Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Unbearable Lightness Of Relative Self-Interest

Mickey's Jihad

Huffington Post

'...I was on a panel the other day which opened with a question about the impact of the Internet on the entertainment business, and I responded, "I'm a guy who sees nothing good having come from the Internet. Period."

Now, the blogosphere does not take so kindly to provocations like that, and it didn't take long for online critics to compare my words with those of one of my Hollywood predecessors, H.W. Warner, who famously said, "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"

But, I actually welcome the Sturm und Drang I've stirred, because it gives me an opportunity to make a larger point (one which I also made during that panel discussion, though it was not nearly as viral as the sentence above).
And my point is this: the major content businesses of the world and the most talented creators of that content -- music, newspapers, movies and books -- have all been seriously harmed by the Internet.'

- Michael Lynton, Chairman and CEO, Sony Pictures Entertainment


I disagree.

What the Internet has done is hold up for close examination the various business models used for manufacture and distribution of the above products, and reveal them to be not only grossly inefficient, but highly weighted in favor of corporate mendacity and rapaciousness at an onerous expense to the consumer.
Harm...or enlightenment? In the eye of the beholder, one supposes.

In the case of music - in spite of numerous portents that indicated change was afoot, the major labels continued blissfully apace with the same 'traditions' that worked so well when a virtual monopoly of supply and market access existed (minor bootleggers, occasionally in cahoots with their industry counterparts excepted).
The retail music business, from production to pressing plant to the point of sale, had a chance to assimilate a new reality from the ground up and gain early and decisive control within the new medium of exchange, yet elected en masse to stick their heads in the sand and wait for a perceived fad to pass...Short-sighted thinking from a fad-driven industry, surely.

In newspapers and print media, a battle that was joined upon the introduction of television and radio to the mass consciousness, one that made the speed of information delivery (and rapid updates to that information) paramount over objective quality has placed entities dependent upon a decreasing natural resource (paper) somewhat behind the curve and losing ground with consumers, in spite of adopting sensationalist tabloid ways of attempting to catch their attention.

And with movies, I daresay the ongoing stratagem of mass appeal through planned derivativeness holds as much blame for fiscal downturns as the unlawful redistribution of copywritten works.
The American film industry (sui generis Hollywood) has placed itself willingly into an ever-tightening loop of higher budgets needing safe bets to recoup expenses prior to profit - regurgitating sequels and prequels galore, or remaking mediocre films of the past merely because they are known quantities and undemanding turns for bankable stars.
Where once 'traffic-builders' financed more esoteric productions that gave a studio artistic credibility, now only the sure things are touted and developed...The blockbuster mentality run rampantly amuck.

What has been lost in this case is a fundamental truth that the most cost-effective part of any film production is the script...Yet by demoting this needed backbone of production from an engaging original story to a cut-and-paste function, all that comes after becomes mere window dressing...Pretty pictures that flicker briefly, and are gone after the merchandising window closes.

Conversely, the various foreign and independent film concerns that are forced to do without such luxuries as name recognition and pre-existing templates become more pragmatic, developing new stories and talent for a lower 'above-the-line' cost which makes revenue from a potential mass success much easier to realize.

Being that my reading habits are mostly confined to works of a somewhat non-commercial nature, I have little to add as opinion on the aspect of books within this paradigm, save for the suggestion that an unvarnished examination of the bestsellers lists with an eye toward overly hyped 'bandwagonesque' and shamelessly populist content, and a cursory overview of latent publishing industry chicaneries with respect to unestablished authors would explain much of their shared trajectory with their compatriots above.

Of course, nobody likes to be ripped off, and in this regard Mr. Lynton has my full sympathies. Seeing a multi-million dollar or, for that matter any investment released into the wild by unscrupulous types for a fast illegitimate buck is a most unsavory aspect of such rapid data transmission.

To reduce exposure to this, content creators and distributors whether separate entities or one and the same need to adopt more stringent internal security measures prior to release, and vigorous legal followup to counter infringement.
Many of these methods are known, tried and true, and eschew gimmickry to ensure a successful conclusion where the consumer is happy with the product offered at the price and the provider is happy with the profit derived from the sale.

In the modern reality, one in which the Internet has saturated global public interactivity (save for the most perversely dedicated Luddite, cavebound and proud)...One must strive to minimize risk, while at the same time being aware that it cannot be eliminated entirely.
Provide a better, more cost- and quality-aware original product and the vast majority of law-abiding users will pay a fair price for it that will more than offset the losses incurred from the actions of a small cadre of criminals and the socially irresponsible.

6 comments:

Suzan said...

Nicely put.

I would quote more of your words that so sweetly point out the rue involved in running these industries (into the ground), but that's almost all of them, so I'll desist except to say that we must remember that Bill Gates was their mentor and they assumed that they could buy up their competitors as easily (or drive them out of business due to the overwhelming imposition of their superior products).

You rock.

You are always en point and I really enjoy my visits here.

and reveal them to be not only grossly inefficient, but highly weighted in favor of corporate mendacity and rapaciousness at an onerous expense to the consumer.

had a chance to assimilate a new reality from the ground up and gain early and decisive control within the new medium of exchange, yet elected en masse to stick their heads in the sand and wait for a perceived fad to pass...Short-sighted thinking from a fad-driven industry

one that made the speed of information delivery (and rapid updates to that information) paramount over objective quality has placed entities dependent upon a decreasing natural resource (paper) somewhat behind the curve and losing ground with consumers, in spite of adopting sensationalist tabloid ways of attempting to catch their attention.

Comrade Kevin said...

Here, here!

I dream of a world based on quality, merit, and taste.

Tengrain said...

Darkblack -

Well done, sir.

I would add to your analysis the Millennium Copyright Act, which basically means that content owners (and in this case, immortal corporations) own the content basically forever.

Sampling? Gone in video and audio

Something you see or hear spurs your creative interest? Sorry, it is derivative and you cannot use it or create it. And on and on it goes.

The models are broken. The world has no need for newspapers, but it has a huge need for journalists. We will find our way to a new model.

Regards,

Tengrain

VG said...

db- my my! Hit this one right out of the park! I'll have to come up with something surpassing "brilliant", as I've used this before.

In a minor way, I've been following this issue. Like in a really minor way. But, you put this all together in a major way. Classic post, db.

Randal Graves said...

Please don't tell the FCC I stole bits from Byron@Gutenberg.

Distributorcap said...

lynton just doesnt like the fact he has to answer to stockholders as to why his profits are down

i do believe in copyright protection - but i also believe there is egregious and greedy people like lynton