Jun 14, 2013

Everything Old is New

The future of digital media is analog



David Bowie

In a recent announcement through the channels of David Bowie, an exclusive V&A Limited Edition Orange 180 gram audiophile vinyl has been made available as a pressing of 500. Numbered on a gold sticker.


This may seem like no surprise to a typical hipster who prefers those vinyl versions and goes record hunting at the local shops who cater to them, but for the digital media industry this should seem like a revelation.


In the era of piracy and lost sales, the real take-away from the new millennium since Napster and Pirate Bay is less about piracy and more about there being no free ride in the media industry.


After all, digital distribution came with this wide-sweeping notion that costs could be reduced or nearly eliminated while the prices remained the same. Throw in some DRM (Digital Rights Management), and lock it down to a cloud based service with limited access while charging a rental fee to access that media and what they thought would be a gold-mine turned into a massive backlash instead.


What I see when I look at the media industry is that they simply got very greedy and very lazy at the same time, which is a dangerous combination. For all the years the RIAA/MPAA cried bloody murder about all the lost potential sales, they still see steady increases instead of declines. For all of the half-baked courtroom battles and propaganda telling the public they’re stealing and the poor artists are starving… well, it turned out they were lying then as well. They weren’t even paying the artists what they owed them.


We still see this mentality today, though you would have thought it would have been relegated to the back burner by now as a failed debate that causes more problems than it solves, but alas we need only look at the recent announcement by Microsoft concerning Xbox One to know some people never learn their lesson in a timely manner.


For the longest time I’ve been saying that the real future of digital media is actually analog and experience. I made a mention of it with the Greenday concert for VH1 where they did a small VIP sort of gig to a cozy audience. Those are the sorts of things that are the future. Sure, the artists can sit back and make a new album once every ten years, but should they expect to live off those royalties indefinitely? Does the back catalog really make sense in today’s society?


A good example is the media format changing regularly. Records, then onto 8Tracks, then cassette and then CD and then SuperCD, and now digital formats where there are more digital formats both proprietary and open source than we can really keep track of. They all have one thing in common, and that is to say with each format we’ve been essentially forced to repurchase an entire music library to keep up. Maybe this is planned obsolescence in action but it’s shady at best and just plain lazy at worst.


Do you know how many times I’ve purchased Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon?


7 times.


Only two times was it because of a scratched CD, and the rest because of format changes.


But then, it’s like that for most media throughout the evolution. If you’re around long enough to remember, you probably owned the albums when they first came out, then the 8Track, then the cassettes and then the CDs. Then of course there are the Digitally Remastered collections and re-releases with maybe one song on it that was previously unreleased or something.


It’s obnoxious.


Don’t even get me started on the whole “Greatest Hits” scam or the Compilation CDs.


Here’s the future in a nutshell:


Digital media has a half-life and should be treated like marketing. You sell some stuff to the fans who will support you, and a lot of things are going to get “pirated”. Instead of treating it like a total loss, you rebalance it on the books as the equivalent in promotional marketing and call it a day.


Then you make the money on live events and tangible merchandise, like these vinyl pressings and concerts. You build an audience based on experiences and so forth. Because you can’t pirate being at a concert… you can bootleg the video, and you can pass around the audio… but actually being there is an experience you can’t digitally duplicate.


Holding the actual album and the booklet in your hands, while you could get a bootleg pressing, those who would pay for the tangibles wouldn’t want anything but the authentic stuff. The quality tangibles over the infinite copies of digital versions that run like water in the modern world.


That’s how the future will be.


The same goes for digital goods in a virtual world as well. The digital stuff is a marketing writeoff and the ROI comes from the tangibles. So you allow those brand names to proliferate in the virtual worlds freely and ask only for leads to the tangible versions to give people a choice.


In the future, we’ll stop mixing up piracy and marketing.


Of course, we’ll also make the artists actually work for their paychecks again. None of this bullshit about releasing an album in ten year gaps. No, get your asses out there and actually work for it. Everyone knows how fast you can write a pop song and compose the melody… we’ve seen the Youtube video where they did it in under a week.


This is one of the times you’ll see me actively supporting the purchase of music, so go grab yourself a limited edition vinyl while you can:




Post a Comment