Where is This All Going To End?

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AgentPete

Capo Famiglia
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All this has happened to me in the past few weeks.

First, I bought a 12-month subscription to my local indie chain of cinemas, the Everyman. It’s a brilliant little operation. The cinemas have comfy sofas, drinks and food served at your seat by pleasant people, and the airline-style seats even recline so you can nap during the slow bits.

For me, a £600 annual sub is great value. It allows me to have two tickets to as many films as I want to see – and in my job, I do see a lot of films. In fact, I’ve already broken even on my sub, so everything I now see, for the remaining nine months, is effectively f.o.c.

I was telling a producer contact of mine about this a few days ago, and we were trying to work out how the distributors, and hence the film maker, would be paid on this arrangement. Neither of us quite knew, although it’s a safe bet that they will receive far less than on regular admissions.

But that’s nothing.

About a month ago, I got into Breaking Bad. Yes, I know – I must be one of the last people in the Western hemisphere to see this masterpiece of a series, and believe me, I will enthuse about it as only a convert can elsewhere and at length.

Previously, I’d heavily fallen for The Sopranos. Box sets cost, if I remember rightly, about £35 each. As a BB fan I’d happily pay that price... let’s say the math is 5 seasons at £35 per season, i.e. £175.

But not any longer. Although I’d happily pay that price for such an amazing series, Apple’s iTunes would sell it to me for about £15 each, i.e. £75 the lot or less than half the price of box sets. Yay!

And here’s where it gets really crazy. You’ve heard of that little ol’ operation called Netflix? The folk who happily crunch up over a third of all US internet traffic? Yes, Netflix will let me watch BB (and anything else I want from their vast servers) for a token £5.99 a month.

That’s insane.

I almost feel ashamed of myself for being so cheap.

But I’m not stupid, either.

If you guys are happy to vastly undersell your product to me, then who is the sucker?

In common with most BB fans, I would unhesitatingly pay far more than that to get my fix. But no. It’s all there, just one click away, pretty much free.

And now, I hear that Amazon are adding a “free” music streaming service to the Prime service, obviously taking aim at Spotify.

All this is, of course, utterly devaluing creative intellectual property. As David Carr wrote in the NYT a few days ago: “as just one more participant in the Something for Nothing economy, I’d grown accustomed to getting all sorts of lusciousness for the price of zero”.

If you grew up in the marketing business, as I did, you’ll see what’s going on here. It’s sales promotion, plain and simple. “They” are eating “our” lunch... because it promotes their business.

In fact, they have no product of their own to sell! Without us, and the wonderful things we create, they would not exist at all.

So in the space of just a few short weeks, I’ve experienced a sort of descent into valuelessness. From discounted cinema tickets right down to free teevee.

Where will all this end?

It’s madness, all right – but as a friend of mine was once fond of saying... madness knows no limits... and he was right...
 
This is exactly why a Hachette spawned boycott of Amazon will fail, just as the attempted boycott of Wal-Mart also has failed except in those communities where everyone derives personal satisfaction from overpaying. They are the same folks who complain loudly about their IRS tax bill at the next table in a restaurant.
 
I am both a writer and a consumer. When I see a bargain, I grab it up without a thinking about who might be getting screwed over in the deal. I think most people have the same mentality. I watched Breaking Bad on Netflix without remorse.

For those of you who have Netflix, if you haven't watched The Walking Dead series, give it a chance. I am not into zombies, generally I think they're cheesy and not scary at all, so I never considered it a viewing option. Then on a whim, I decided to click on the first episode. Wow, was in for a horrifying and suspenseful treat. If you can handle blood, guts and violence...you're going to be hooked.
 
Let's hope that ' a nimble sixpence is better than a slow shilling,' and the marketers don't end up vampirizing their own milk cows to death.
 
I grew up with free TV so that doesn't seem strange to me. We all knew then that the adds were what paid for the privilege of watching. We assumed that the writers and actors got their cut. What happened to the good ole days?
 
That’s a good question. The fact is some people are making money... at the expense of the creators, i.e. the authors and musicians. For example, the record labels are doing alright from Spotify... but the artists aren’t.
 
It often (usually? always?) seems to be the actual creative sorts who get the short end of the stick in these situations.
 
All artists... including writers... maybe especially writers, need to always be their own best, most informed advocates. Trusting a paid professional to dot the i's, etc. while remaining blissfully ignorant of the facts on the ground is just so nineteenth century!
 
The power wielded by companies like Amazon and their ability to essentially undercut the prices of any competition should be a massive concern for everyone, not just artists, in my opinion.

I remember when Amazon first came on the scene a decade or so ago I resented myself for buying books and films from a company that shipped products from Jersey to avoid VAT, but as a student (and now a low wage earner) it's tough to maintain principles - especially when everyone else is flocking to buy from the cheapest source. Therefore, independent bookstores and retailers suffered hugely.

Any form of monopoly capitalism is unhealthy. I think you can see clear signs of that this week in Amazon's blatant bullying of a publisher who refused to accept its terms. I'd be interested to see exact percentage figures of the volume of overall music, book and film sales that go through Amazon and Apple yearly, but you'd imagine it would be collosal. Corporations are not charities. They exist solely to maximise revenue for their shareholders. If they are able to dictate terms the way they currently are its hard to see how that will be good for anyone other than their shareholders, but the market seems to be moving more and more in this direction.
 
In more cheerful news...:)

If you love Breaking Bad you're in for a treat Pete. Once you finish all five seasons of that you could check out True Detective, mentioned by Richard on your noir thread, which I felt was of a similar level. The TV series of Fargo that screened on Channel Four this summer was also great and featured a number of directors from Breaking Bad and similarly great cinematography.

The BB-prequel Better Call Saul is also on the way. I love Saul and his ads. Plus Mike will be back as his private eye :)

A lot of good (cheap) TV to look forward to...
 
I’ve had TRUE DETECTIVE on my radar for a while now... not quite ready to commit, tho...

BETTER CALL SAUL –oh boy, I’m almost as nervous about this as the producers surely are...
 
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