The Day Before Tomorrow: The new face of entertainment
From how we listen to music to the way we watch television, the old rules of the entertainment industry have been radically redrawn by digital disruption in recent years. As part of our film series focused on disruption across six sectors, The Drum’s Gillian West takes a look at how the future of entertainment is being shaped by new approaches.
The entertainment industry has arguably faced more disruption than any other. From new technologies to changes in audience behaviour, the industry, and those who work in it, has had to adapt at speed and find new ways of making money in what was at one point an extremely lucrative field.
Since the advent of the internet we have been continually told the music industry in particular is on the cusp of destruction, thanks in part to cheaper means of production and more readily available high quality recording technology, but more importantly due to new methods of distribution and purchase, and the fact some consumers are choosing not to pay at all.
Pirating has long been the scourge of the entertainment industry, but the rise of peer-to-peer file sharing service Napster in the late 90s made it much easier for people to obtain songs and albums without paying royalties to record labels. And while it is now a legitimate online music store, Napster led the way for sites such as Pirate Bay which, to this day, allows people to download music without charge.
“Now, anybody can create a piece of music and put it up online and it is, in essence, available for anybody to download. That part of the issue is fantastic and truly liberating," explains, Heaven 17’s Martyn Ware.
"There is, however, very little in the way of reward now, compared to in the past when it was a high risk, high reward business. There’s a philosophical debate that needs to be had with the consumer – ‘do you want to support the artist?’ You wouldn’t expect, if you were buying a birthday card in your local shop, to say ‘You know I don’t really feel like paying for that today, can I just take it?’”
Rosie Yakob, founder of strategy and innovation consultancy Genius Steals, adds that because of the limited financial gains from albums, studios are now “more focused in the one-hit-wonders or multiple-hit-wonders that will rack up the views on Vevo or be able to get a publishing deal for a TV show or movie”.
“Part of the problem is the fact that the music industry is so incredibly old school... why was it Apple that came up with iTunes and not a publisher like BMI or Universal? They’re not thinking about the future in the right way.”
Much like music, the film and television industries have also come a cropper thanks to new technologies and people using torrenting sites to illegally access content. HBO’s Game of Thrones, for example, is the most illegally downloaded TV programme internationally, accounting for a quarter of all pirated downloads from 100 torrent sites.
In February 2013 BSkyB, BT, Virgin Media and three other UK broadband providers were ordered by the high court to block access to a number of music and movie file-sharing sites in an effort to stem piracy. Despite this the problem remains and turning to brands for financial support is now a viable way of opening up some much needed capital, although the idea of ‘selling out’ to corporations is still tricky for an industry driven by its creativity and passion.
“Working with film-makers to create alternative story lines or alternative endings, mini-prequels to the characters that you see in the film, and brands being connected to that content could be really interesting,” says Ian Cartwright, director of Elevenfiftyfive which enables brands to support the film community. He cites Skyfall, the most recent film in the James Bond franchise, as an example of partnership working well.
“Heineken gave a huge amount of money towards the production of Skyfall, allowing the production of the film to be bigger and better... it’s an interesting space for film, enabling interesting things to happen, gaining that association and reaping the benefits.”
Of this kind of partnership, Nigel Vaz, SapientNitro’s European chief, believes it needs to be organic and and natural as audiences can spot inauthenticity a mile off.
He explains: “It’s very much about identifying what content supports the premise of the brand that you are trying to highlight, and oftentimes that initial thought is ‘How does this particular piece of content or this particular celebrity or this particular idea further the brands core premise?’ A brand like Nike creating content around sport and football fits very authentically with its purpose of enabling people to do stuff.”
Though piracy has undoubtedly caused no end of headaches for the entertainment industry and made it less lucrative than it once was, the interesting battle now is the one between art and business. On one side you've got authenticity and on the other you've got profitability as our consumption habits continue to evolve. Finding common ground between the creators and the corporations is necessary now more than ever.
“You’ve got to make money any way that you possibly can,” remarks Ware. “The days of saying ‘I’m just a wandering troubadour and I’m pure of all corruption from the commercial world’ is utter nonsense, and has been for quite a while now.”
The Drum’s six-part documentary series The Day Before Tomorrow, produced in association with SapientNitro, explores digital disruption across six sectors. The documentaries are available to view on The Drum’s YouTube channel.