Sunday, 18 March 2012

Cycling, Music and Design (well, poking a bit of fun at fashion)

I think this video just about sums up all the key areas of this blog. And it has lots of swearing in it, which is always funny:
[EDIT - updated with embed]

Friday, 9 March 2012

A Manifesto for the content industry - 7. Be Brave

Be brave. If you’re focussing on sequels, glorified karaoke acts, this year’s answer to “X” or trying to build a brand then you are guaranteed to miss the next trend when it comes along.

First, as has become traditional, some numbers:

Rather than copy and paste a big picture please have a shufti at this Infographic from techdirt showing the numbers in an expanding industry
What this shows us is that the overall entertainment sector is growing, both from a creation side and a sales side. So why do we hear so much about a dying industry being decimated by piracy?

Well, it’s partly because of that column on the left. The gaming industry of 20 years ago was niche and pretty negligible compared to the established movie and music industries. That’s all changed now and the customer’s entertainment dollar has a whole new market to play in.

So that’s part of it, and it’s partly because most people don’t know what decimated means, but we’ll step past that…
Having had a look at the top 20 singles, albums, tours, movies, paperbacks and video games (mostly courtesy of that other growth industry – Wikipedia) I notice the following things
The singles market is dominated by a few major artists.
The biggest movies of the year were mostly sequels, as were the video games.
The biggest tours were all by long-established by acts.
Novels alone still seem to have a good presence of debut works.
This tells me one of two things, either all the best stuff has been produced and there’s nothing good coming out of the ever increasing amount of new content, or the respective industries are scared of this new fangled internet thing* and are banking on their known, well, bankers.
Hence we’re seeing the sequels, cross-overs, franchises and the building of “brands” from the majors whilst most of the truly original content is coming from the independents and smaller subsidiary production houses.
This isn’t new, but the extent to which it is happening is, and it’s particularly galling in the music industry. Here we have an industry that has always defended its 90% take** on the grounds that it needs it to invest in new and developing artists. But speak to those within that industry who are tasked with that job and you’ll find there’s less and less money and time going that way. The general approach is now to let the scene develop organically and then cream 2 or 3 artists off the top when a lot of the hard work has been done by the artists and local enthusiasts.
If the content industry really wants to get back on the front foot they need to stop playing it safe and start hunting out the cutting edge; they have the skills and the resources to be shaping a new zeitgeist rather than perpetuating last year’s trends. But it means being brave, it means taking some of those profits and gambling with them, it means trying to reverse that process whereby companies go from creative start-ups to legislating dinosaurs.
It will pay off in two ways, firstly it increases your chance of finding the next being thing and being in at the start of a new scene and secondly it gives your customers a reason for some brand loyalty and, to go back to the techdirt equation***, a reason to buy (and then come back to buy again).
To refer to the previous chapter, it takes you away from content as a commodity and starts to return it to being culture.
The other way that the industry needs to be brave is in terms of how it connects its fans to its creators. We’ve talked about this before and we’ll come back to it again, but pretending the internet doesn’t exist is not going to work.

P.S. I love the wording from the US constitution at the bottom of the infographic, “to promote the progress of science and useful arts.” Does that mean that non-useful arts shouldn’t get copyright? Damien Hirst, I’m looking at you.
P.P.S. I know it doesn't mean this.

* An MPAA spokesman recently admitted that “the internet isn’t a platform we’re comfortable with”.
** On average, some of the older, more established bands do better, the manufactured ones don’t tend to get close to that.
*** Connect With Fans + Reason to Buy = $$$