Derivative Media

Best Of, Business, Economics, Intellectual Property Rights, Music, Technology

Hollywood and the Music Industry have both stepped away from their true calling.

They used to take a “new idea” and do something wonderful with it.

Take Citizen Kane.

Not like anything before it. Compelling, immersive, because the story drags you along.

Now compare the movie Transformers. A remake of a kids cartoon show, from our childhood.

Basically, any of us who grew up with the cartoon, already new the basic story, the only real hook was the mind-blowing Computer Generated Imaging (CGI). And yes, it was mind blowing.

But derivative.

Nothing new.

Retelling old stories is why people don’t go to the movie theatre and plunk down $10 a seat. When there are new, good ideas, they come from places where the organization is new.

As an example, lets compare Disney to Pixar. Disney remakes Freaky Friday, and The Parent Trap. Two fun movies, but nothing really new.

Pixar brings us Cars, The Incredibles, Monsters, Inc. Finding Nemo and Toy Story. New stories, with plotlines that pull us in. Movies that are built at a child’s level, but with enough depth and texture that adults enjoy them every bit as much as the children do.

Disney’s calcification has become so bad that even the good things they’ve done, get sequelled into oblivion.

I think that the reason for the difference is that Disney has aged to they point where they try to squeeze every penny out of every creative thought, to the point where the only consumers who would care to watch are those children who are force fed a constant stream of more of the same.

On the other hand, Pixar seems to be about pushing the limits of what can be done with computer animation, and is still a young enough organization that they’re willing to take risks and actually work for their money.

In the Music Industry, the record labels are still chasing the same old formula, because the executives are aging, losing their mental flexibility, and looking for tomorrows hit, which in their calcified thinking, must sound exactly like yesterday’s hits.

Thankfully, the Internet, and bountiful computer resources have made it so that anyone with a lick of talent, and even a little drive can create their own music, and put it out where the world can hear it.

And the long tail effect makes that an effective business model. If you’re an artist who does an album of “classic cowboy yodelling”, on the Internet, it’s possible to find that 0.5% of the world population who would be even mildly interested in classic cowboy yodelling.

And 0.5% of six billion is potential working market of 30 million. Surely, someone with talent can make a comfortable living selling to a market of 30 million.

But the record labels try to come up with formulaic sounds, that don’t offend anyone (or carefully offend just the right people) in order to maximize the number of people who hopefully will find a reason to buy the music.

But somehow, trying to not offend anyone, seldom is as compelling as wowing the listeners.

So, as the Movie Industry and Music Industry both see market share decrease, and assume that piracy is to blame, the real truth of the matter is, without a compelling product, there’s no compelling reason to buy your product.



One Response

  1. mastermind  •  March 11, 2008 @9:39 am

    You’re right on…
    Music is more carefully regulated than medicine. A specially administered mix of these sounds aimed at this audience creates a hit, and hopefully, a passionate following among fans.

    Thankfully, we’re beginning to see some breakout acts on the indie scene. Collective Soul, the Atlanta based rock band that was once signed with Atlantic Records (for so freaking long!) is at last indie…. Their album, “Afterwords,” is amazing. It’s such a refreshing trip into modern alt-rock… and a big hit with the fans too.

    Let’s return music to the hands of the people, not to the music chemists who sit at their boards crafting some hip, pop-hook laden piece of junk.

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