The future of entertainment

There are those who say that by 2011, all music will be free, and the labels will offer artists 360 contracts in order to survive (meaning, putting the artists under more financial pressure than they are now). There are those who say that RIAA/MPAA will eventually win, and convince world governments to draconian laws about piracy. And there are those who say that indie/CC art will eventually take over and make RIAA/MPAA irrelevant.

I think that the truth lies somewhere in between all this. There will be 360 contracts, some of the major-label music will be free (but not all), some music will be streamed for very cheap/free in exchange for ads, more laws will take place, indies will become more mainstream via the internet, advertisement will be more evident in art projects, and piracy will continue to exist.

Today, making music is cheap. Mixing isn’t as expensive as it was even just 10 years ago. Making an indie movie is also cheap. When costs go down, more people jump into the bandwagon for the opportunity, over-saturating the market. Currently, the indie music scene is super-saturated with wannabes (and only about 5-10% of all that music is actually good). There are so many indie bands in the Bay Area alone that is not even funny. I stopped counting at around 600. And I personally like only about 20 of them. Don’t even let me start at the thousands of albums released every week on sites like eMusic.

Put all that together, and you will see that all these happenings will weaken the industry. I believe that the last super-star is already being born, and the last Box-Office movie (meaning, $100 mil or more of sales) will be out in less than 15 years from now.

Maybe I am wrong. But maybe I am right. It’s inconceivable for us to think that there won’t be any new super-stars to gossip about, or a new super-expensive movie. But like with any other profession, they all have their time limit, as the circumstances change (in this case, the digital age). For example, being a clock maker back in the 17th Century was something! Being a clock maker today doesn’t even get you laid.

Basically, what I am trying to do with this blog post is to answer to all these other blog posts and analysis articles found on the web that the future of music/movies will be with this or that. In my opinion, the future will be a mix of all these things, which will eventually weaken these professions, and downgrade them to just normal jobs.

This doesn’t mean that music and movies will be dead. That kind of art will never be dead. But they won’t be multi-million products anymore, but smaller projects from smaller groups. It’s not that the digital age killed the industry. It’s just that it put it back in its place. Before the digital age, Hollywood over-capitalized on the whole thing — because they could. Now that they can’t anymore, they will crumble under their own weight. They will still exist, but their golden days will be over. And this is true for the indies too.

Now, some will say, “does this mean that we will never see again an artistic masterpiece?”. And the answer is “we will”. There are many masterpieces in our history written by people who don’t have 10 assistants and millions of dollars in the bank. I am looking forward for these kinds of masterpieces again. All these thousands of wannabe artists will go back to flip burgers at MacDonalds, and the ones who really can deliver will stay alive in the (now crumbled) industry and make a basic salary. But don’t expect super-stars anymore.

That’s my take on the thing, and I am good with such an outcome. The same thing I believe about my old profession btw: developers. The good developers will continue making some good money, but I don’t expect super-stars anymore (e.g. Havoc, Linus, Miguel etc). The vast majority of the programmers of the future will just “write C# for food”.


chris wrote on May 28th, 2009 at 5:12 PM PST:

The cost of mixing may be cheap, but getting that next cool song out before everyone else seems to be what it’s all about.

For example, while Smashing Pumpkins may be more artistic than many newer alt bands today, if you listen to the sounds its a pretty simplistic guitar riff versus if you listen to something with a complex sound like The Killers which has much much more complexities going on.

And with hip-hop, which I think is 10000x more money in it than your type of music you like, I’m seeing certain sounds come and go as quickly as 6 months.

All in all, I don’t know if I agree or disagree, I just know coming up with “cool” is where the money is, and yes, that’s creative I think. I think making something “catchy”, even though not as artistic as you and I may remember from the early “alt” days, is still hard to do… but it’s usually not possible to do this with a normal live band, it requires mixers, etc…

BUT, some bands are best listening to them live, because with rock the drummer is usually the focal point of most good rock bands today. Those bands make 95% of their money playing live and that will always cost money to see.

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Eugenia wrote on May 28th, 2009 at 5:16 PM PST:

Writing a catchy song is one thing. Mixing it and processing it in a way that’s perfect, is another. An indie can always write a catchy song (if he knows how to), but it might be another indie, 5 years down the road, that will do a cover of that song with the right mixing. So instead of having one song coming out perfectly the first time, it might take a generation of efforts in that new world order I am describing.

Then again, what we perceive as perfect today, might not be the case in 25 years from now.

refeup wrote on May 29th, 2009 at 7:55 AM PST:

The major labels gobbled each other up and became massive conglomerates in order to survive. This has provided them with some financial stability for a time, but it has also made it nearly impossible for them to be nimble and liquid enough to keep up with how quickly technology and tastes are changing. I agree that we are moving toward a more fragmented, niche-filled market when it comes to music.

