Are We Preventing Future Musical Legends?

by moe on May 27, 2009

illegal downloading

Yesterday, Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, wrote an article for The Huffington Post discussing how piracy has effected content business’ (music, movies, books, newspapers, etc).

While this is an overly exhausted debate, I feel the need to share this article with you guys.

He starts of with a statement that made me cringe:

… I was on a panel the other day which opened with a question about the impact of the Internet on the entertainment business, and I responded, “I’m a guy who sees nothing good having come from the Internet. Period.”

I almost closed the browser when I read that, but I guess he was just trying to spark a flame.

He continued:

… Contrast the expansion of the Internet with what happened a half century ago. In the 1950’s, the Eisenhower Administration undertook one of the most massive infrastructure projects in our nation’s history — the creation of the Interstate Highway System. It completely transformed how we did business, traveled, and conducted our daily lives. But unlike the Internet, the highways were built and operated with a set of rational guidelines. Guard rails went along dangerous sections of the road. Speed and weight limits saved lives and maintenance costs. And officers of the law made sure that these rules were obeyed. As a result, as interstates flourished, so did the economy. According to one study, over the course of its first four decades of existence, the Interstate Highway System was responsible for fully one-quarter of America’s productivity growth.

We can replicate that kind of success with the Internet more easily if we do more to encourage the productivity of the creative engines of our society — the artists, actors, writers, directors, singers and other holders of intellectual property rights — yes, including the movie studios, which help produce and distribute entertainment to billions of people worldwide.

But, without standards of commerce and more action against piracy, the intellectual property of humankind will be subject to infinite exploitation on the Internet. How many people will be as motivated to write a book or a song, or make a movie if they know it is going to be immediately stolen from them and offered to the world with no compensation whatsoever? And how many people whose work is connected with those creative industries — the carpenters, drivers, food service workers, and thousands of others — will lose their jobs as piracy robs their business of resources?

Internet users have become used to getting things when they want it and how they want it, and those of us in the entertainment business want to meet that kind of demand as efficiently and effectively as possible. But what has happened online is that if it is ‘beyond store hours’ and the shop is closed, a lot of people just smash the window and steal what they want. Freedom without restraint is chaos, and if we don’t figure out some way to prevent online chaos, the quantity, quality and availability of the kinds of entertainment, literature, art and scholarship we need to have a healthy, vibrant culture will suffer.

So what CAN we do then?

How can the music business survive, when everything is being stolen?

“Eff the music business, man! It’s what’s wrong with the world today. It killed the freedom of true artistic expression, dude!”

Please sit down, you hippie.

This isn’t about “real music” versus “diluted mainstream crap”. We can debate about artistry, and art vs commerce, and all that – but let’s stop using that as a bullshit excuse to justify pirating.

I’m not sure what the solution is, but I’m a firm believer in the “practice what you preach” mentality – and I still purchase music and movies – both digital and physical (hey.. I’m nostalgic, okay). Plus, I would hate to be part of the demise of an industry that employs me, or part of the reason that the world never gets to experience future music legends.

Bob Marley. Michael Jackson. Elvis Presley. Marvin Gaye. Aretha Franklin. The Beatles. 2pac. Bach. Ray Charles.

These are some of the legends we already know – because there was an industry in place to push them out to the world. But if we don’t find a way to support the industry now; the next greats will never get further than his/her own basement.

[Read Michael Lynton’s full article on The Huffington Post]

(Note: I’m not arguing for the current model. Of course not. I’m simply questioning the future of the business if we don’t find a way to financially support its continuation.)

