As I attempt to compose my napper and catch up on things, this latest LEFSETZ was somewhat timely. Having just come out of the end of the 59th EIFF it pretty much lays the whole shebang out from that line in the sand we need to work from. (Reprinted with permission, sign up for the newsletter.)
"They're fighting in the movie business. Bob Iger, impending head of Disney, committed a faux pas. He stated the truth. That people want to see the movie at home. On the same day it debuts in theatres.
The theatre owners FREAKED OUT!
But who should the movie companies be loyal to? The exhibitors or the public?
We already know what side the music industry is on. They side with the retailers. They don't want to do ANYTHING that might hurt the retailers. As if they were the end customer, as if every sale to them was final, as if they couldn't ship unsold product back.
Prognosticators have been talking about home theatre for over a decade. It's now here. Watching the flick on a plasma set with surround sound is BETTER than going to the multiplex. You don't have to drive, you don't have to endure ads, you don't have to mingle with the PUBLIC, with their pesky cell phone conversations DURING the movie, you can pop your own corn at a fraction of the price, why WOULD you want to go out?
We have the equivalent of the plasma set in the music business. It's called the iPod. The labels hate it. They want everybody to buy CDs. They're INCENTIVIZING them to buy CDs, you get more cluck for your buck at the brick and mortar retail outlet than you do at the iTunes Music Store, no copy protection, better sound and artwork. Why WOULD YOU want the file when you can have a DISC?
iPods hold collections much larger than almost every consumer ever acquired at a retail outlet. You'd think the labels would see a new business model was needed to satiate owners of the device. But no, in their minds an iPod should only hold a few albums, that were each paid for with a twenty dollar bill. Got to keep the old business model intact.
But that's what Bob Iger is questioning. The old business model. He LITERALLY said he didn't want to make the mistakes of the music industry, not giving consumers what they want.
The consumer does not want tethered subscriptions. They don't even want any device OTHER than the iPod. Not only because the iPod is cool, but it WORKS! Because of the ingenious software involved. But rather than see this as an advantage, the labels just carp there's no interoperability amongst stores. It's like arguing that Honda parts won't fit Yugos, NOBODY WANTS A YUGO!
And the reason they're freaking in the movie business, why Iger is proffering new ideas, is because business is off.
Oh, they've been through the parade of horribles. People are STEALING the product. There are entertainment alternatives. There are too many ads in theatres. But now, as the close of the summer season looms, there seems to be a consensus. The movies suck.
Funny how the movie men can admit the truth, but the music moguls can't.
But, true thinkers can't understand why this fact, this lack of quality, is causing a ten percent decline in theatre attendance THIS YEAR, after all, THE MOVIES WERE JUST AS BAD LAST YEAR! Actually, they've been bad for TEN YEARS! Such a long time that people have fallen out of the moviegoing habit. They've been overhyped and ripped off one too many times. They've ABANDONED the industry. FATIGUE has set in.
Fascinating concept if you think about it.
This was bandied about in the music business half a decade ago, when sales first started to tank. Napster traders said CDs were too expensive, they only contained one good track. Now, five years later, CDs have not come down significantly in price. But, it's worse. They still suck. They suck MORE!
Maybe it's got nothing to do with downloading. None of the ills the RIAA bandies about. Maybe it's the raw fact that the music has sucked for a very long time and people just don't care anymore.
And now here's where indie store owners from across America click return and rave at me, telling me all the GREAT product they're selling.
Now, let's be clear. The movie business is only off TEN PERCENT! That means MANY people are still going to the theatre. But, what's gonna happen in the future? MANY people are still buying CDs. But significantly fewer every year. The trend is going in the wrong direction DRAMATICALLY! What about the people who've stopped buying, shouldn't we worry about where THEY'RE AT?
Music's no longer cool.
Oh, don't bark back. I used to live to comb the record store bins. Now I don't go, I comb the Net. Why go to a store, which has such tiny inventory, none of the rarities I desire, most of which you can't buy at ANY price.
Still, I don't spend hours hunting down the new stuff. Most of what I'm looking for is OLD!
And, now we've got the naysayers saying it's my age. You get old and you want to stay home, you're not interested in new music. But talk to teens. They REVERE the classic rock acts. THEY think today's music is bullshit. OH, it's not black and white. OF COURSE people are buying 50 Cent and Destiny's Child and Hilary Duff. But question five teenagers, you'll be stunned when you hear them foam at the mouth about Zeppelin, Hendrix and the Who. They know what's good.
There hasn't been a good album, one that changed your life, since "Jagged Little Pill".
Oh, I've heard good music since. But I'm now more interested in technology than music. Tech is cutting edge and cool. Hell, have you USED Google Earth? It's better than anything the Strokes or Keane or the Killers or...ANYBODY has put out this year. Google Earth is what music USED to be. How did they COME UP with this? It's so cool!
So, first we need better music. Then we've got to convince people it's out there.
You'd think instead of paying for play on terrestrial radio labels would be supporting satellite radio and net radio, with their wide variety of options, with their unlimited playlists. God, sign up for satellite and get five CDs free. Isn't this how "Rolling Stone" built its business?
There are more records than ever. More shows. There's infrastructure, but a great faction of the public has tuned out. It's not that different from Atari. Suddenly, everybody decided that gaming console sucked. They used it up. It died. Almost overnight.
But video games didn't die. You just needed someone to reinvent them. Which NIntendo did. Bringing a dead industry back to the point where it now eclipses both movies AND music.
At the height of Napster sales were at their peak. Because there was an EXCITEMENT! EVERYBODY wanted music on their computers. But the industry killed Napster. Music wasn't being acquired the way they thought it should. And sales have declined ever since.
It's not about selling CDs at Starbucks. The labels killed vinyl, they could kill the CD overnight, bring everybody into the MP3 era. The iPod era. That's what Bob Iger is talking about. Forgetting tradition and entering the PRESENT!
This business is completely full of shit. Everybody knows music sucks. That's the PERCEPTION! And perception is reality. Until perception changes, this business is fucked."