Muramasa and the Mass Media Market
The online run of Muramasa: Blood Drinker is soon coming to an end. It won't be a swift end, and it probably will not have the end that was expected by my tortured readers, but it will be a good end. The right end. Rather than taking time and energy at the end of that project’s publication to wonder about the future, I thought it might be better to look ahead a little (ahem) ahead of time.
The Downfall of Traditional Media
|"Prometheus Bound" - Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1618|
The vision for this site came about through many years of experience in the arts, monitoring trends, and observing successful content creators. More than ever, I feel like our society is pushing harder toward content that requires no up-front cost to consume. This can be exhibited through the massive scale of online music “sharing,” which is, from a legal and indeed ethical perspective, rank theft. Other content, notably movies and cable TV shows, have had similar problems the last few years. When nobody is watching, the moral imperative to pay people for their work seems to be forgotten.
Rather than shake my fist at the wide swaths of people that use bittorrent and similar applications, I am going to use it as a message. When people had the option to not pay 18 dollars for a CD that contained a single song heard on the radio with the rest being totally unknown, they took up Napster on the offer. When people had the option to forego paying upwards of 100 dollars per month on cable to watch four installments of Game of Thrones, they took Pirate Bay up on the offer.
In the media industry, such actions are lamented as they seem to represent a loss of revenue. The recording industry has lost a great portion of the profitability it enjoyed during the CD era of the 1990s. Nobody seems to think that people are buying less music because lots of it wasn’t worth paying for to begin with. The old music model relied on radio play of a single hit to sell a CD with 14 tracks on it, and the quality of those filler tracks was almost irrelevant to sales. When people could actually listen to the whole thing without the 18 dollar gatekeeping fee, or buy the one song they liked from iTunes, the highly-profitable model from the 90s was bound to fail. This hasn’t stopped the RIAA from trying, even going so far as to sue Limewire for an implied 72 trillion dollars, which is more than the combined wealth of Earth.
The same is true of cable TV, which relied on selling large packages of channels to every single end user. With subscription services like Netflix, that model too should fail, though doubtless cable companies will try to keep it alive through manipulation of government entities like the FCC and might attempt to bully content makers. Even HBO, the long running “premium channel” has considered shifting away and offering HBO GO as a stand-alone service.