{ 8 comments }

notik May 27, 2009 at 2:39 PM

i have this to say….the music industry may fall due to piracy but it gives individual artist an opportunity for exposer. one giving more talent to the world and two causeing more jobs eventually because people need to do performances so the drivers and food services and all those people will still get but now you got the lighting engineers the club owners and etc. who will host the events for the artist to perform and get fed and driven to and at. The industry is only mad that they cant make the killing the once made off artist because people ar tired of the crap industries make these artist push, secondly if they had any real care for any of that do some shows like how things used to be people have to PAY to view someone live do they not? make events get people to come together like how the other legends did thats why they are legends. Another thing i arent these people suppose to be the smart buisness men and woman, then why instead of fighting it and continually failing dont they adjust to it and figure out how to make whatever money they are tryin to make. BE SMART. just my thoughts though

Moe Arora May 27, 2009 at 2:59 PM

@notik – Thanks for your comment notik. You’re definitely right when you said “the industry is only mad that they cant make the killing the once made”.

I have to FIGHT labels to give up the smallest chunk of change for the marketing budget – for their own artists – all while they frivolously spend in other (sometimes useless) areas.

James Burgos May 27, 2009 at 3:54 PM

It was predicted…

The rise of the automobile would put horses out to pasture
The rise of electronic instruments would put musicians out of work
The rise of desktop publishing would put typesetters out of work
The rise of the digital recording would put studios out of business
The rise of digital photography would put photographers out of work
The rise of file sharing would be the death of the music business
The rise of social media will put traditional media out of business

Did any of these predictions really come to pass? If so, to what extent? Did the demise of one industry give rise to another? Does the dismantling of a monopoly level the playing field or create a vacuum? Should we assume that those who enjoyed the windfalls of exclusivity be the ones responsible for finding the solutions to the conundrum? Is it heresy to suggest that the legends of our time were direct products of the established system of exclusivity? Does the word “Legend” diminish the value and contributions of talented artists who didn’t get the “break”? What’s the Aretha Franklin to Susan Boyle ratio?

These questions can go on for days. I’m comfortable with not knowing the answers? I’m confident, based on historical precedent, that answers will emerge. I’m perceptive enough to recognize that change is afoot.

Change is often described as an abrupt beginning or ending. This notion fuels the common resistance to change. Change, in fact, is constantly in motion. If we tune ourselves to being in harmony with change, we increase our capacity to understand and influence the change. I’m empowered by the wisdom of the great poet Gil Scott-Heron who said, “Since change is inevitable, we should direct the change rather than simply go through the change.”

Martin May 28, 2009 at 4:41 PM

“Please sit down, you hippie.” LOL!

I think you’re on to something though. Awesome post.

G-Major May 29, 2009 at 11:34 AM

The current execs can continue to fight for the crumbs while the industry continues to collapse.
Music will always be around. It will never die, but now you just have to adjust the way you profit from it.
If they can’t do that, then somebody else will, like myself.

There’s still a lot of money to be made from music, just not from selling CDs, and too bad they’re stuck in the 1990’s and can’t see that the consumer doesn’t need radio and CDs to access music.

lee May 29, 2009 at 4:21 PM

I think the music industry should look into new ways to distribute music… Just like when we upgraded from tapes to cds, now it’s time to move on to something else, that maybe policed more, and is affordable for the mainstream consumer. 18+ dollars for a album that’s probably sub par is not my idea of meaningful music, not surprising FYE is out of business…

The Single Black Woman May 30, 2009 at 2:39 AM

People just aren’t going to spend that kind of money for a cd anymore. I can’t remember the last time I bought a cd and I don’t download music anymore either to be honest.

I can listen to the music I want ot hear online. I don’t have to own it. Pretty much any song I want I can find and listen to.

The industry needs to understand that times have changed and make that change. The Hooker and Blow era is over and I’m just so sorry that music execs won’t be making money hand over fist anymore.

My guess is artists are going to have to go back to doing live shows and getitng sponsorship and their cd is more a promotional tool for their live shows.

Change or die. The music biz is learning that the hard way.

A Big Butt and a Smile

Ted Chin June 19, 2009 at 11:42 PM

Great read!

I feel you on the nostalgia of physical…that’s what won’t die…at least for our generation. And the collectors, that’s just what we do.

Concerts, only getting stronger…Makes me wanna go and buy albums.

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