I've been thinking recently about the changing entertainment landscape, and what it means for people who create the things other people read, watch, look at and listen to as entertainment.
This is a topic I think about a lot. I don't necessarily want to make my living from writing things (although, I won't rule that out as a future option!) but I want it to be a viable career choice for other peopl, just like I want musician and artist to be a viable career choice. And I suppose I want filmmaker to be a viable career choice, although I personally am less drawn to that art form for my own entertainment.
I think the career landscape for creative types is changing right now, and I can't decide if I think the changes will ultimately increase or decrease the viability of being a creative type as a career choice. To be fair, the career landscape is changing for a lot of us right now, but it seems the changes are particularly profound in entertainment. Or maybe they are just particularly public.
Anyway, I came across an article on TechCrunch about a talk Lucas and Spielberg gave at USC about how they think the current business model of the film industry is unsustainable. Part of me thinks "Good! The current model is sexist and it is time for it to change." (See my recent weekend links post for more from that part of me.) But part of me feels a little sorry for the people trying to make a go of it in the film industry- not the people on the top, but the average people who just want to make a living working in film, and are probably having a heck of a time figuring out how to guide their careers right now.
The TechCrunch article says that Lucas and Speilberg "suggest the marketplace will contract because there isn’t enough time in
the week for us to go to the movies anymore. With Netflix producing top
quality content, and video games cutting into weekends, it leaves
little room for date night out at the cineplex. It’s getting so bad that
Lucas complains about how hard it is even for him to get a film in a theater. This should probably make producers of films nervous."
That came to mind again when I followed a link from @Scalzi to a post his agent Evan Gregory wrote about changes in the book industry.
Gregory writes about how all companies selling media are competing in a battle for people's attention, which he calls the Battle for the Pile of Eyeballs, and then he makes some interesting observations about the consequences of how that battle is currently impacting books and reading:
"Amazon, Google and Apple
can tell you what you might like based on what you do like, but they can't tell
what you should like based on what you feel like. In short, there isn't an App
"If you remove accidental discovery from the picture, what kind of book
culture do you create? If most content must be accessed through a device,
utilizing software, delivered by a digital distribution platform, to what
extent are we yielding a part of the experience of discovery to the proprietary
marketing algorithms of giant conglomerates?"
"There ought to be room for physical books,
bookstores, and even independent e-book publishers and online stores. A
lush and diverse media marketplace benefits everyone, and as consumers we ought
to be aware of how we consume media, and to what extent we are feeding systems
of proprietary control. Book culture should be determined by people who
read books, not by device manufacturers, or online retailing conglomerates, or
anyone whose primary interest is separate from the interest of readers."
All good points, and the rest of the post is interesting, too. Go read it!
Obviously, I am not anti-Amazon. But I have been thinking about how the big algorithms don't necessarily have a goal of steering me to what I really want- they have a goal of steering me to something that I'll want enough to buy. I'm still thinking, but I may start adding some more variety into how I find my books. I don't currently have a lot of time to visit physical bookstores, but I can buy my eBooks from other sources in addition to Amazon, and maybe I'll start doing that.
But as I said, I'm not sure all of these changes are necessarily bad for creative types. As an example of how they can be good, I point you to this blog post from author Alex Schvartsman about his Great Short Story EBook Experiment. There is no denying that the digital marketplace gives authors options they didn't have before. The trick is figuring out how to take advantage of those options. Amazon does not necessarily have the authors' backs- for instance, despite the fact that I have repeatedly searched on Amazon for short eBooks to buy, I have never found Mr. Schvartsman's short stories. Now that I know what to look for, I went and found one and bought it. So maybe the system is working... but I suspect Mr. Schvartsman would have preferred I find his stories in my earlier searches.
So that's one great unsolved question of this new entertainment era we're in: how to help interested consumers find the entertainment on offer? The search engines and recommendation algorithms aren't quite there yet- and maybe, like Evan Gregory argues, they'll never be there. Maybe we really can't search our way out of this conundrum, and need to build up better systems for purposeful browsing and even serendipitous discoveries.
And of course, if we find the answer to that question, there is a second, even thornier one to answer: how to convince people to pay for their entertainment when so much is out there for free? One of my current favorite bits of media is this:
And I honestly have no idea at all how the people who created it get paid. None. Maybe they get a cut of the advertising revenues? I just don't know. (They've done two more videos in the series, but the first is still my favorite.)
How about you. How do you find your entertainment? Do you know how the people who made it get paid?