Bands need to become more self-sufficient and self-sustaining. No more middle men – we don’t need them anymore. Instead, bands should hire their team themselves. Make them work for you. This will keep the artist’s vision at the forefront and allow the band and the organization that supports it to adapt to new sounds, new tech and new tastes.

Diego A wrote on May 29th, 2009 at 8:41 AM PST:

Mixing equipment ain’t cheap. At least the good stuff is still very expensive. Same goes for quality equipment. True, anybody can buy a $400 2 input usb box to record, but that doesn’t necessarily makes a good recording/mixing equipment.
The problem with technology today is that puts everybody on the same field, and since most people is ignorant about quality and definition they think it’s all the same. Real Imax or fake one – Same can be said for 35mm and HD. An SSL vintage mixing board or a Protools automation box.
The difference it’s there, and one sounds/looks awesome and the other just Ok.

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Eugenia wrote on May 29th, 2009 at 2:24 PM PST:

Diego A, yes, a $400 equipment is not the same as the $40,000. But we live in days where good is good enough. Think of the Crank2 movie which was shot with an XH-A1 instead of an expensive camera. It did just fine in the hands of the pros. And even if it didn’t perform perfectly, it was good enough. I am not sure that “perfect production” is in the future of entertainment as it was so far.

JIm wrote on May 30th, 2009 at 11:28 AM PST:

As a recording musician, now in my 4th decade in the Seattle area. I used to have celeb in Seattle and now enjoy my amoniminity. I have to mostly agree with your acessment, Where I divurge is that music used to played live and so any band has to build a following. In addition there is marketing, selling your cd or download is marketing as are T shirts, fanzines and so on. It doesn’t matter if there are 600 bands in SF, likely they are the same 200 musicians that play in the 600 bands. I drive almost 2 hrs to get to Seattle to see bluesman Robbin Ford. I do this every time he comes to town. He and what member he has for the tour are all top notch and amazing. He gets my dollars. I think the answer is that musicians have to be better marketers and entertainers than simply good musicians and I can craft an incredable sounding cd using $400 worth equipment. I believe the equipment is absolutely irrelivent for quality anymore. Cheap has gotten very very good. They are tools for a craftsman and crap can be as easily made in million dollar studios and is daily

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Eugenia wrote on May 31st, 2009 at 9:49 AM PST:

One more example of things going towards “cheaper productions” are scifi shows and movies. The vast majority of scifi shows in the last few years are all set on Earth and simply have some scifi elements only. There are no shows with spaceships anymore, CGI and expensive decor. The rest of the entertainment industry will be like this too. Everything will get a cut, it will be less than it was.

Michael J. wrote on June 1st, 2009 at 10:52 AM PST:

People are greedy. It seems to me that when people decide to record a song or two, they don’t think about MAKING MUSIC, they think about future FAME and MONEY. As such, I do not believe in cheap or free “indie” (there is nothing real indie out there) music or movies. Maybe first couple of songs or even an album will be free, but as long as these “indies” get support of a large label, it all will be the same old money for nothing and chicks for free. Everyone wants big bucks. This is not about art.

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Eugenia wrote on June 1st, 2009 at 11:26 AM PST:

Well, except for a band like Cloud Cult, one of my very favorite bands. From their bio: “Despite offers from major labels, Cloud Cult has chosen to remain independent, recording and releasing their albums through Earthology Records, a not-for-profit environmental record label established by Minowa in 1998.”
They also offer 1-3 songs per album for free via various means.

Michael J. wrote on June 1st, 2009 at 4:41 PM PST:

Oh, 3 songs per album. Sounds almost like communism, eh? Except that they want to be paid for other songs, don’t they? In this case, there is no difference for me as a customer, through what label do they release their songs, because I have to pay anyway.

And “environmental record label”, this just makes me laugh. If they really cared about environment, they would just have used all these nature-friendly (an euphemism meaning “a little bit less polluting”) technologies and be humble about them. Instead, they advertise them. Why? Because there is a market for “green stuff”. Selling/distributing MP3 files over the Net is much greener than recording CDs, printing inlays and pressing jewel boxes. Should not they be doing just that?

This is hypocrisy, targeted on fat college girls with guilt complex. They eat their burgers and feel guilty. They drive their cars and feel guilty. They don’t exercise and feel guilty. Now they can offload some of this guilt by buying a CD that they can listen in a car while having a burger.

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Eugenia wrote on June 1st, 2009 at 10:50 PM PST:

Michael J., you are a complete jerk. Cloud Cult are a bunch of great people, they actually plant 10 trees for every 1000th CD they sell in order to make out of the rest of the pollution they can’t go away with. I suggest you look them up in detail before you open your big mouth.

Secondly, of course and they want to be paid for their work. Do you somehow think that they should give their music completely for free? Sorry, but I don’t agree with that. If someone wants to do music on the side — like I do videography –, by all means, let him release it under a CC license. But if that’s your bread and butter, then you better try to sell something so you can feed your kids. There’s no way around it.

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