Thursday, 3 November 2011

A Manifesto for the content industry – 3. Content will always be produced and consumed with or without you.

Continuing from my previous blogs on this subject.

Content will always be produced and consumed with or without you. You are just a facilitator. If your entire industry disappeared overnight, people will still create and they will find other ways to share and appreciate it. Never lose sight of this.

At this point it’s probably worth my iterating exactly who this manifesto is aimed at; content creators and major Intellectual Property (IP) rights holders are rarely one and the same. It varies greatly by media type but at one end you have the publishing industry (where a lot of authors maintain the copyright on their text) and at the other you have the music industry (where hardly any artists signed to major labels (or their subsidiaries) have any rights on their creation).
This manifesto is aimed at the rights holders; this entry in particular is aimed at those towards the music industry end of the continuum.
A common argument proposed by copyright supporters is that without our ever-increasing copyright terms (and ever-increasing lawsuits) there would be no incentive to create. Who, they argue, would go to all the trouble of taking an idea all the way through to a product if there was no return at the end of it? Surely no-one will go through all that effort and expense if there was no guarantee or a return?
It has been famously said that the business of the music business is business not music (by Billy Joel I believe) and the idea that people create something for a return on that is plainly a business-led idea not a creativity-led idea.
As has been pointed out previously, for hundreds of years artists have starved in obscurity, then, for a brief period in the last 50-years or so, some artists became very, very rich. The bit that tends to be forgotten is just how small a percentage of artists (particularly in the music business) actually become successful. On average, thanks to some interesting record label accounting*, fewer than 1 in 10 albums ever recoups (i.e. makes a profit for the recording artist). And bear in mind, that’s the figure for signed acts, it takes no account of all the people playing on the amateur scene.
So, extending the argument that people create for the return on copyright, in the period before the last fifty years and in the internet years there should have been very little content creation at all.
I have no idea of there was less content creation in the first half of the twentieth century or the second but it only takes a few minutes on Bandcamp, Facebook, Blogger, Youtube, Soundcloud, The Huffington Post (or any one of a myriad of other platforms out there) to see that there is a huge, huge amount of content being produced, the vast majority of which is never expected to make a financial return.
People will always create, frequently they will do so for nothing more than their own personal pleasure with no intent to share, sometimes they will want to share it with as many people as possible. What’s changed in the last decade is that this ability to share it widely has become available to everyone with a decent internet connection.
Couple that ability to share with ever decreasing costs for consumer electronics and what it means is that if you’re a content creator then your tools of the trade are getting cheaper and you’re closer than ever to the people who might want to consume your work.
If you’re a middleman, be it an aggregator, publisher, record label, movie studio, collection agency or any other part of the chain, then you are going to have to work ever harder to add value into the product lifecycle because creating has got easier and sharing has got easier.
Alternatively you could try lobbying, sadly that’s got easier too.

* See also Hollywood Accounting

No comments:

Post a Comment