We have entered into a new phase in technology where it seems the creators of content are no longer getting paid enough to continue justifying the work they do. This is having a huge effect on the music and book industries as well as in the instructional video/DVD world.
What I mean is that as it becomes easier and cheaper for the Internet to deliver music and books via systems like iTunes and Netflix, the trickle-down effect of what money is made is done so at a percentage point where the last people to get paid are the ones who actually create the content: musicians, authors, educators and moviemakers. The entire entertainment industry is in a tailspin because of this, and the reality is that no one seems to have an answer as to where we are headed. Interesting times for sure.
The method of delivery in the music business went from albums and 45s to eight-tracks and cassettes and finally CDs, while in the book world things remained as print delivery (books and magazines) for years. In the movie world, we went from theatres to videos and DVDs as well as cable systems based on a one-at-a-time kind of delivery that still allowed for a decent amount of money to be charged.
This has all changed now and has significantly stunted the flow of money in all these businesses.
Another big change in how books and music are marketed is that retailers no longer dedicate anywhere near the shelf space they used to to the CD and DVD world. This has created an end to the “impulse buyer,” something that at one time was a significant part of sales for retailers in the record store business.
People now have to actually search out any title they are interested in beyond the few that are fortunate enough to get placed into the box stores. Even if you try to find the new Paul Simon CD in a store, you will have a hard time. The only hope for new artists is really to sell their CDs off the stage.
Yet another new faction of the music industry that has grown like mad and sucks money from the creators of content are the self-proclaimed experts who host events and talent contests based on the idea that you pay large amounts of money to come learn and be judged as a way of entry into the business. I say “yuk” in response to this, but there is money being made by these “support” people.
They make their money servicing the industry, not necessarily nurturing the artists or the art. Some services have even been set up that allow event producers to charge “entry fees” to the very people that are applying to come and play at the events. It’s very much like feeding off your children, isn’t it?
Yet, there is hope for the future.
The grassroots movement of the music business is alive and well through many parts of the music/book/movie world that survive “under the radar” of the gluttonous part of the industry that reared its ugly head in the 1970s.
Perhaps the industry created unrealistic expectations on the amount of money that could or should be made by anyone who decides to roll the dice and enter the risky world of being a content creator.
There will always be people making music for the sake of the joy of creation, or writing books, or making films, or teaching with the passion of an artist simply for the joy of giving to their students. There will always be angels who support their work.
And hopefully, the industries will figure out how to support both of those types of people well enough so they can continue their very important work without eating themselves in the process.
Doug Cox is playing New Year’s with Anela Kahiamoe and Todd Butler at the Hospitality Inn in Port Alberni.
Doug Cox is the executive producer of Vancouver Island MusicFest and is a touring musician and producer who lives in Cumberland. You can subscribe to his podcast, Roots Review – Talkin’ Music, at www.dougcox.org.