Burn Hollywood, Burn
First there was the music industry. No one tried to help it back up; after years of being viewed by the general public and bemoaned by the artist as the big soul-sucking money-hungry machine of exploitation that it was, people only gathered round to watch it burn and fan the flames.
The result has been a transfer of power is all. Not to the artists, necessarily (of course there are always a few exceptions) but to the new digital aggregators who deal in micro-payments and still cut the far less than what it cost them to make the stuff in relation to what it costs for iTunes to distribute and sell it. The difference is when there were A&R people, some of them actually filtered out the bad stuff. Today those are called Tastemakers. They are better known to Generation Y as Simon Cowell. And iGenius.
The Dawning of a New Age (Again)
The artists hear the evangelists of this new democratic age calling down from the hilltops about how they have more freedom and opportunity than ever before, but somehow they are missing the foundation of how the market works – by removing the funnels and filters previously controlled by the major labels, and dispersing the point of sales all over the place, it is much more difficult for any artist to build momentum let alone sell on the Long Tail. By abandoning the major studio model (which HAD to be shaken up regardless) the artists inadvertently abandoned the very infrastructure that formed their marketplace.
Ask any musician today who ever made a dime before just how motivated they are right now to go and spend money and time and sweat toiling to get those de-tuned guitar strings right, and perfecting the EQ on their mixes when no one cares where the music came from or how it was made or whether or not its being pirated. Why are so many people just dancing on the ashes of the music industry and failing to realize that often they are also dancing on the heads of the musicians themselves?
Don’t get me wrong. I ran an indie label for 15 years. I wasn’t a fan of the studios, but at least there was an economy for music then. It wasn’t that the studios were slow and failed to seize the right opportunities (which they did) it was that the audiences were upset about paying 15 bucks for CDs (because they thought that CDs are only like 2 bucks to manufacture) so defaulted to getting their music free from The Internets.
By the same argument – I question the widespread derision and resentment that exists towards Hollywood. “Piracy is what Hollywood deserves for charging so much at the box office.” It is just too inconvenient to go to a three-storey high theater with Dolby Certified surround sound and pay ten dollars for popcorn. And Hollywood movies are soulless shit made by suits anyway.
Screw Wolverine: The Audience Wants More Truffaut – or – If Xmen Origins: Wolverine Exists, I Can Not Be Truffaut
Why is everyone so excited about bringing down the Hollywood model all of a sudden?
Why can’t it just be that there are more opportunities for more films in addition to the tentpole conglomerates?
The problem with this line of thinking is that it belies the WWI era scarcity model mentality where there can’t be two, there just has to be ways of splitting up and passing around fragments of one.
Do indie filmmakers, disillusioned and frustrated by rejection and gatekeepers in the studio system, really think that the fall of the studios and the distribution infrastructure they support and subsidize, is going to make financing more available to them? Or that audiences, suddenly free from the hypnotic glare of Spiderman 3, will finally turn their attention to moderately well crafted HVX100 features made by really big fans of Judd Apatow and even some Hitchcock?
I like change, and I like competition in the marketplace – it wakes people up and innovates and evolves things, and it gets rid of weak and outmoded models, but this does not all have to happen in spite of the infrastructure. If you want ever to download a pirated copy of an epic adventure thriller of any quality ever again, and not just some Bokakeh HDSLR indie avant-garde piece showcasing the latest Nikor lens, think about what it takes to successfully run and release a 400 million dollar picture like Avatar and get it out to your neighborhood in digital IMAX 3D.
wondering if the above, really just came from my keyboard – the once nose-ringed, green haired, experimental prog-rocker
Scarcity vs. Abundance
The takeaway from this is: stop thinking in terms of the scarcity model and start thinking in terms of the abundance model. There is enough to go around. Don’t horde your wisdom, resources, passion. Spread it, build it, develop it, express it and let the people building airships, skyscrapers and highways do their job also. Lest your concern be that they will flood the planet in oil, burn up the oceans and kill the indies – remember that the market goes where the money is – which is to say, if you don’t pay to see Snakes On A Plane – they probably won’t make a sequel. If you do pay to see Spiderman, they probably will.
If you make a mediocre album be it indie or released via a major, people likely won’t buy it. They probably won’t even pirate it.
Make good things. If you make inefficient gas guzzling cars that spray noxious fumes and cost too much, people will probably not buy it unless it is their only choice. So make a fuel efficient, eco-friendly car that feels and looks awesome, and you might just make a whole lot of money.
So when we start hearing about how Hollywood is gonna get it just like the music industry did, consider how a desperate industry will behave; it will probably play it safer, probably do less and thus interest in that very industry will wane.
People say all we care about is the story. All that matters is the song. Really?
What about adventure? What about entertainment? What about escape? What about spectacle? What about the communal experience? The social experience?
Do none of those factor in our attention and investment in the product? Would Lost be half of what it is if it weren’t for the chance to discuss it with friends, its scope, its production value?
I can’t wait to hear from you. Please tear the above apart. Or agree with me. Let’s hear it.
This article was in part, inspired by a piece someone posted at a Digital Entertainment studies board I read by UCLA Extension instructor Peter Russel titled “Hollywood Is Going To Die — But Wait, That’s a Good Thing!“
"Keram makes excursions into almost every style of music imaginable here and does it with such flair that these very pleased ears, he could have settled on any of these genres and made just as brilliant a record." - Mark Rheaume, CBC Radio