"As our communication technology expands (some might say 'explodes'), traditional media are being forced to rethink their traditional models. Nowhere is this more evident than in the struggles of major movie studios, music studios and publishing companies. Some of them are in outright legal wars with their customers. This is a certain ticket to bankruptcy court — it's just a matter of time.
In the past, big studios and big publishers were king. Composers, performers, authors and artists all had to go through them to reach an audience. Even if they went to the considerable expense of self-producing, how did they distribute their wares? The entertainment corporations were free to pay their talent as they saw fit, charge for their product as they saw fit, and they didn't have to answer to anyone. The only real adversaries they had were each other and the counterfeiters.
Counterfeit movies, books and music have always been a nuisance, but they weren't a major threat. Quality problems kept most customers attached to the genuine article. But then the technology expanded, and anyone could make a copy for their mom, their girl friend, their cousin Ernie. A lot of big companies panicked and set loose packs of lawyers to gnaw on the hands that feed them.
Panic is blind, and this is no exception. Those big companies aren't seeing the big picture, and if they don't rethink what they're doing, they will go as extinct as the dodo, BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT NEEDED ANY MORE.
The studios and publishers make a big deal about "intellectual property", but how are they defining that? Do they create anything? Or do they buy the creations of others? Do they sell anything? Or do they pretend to sell their wares, but then insist on the right to continue to "own" and control them?
These days, studios and publishers actually function as glorified introduction services. Once they were mass-producers, using economies of scale to make the expensive, cumbersome process of generating and duplicating entertainment media (whether book or music or film) cost-effective. But today, we're getting to the point where anyone with a good computer and the requisite skills can turn out high-quality content, and mass duplication isn't necessary — it can be done electronically by the purchaser. So the function of the studio or publisher is to 1. Recruit the talent, and 2. Introduce their work to the consumer.
Think about an introduction or dating service. You want to meet a nice person to go out with. The service is happy to oblige, for a fee. So far so good. But what if the service wanted to plant spyware in your car, your favorite haunts, even your bedroom, to make sure that you couldn't ask the person out again without paying them? What if they sued you for introducing her to your cousin Ernie? Would you do business with them?
No matter what they do, these agencies can't successfully control each iteration of the material they sell. If they stop trying, they'll continue to make money. Most people don't want to take the time to record or print their own entertainment. Most artists don't want to be their own marketing companies, either, so they too will continue to support agencies that treat them fairly. Some of both will go to the extra trouble, because they have more time and/or skill than money, but chances are that those people wouldn't be doing business with the agency in the first place, so nothing is being lost to them.
What about all this is so difficult? The same bloated corporations that have been swindling their artists for years are now running amok, suing grandmothers and grade-school kids for doing the very thing that will keep their products in the marketplace. Word of mouth is the most potent advertising a company can have — why aren't they taking advantage of it? The consumers want to be entertained. Show them a little bit of something entertaining and they want more. Intelligent marketing dictates selling content; recorded media might remain as a secondary "convenience" market for people who can't or don't want to convert data to their format of choice, but it's not mandatory any more. The company that's smart and realistic will provide previews, or older material from an artist's library, to potential buyers. When they sell something, they will sell it. They'll sell it in units that make sense (individual songs as well as albums, individual stories as well as collections, etc. No encryption, no spyware, no strings attached at all, except that if anyone tries to copy and market their material, they can act against them on behalf of the artist. And speaking of the artist, they'll pay their talent well enough to make it attractive to work with their agency, because if they don't, their talent has the option of marketing directly to the consumer. In the coming shaking-out of the information/entertainment media, the companies that are smart and realistic will win.
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