Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Big Media & Corporate America: Still out of touch.

Representatives from several big media companies are reportedly arguing with Apple over the best way to command the tide to stand still. Should the tide stay right where the heck it is, or should it be allowed to come in at $1.99 a bucketful? Meanwhile, everything in the known universe is still available via YouTube, BitTorrent, and a million other cracks in the dam. The entire content ship is going under, and folks keep arguing over how the deck chairs should be arranged...

15 comments:

pax said...

There's a never-ending battle between arms and armor. Arms always win in the end.

DirtCrashr said...

My wife has a 30GB "video" iPod - pfft! (Curses, Costco!)
I can't seriously imagine downloading, paying to download, or even attempting to watch a "video" on that dinky 2-inch screen. It's ridiculous. We briefly considered then abandoned the idea for our last plane-flight (Maui).
Supposedly a PSP works adequately for that purpose.

Rob said...

All big media is doing is shooting themselves in the foot. What will happen is that small guys will take over. The content will be paid for by ads/product placement in the media. Whoever provides the best value entertainment with the least annoying ads wins. People simply will not pay for the content and never have been willing too. People pay to see actual live performances and physical media that carries content. Big media has too long mistaken the physical media for the content itself.

Billy Beck said...

You know what? I can't wait until record companies go gurgling down the drain. They've been nothing but useless assholes since about the time of Frampton's live album (1976).

Here's the thing though:

It will be very interesting to me when "small media" starts facing the same business challenges through downloading that "big media" does, now.

triticale said...

There's a never-ending battle between arms and armor. Arms always win in the end.

Because sufficient armor winds up immobilizing. The analogy holds.

Rob said...

Modern small media will never face the same challenges that big media is now facing, because they're based on a different business model. The big media business model was based on the high cost of recording, duplicating, and distributing content. With music for example, in the 20th century, it cost a lot of money to have a recording studio, to press records, and to distribute those records. The equipment and materials were expensive. If you were Joe Singer and you wanted to get your music recorded, you had to make it worth the while of someone who could afford the equipment.

Now? You can make practically studio quality recordings with laptops that cost less than a week's wage, and distribute the digital recordings to millions of people for effectively nothing. You can burn it to CD for less than a buck a copy. The technological bottle-neck is gone.

Anonymous said...

Exactly. Why should I pay 99 cents a song? Outrageous! I would be willing to pay 10 cents, but why should you expect to perform one three minute song and get paid for the rest of your life?

Don't give me creative work product stuff, either. An architect doesn't get paid every time someone enters a building he designed.

A carpenter doesn't get paid every time someone sits in a chair he built.

Divemedic

comatus said...

Rob, interesting point, and I'd add that the reason music fans are unwilling to pay for content is the gamble that the music "industry" made on its own free distribution: free songs on radio, subsidized by advertising. Until recently, there was no way to charge for "spot" radio. So they used radio as a loss leader to sell records and concert tickets (and radios!), and used politics to govern who had access to that expensive medium and its revenues. A tragedy of the commons, they finally lost their bet. Bandwidth has been a federal hot potato since the Harding administration (and will continue to be); it has been mishandled differently in each generation.

Billy Beck said...

Rob -- I completely understand all that. (I routinely produce music at home with capability that would have made the Beatles faint.) There are, however, undeniable production incentive problems when any product can be freely distributed without paying for it.

Now, what I see changing is revenue-emphasis running to live music: people are going to make money on touring where it used to roll in from recordings. To me, that's only a good thing. (Especially to me, since I make my living from live shows as a lighting director.) But this is going to change a lot about how people actually get into the business and start making a living at it.

And no matter what: I have a big, big show-stopping problem with theft.

Will said...

Divemedic,
one of the major reasons the big names get the big bucks is they have the talent to create, and/or perform, at a high level of expertise. What happens when everyone that thinks they can perform or create something swamps the world with their dreck? How do you find the diamonds in all that? The amount of time YOU will spend looking will be overwhelming, and the level of quality will drop at the same time. Very very few are good early in their life. It usually takes many years of honing your craft, before you qualify for the big time. Sure, some good ones never make it big, for many reasons. But, if you eliminate the "apprentice" system that is currently in use, the results will resemble the mess that most commercial business areas exhibit.
It would be nice if more of the talented ones got noticed, but I suspect they will get just as overlooked, in all the noise that will be generated by the self-promoted "artists" after the current system collapses.

phlegmfatale said...

After some success and acclaim with her partner in Frou Frou and as a solo artist, Imogen Heap chucked the music industry and mortgaged her house to set up her own studio and release her own cds on her own terms without a big label trying to mold her into the pop-tart flavor of the month. Her gamble paid off, and her music is perfect, and perfectly her. I think she's indicative of the future of music - much more organic and accessible. Big music companies had a real opportunity to set the imbalance aright when the shift to cd happened, but what did they do? Double the prices. It won't be heartbreaking to see them crash and burn and free the myriad artists snared therein.

Divemedic said...

No, the reason they make big bucks is that they enjoy protection that few other industries have. The song "Happy Birthday" still gets royalties every time it is performed for profit, yet the person who created it is long dead.

Other industries that require just as much talent do not get the same treatment.

Drug companies? 17 years
Invent the lightbulb? 17 years
If the work was a work created by a corporation, then copyright persists for 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever is shortest.

Where did this come from? The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act.

comatus said...

will, I give you The Monkees. There were explosions of talent in the ages of minstrelsy, ragtime, jazz (4 or 5 times), R&B and multiple generations of rock (and/or roll). Every one of these arose from live performance, regional fan bases, and touring, then got ripped off, cheapened up, and industrialized by "The Industry." I don't need that A&R establishment to do my filtering for me. "The results will resemble the mess that most commercial business areas exhibit"? That's the mess that was the Agora, and that's where I want to buy music.

DirtCrashr said...

Solomon Linda, died a pauper - now there's a ripoff.

comatus said...

phlegm, raising prices is not all they did. Despite the relative cheapness of returning albums to print in CD, the big companies further cleaned out their catalogues. There were little firms that did the Lord's work on this, of course, but I think they're on your side in this issue. I never snagged anything off Napster that a record shop was willing to sell me, and always wondered why napsters didn't take that argument to court: the recording industry, for fans of anything but their top ten, were acting as a combination in restraint of trade. They bought up music and locked it in a vault, like Michael Jackson did with Amos'n'Andy.