You just can’t get the word out.
This is an important story. Just last week I got a call from a major news outlet asking me if major labels were over.
We live in a cluttered society where it’s impossible to reach everybody with your message. The internet explosion which we watched for twenty years has crested and the new normal is…
The established companies rule and good luck competing with them.
This is primarily seen in tech. Five years ago we were still excited by breakthroughs, seemingly every week there was a new site or app or product that became part of the discussion. But now we’ve just got Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google and if you try to compete with them you’d better be ready to sell out, because if you hold out, you become the rapidly failing Snap.
That’s right, ignore the financial press. IPOs are a way for initial investors to get their money out, they are not an indicator of future success.
So for a while there, back when “The Long Tail” was our bible, it looked like if you made it, they would come, at least in enough quantity to keep you alive.
But that was before you could post your song on Spotify and never get a listen. Back before there were so many marketing messages that if you don’t have dollars to spend and relationships to lean upon, your story does not travel.
So Steven Soderbergh is one of our foremost filmmakers. He decided to do it on his own. Isn’t that what technology and the internet promised? You could make and market all by your lonesome and leave the big boys and gatekeepers behind?
But despite great reviews, “Logan Lucky” failed. It did not meet expectations.
#1 was the poorly received “Hitman’s Bodyguard,” which grossed $21.6 million. It scored 39% on RottenTomatoes.
Whereas “Logan Lucky” scored 93%, but grossed only $8.1 million in approximately the same number of theatres, just over 3,000.
So what went on here?
Well, Soderbergh thought he was smarter than the industry, he only spent half the usual marketing dollars, $20 million instead of $40 million. And he’s going on about how the film is in profit and other hogwash but the truth is his experiment failed.
And artists always want to reach the widest audience.
It turns out longevity matters. Catalog/library/backlist carries you through. And being in the marketplace every day is important.
That’s right, you think you can succeed alone. But you only come to bat every year or so at most. Whereas traditional companies are competing every damn day.
So what this means is we are in the great consolidation, where fewer players have more power. I’m not saying you can’t eke out a living on the bottom, but that’s where you’re going to reside. Either you’re a winner or a loser, the middle class of art projects has failed, just like the middle class of life.
So we live in a marketing economy.
First and foremost your wares must be excellent. Shy of that, forget about it. This is an absolute rule, especially in an open marketplace. Theatrical distribution is a closed world, there is not an unlimited number of cinemas. But there is unlimited real estate online. And when that is the case, the public flocks to the winners. And even in limited marketplaces it’s a winner-take-all economy. Usually only one, maybe two of the films of the thirty released every week succeed.
So the powers-that-be are getting more powerful.
This is a byproduct of the age of clutter.
And it’s no different in entertainment than it is in tech.
You’ve got to gain traction as an individual. But once your project has legs, you’ve got to make a deal with the devil to push it over the top. Otherwise, you stumble, you plateau, because you just don’t have the muscle and reach to get your message heard.
Look at it from the customer’s perspective. Who has time to listen to all this dreck? You expect me to wade through millions of songs, scores of playlists, to find what I like? No, I gravitate to the winners, that which is known.
So, you want to sell out.
There, I said it.
The internet promised independence.
But today independence is death. Because you’re just another jerk with a megaphone and even if your product is great it’s being drowned out by the hype for that which is not.
So you need someone who can huff and can puff and can blow the house down.
And that’s a major movie studio, a major record label, a major book publisher, a major tech company.
Don’t focus on the exceptions. There are always examples that break the rules.
But the trend is opposite. The door is closing. You want to get in before it shuts.
And you do this by aligning yourself with the usual suspects, the winners with power, they may not be able to dominate like they used to, get everybody to experience/purchase their wares, but the wind is in their sails and you’re living in an airless aerie if you don’t align with them.