ru offers a compromise and a direct relationship between the artist and their audience. The site offers downloadable content which has been uploaded with the permission of the writer /musician and operates on the principle of “pay whatever you feel it’s worth”. If the user does not wish to pay anything he can just express his thanks. For every thank you, the user receives a point, which can be converted ultimately into rewards and prizes. The site’s founders believe that this is a more honest relationship between fan and artist, since it cuts out the middle man and they hope that their site will attract and help nurture new, unpublished talent.
The site has two main sections; music and literature. Both are peopled by key players in the contemporary Russian music and literary scene. Noize MC a popular socially-minded rap star, whose works are featured on the site compares it to busking;
“I think that given the current situation at the moment, this is the most honest approach. In fact it’s very similar to what happens on the street. The musician plays and if somebody likes it, he throws him 50 Roubles and if not he doesn’t give anything. In my view this is honest.”

The literature section is very lively, it has news on literary festivals, blogs and recent works by popular writers such as Zakhar Prilepin, whose books and correspondence are available for download in five different formats. His current book The Interrogation tops their popular chart at the moment of writing. At second place is a book by the well-known journalist Marina Akhmedova, featuring her articles and interviews “The other, other Russia”.

It is too early to say whether the site offers a solution to the problems facing the digital publishing industry or whether it is a last resort measure taken to keep artists and writers afloat. Nevertheless it is an important attempt to lure users away from pirate sites to a more healthy, respectful and remunerative interaction with the works that they so admire and their creators.