The end of mass entertainment is coming and coming rather quickly. Broadband net connections and MP3s are making it more convenient to copy music from a friend than to buy a copy. I'm not going to argue if it's right or wrong. The point is it's convenient and getting more so all the time and nothing is going to stop it. Period.
Movies are right around the corner. A little faster connection, a little better compression, maybe a slightly better format that supports all the DVD goodies and movies will be as copied as MP3s. No more commercial music, no more commercial movies.
So, you say, TV works, Radio works. Yes, except do they? We have Tivo now so I can record my TV and skip all the commercials and if someone else forgot to record a program I can send it to them over the net.. As for radio, well, lets step a few years into the future. In fact in Japan that would be THIS YEAR. We can have a wireless 400k net connection anywhere, soon to be 36meg connection. So, we could listen to net radio anywhere in Japan. I could just tune into Joe Bob's 10000 collection of copied MP3s instead of Tokyo FM. which he is distributing for fun on is 100meg fiber connection (also currently available in Japan for $40 a month)
Movies are going digital too even at the theatre. It's only a matter of time before someone finds a way to make a quick copy and spread it on the net and even if they can't do it digitally they can do it by setting up a camera in front of the movie screen. Sure lots of fans want to see the movie at the theatre but if it was available on the net the night the movie hit the screens there is a large portion of the population that would be just as happy to watch it on their big screen TV that night.
So, I've been wondering, what is the future like without commercial entertainment. I'm not saying it's going to be bad. Sure, there will most likely never be another Star Wars movie. How are 300 people going to spend 8 to 12 hours a day for 2 years making CG effects if there's no money to be made from movie. Maybe this explains why there is apparently no pop entertainment in the Star Trek universe. We hear Jazz, Classical and some Folk but no pop/rock/r&b because in Star Trek, anything can be reproduced, not just info but physical things as well. No money to be made, no incentive to create superstars.
If it was impossible to make big money from entertainment what would the world be like? Would it be better, worse or just different? Would there be no such thing as a celebrity anymore? That seems like a good thing to me. People would stop worshipping movie stars and rock stars because there would be none. The best you could do is your local band. Yea, I'm sure some people could get famous but it would be uncontrolled fame because unlike now, there would be no money in promoting anybody. Today the big media companies promote their stuff to sell more of it but in a world where you can't make money selling copied entertainment there is no longer an incentive to promote.
Another thing, hundreds of thousands of people work in the entertainment industry whether it's music, movies, radio, TV, games. And millions of people want in. If that whole industry disappeared would the world be a better place? Would those millions of people find something better for the world at large to do instead of just wanting to be a rock star?
Just taking the MP3 issue, I've been trying to think if there is anyway the current system can last. People argue they are copying music because $18 a CD is a rip−off. Or because the mega music corporations are evil and they are sticking to "the man". The truth is really that they are doing it because it's easy. The only way the recording industry can get back any control is to make it easier to pay them than to copy. It does seem there is some possibility.
If I could pay $20 a month for access to ALL MUSIC, not some, not just Warner music or just BMG music but ALL music at ALL TIMES with no restrictions including being able to copy the music and share it with friends would that fix it? My logic works like this. If I want the 3rd track from the 2nd album by the Aquabats. That's probably relatively hard to find on the net. There's got to be another Aquabats fan. He's got to have a copy of that song AND have it on his computer AND have it shared on a permanent connection. So, my point is, if the music industry had ALL MUSIC available, even if it was copy−able, it seems like it would become MORE convenient to pay them than to try to find a copy. That assumes they have a reasonable interface/software/bandwidth etc to get the songs. I don't know how many people would sign up. Maybe $20 is too much. People are currently willing to pay $20 to $50 a month for a net connections as well as $20 to $50 a month for cable TV/HBO etc. Is $20 a month from 40 million people better than their current revenue stream? I don't know. That's equivalent to 13 CDs a year. I know most of my friends do not buy 13 CDs a year so it seems like it might be possible. Maybe even $10 a month is okay. I know most of my friends do not buy 6 CDs a year either.
As for the ability to copy and share, my logic again goes to convenience. It is unlikely any group of users have the money, time and bandwidth to copy enough music and make it available to enough people to make getting copies for free easier than getting them by subscribing to this service. Think of how easy it is to find something on Amazon.com or IMDB.com. The music service would be as easy or easier to use. Most likely, any user's site would not.
I can think of at least one problem with this scheme. For the most popular bands, fan sites would pop up offering the music. So while it might be hard to find that Aquabats song it would be easy to find a U2 song or a Destiny's Child song. That could be fixed possibly by allowing people to link to the music service. In other words, if I wanted to make a Pizzicato Five fan site I could put links to every song of theirs and every version all pointing to the copies on the subscription server. For Pizzicato Five this would be around 600 songs. I'm unlikely to make 600 songs available on my personal server. I'm also unlikely to have information for all 600 songs. If the music service was like Amazon.com and IMDB.com where fans can contribute reviews, favorites lists and call sorts of trivia then again, belonging to the service would become more convenient than not belonging.
The biggest problem I see is (1) ignoring the copying being confident in the knowledge that the service is the most convenient way to get to the music so the copyi ng can be ignored. (2) ALL the music has to be available or at least so much that I almost never have to go looking elsewhere for music. Every time I do have to go elsewhere it will feel like the service is not useful. (3) In the beginning, people will copy a lot. It will take some major publicity, P.R. to get it through to people that paying is better for them than not paying.
Not that I ever expect it to happen but what am I missing?