Thank God we’re in the music business. We’ve already been through the transition; we’ve already been pushed back to zero. We’re in an era of rebirth so strong that if you think the music business is in trouble, you’re not in it. Blockbuster acts make more money than ever before. Piracy has been eviscerated, killed by YouTube and legal streaming services, and from here on, it’s only up.
On the other hand, the filmed entertainment business, now shot on digital, is screwed. They thought they were better than us, that their fans respected their work and chose not to pirate it. What a bunch of hogwash.
The movie business’s worst nightmare just happened. A website known as Popcorn Time launched recently that’s basically a torrent site, and will be all but impossible to take down (though its founders did briefly, before it was officially rebranded as Time 4 Popcorn). It allows you to watch everything, right now, for free — movies in the theaters, movies on homevideo, movies you can’t find anywhere else.
There was a hole and somebody filled it.
Film people were so busy protecting theater owners and cable channels and everybody else who paid for their product, the same way record labels protected brick and mortar retailers, that they forgot about the customers, who want a simple interface and access. Sure, if you’re a teen, you might want to go to the theater to make out and cause trouble, or if you’re an alta kacher you might go out of habit, but everyone else doesn’t understand the theater experience anymore. You mean I have to get into my car, park, and the movie doesn’t start when I want it to?
We’ve got what everybody wants in the music business: all-access streaming. YouTube is the music player of choice. It dwarfs not only CDs and MP3s, but dedicated music-streaming sites. This is also the problem of the labels, who wouldn’t let music streaming sites launch early enough, so YouTube got a head start, but the point is, we’re at the end of that road. The consumer is living in a land of luxury, and he’s lost all incentive to pirate. Can we get him to pay for dedicated streaming services? We’re gonna find out.
And now the movie business is gonna have to move forward, gonna have to deliver all its product, instantly, on demand. Windows are going to collapse, prices are going to come down, because the public now has an easy alternative.
Ain’t technology grand!
Not if you’re a traditional record company. Sure, you might make a ton of money off streaming in the future, but these companies have not configured themselves for the new reality, within which talent — and distribution — are king.
If you can’t access it, it’s like it doesn’t exist. But the music distribution problem has been solved. Listening to music is easy — the entire history thereof. If it’s not on the streaming service, it’s certainly on YouTube. If you’re still stealing, you’re a hoarder and need treatment. Why waste so much time to own that which is freely available? The only issue is what flows through the pipeline, what people choose to play.
And what they choose is superstar talent — the blockbuster syndrome.
Superstar talent may make less money off recordings than in the past, but the live business far exceeds the money it once made. And then there’s sponsorships/endorsements and privates and sync and so many avenues of remuneration that no one who is a superstar is bitching.
Thom Yorke isn’t bitching for himself, but for the theoretical people following in his footsteps. But anybody as good and big as Radiohead will have no problem making money in the future; it’s there to be made. Will they make as much as techies and bankers? Maybe not, but almost nobody does.
Including movie studios.