The Score on The Entertainment Media Industry [Last Modified on 2006.12.03]
The advance of technology will, under the free market economy, cause media prices to drop, thereby necessitating a drop in media industry salaries. While it is understandable that the media companies would resist this, the march of technology cannot be ignored forever. By cracking down on "piracy" and filesharing, industries such as the RIAA are alienating and persecuting their consumer base, which they have already alienated by charging the outrageous prices which turned many to piracy and filesharing in the first place.
Filesharing may fall under "fair use" copy laws, where you may have copies of any work for your own private use — the fact that it is freely available on your computer to other filesharers is a byproduct of the advance of technology. Suing filesharers is a ludicrous move that does nothing but alienate consumers while filling the pockets of the entertainment industry middlemen even more.
Some technologies now prevent individuals from making fair use copies of products which they legally purchase. This should be illegal. A file on a shared server or a file share system should not constitute a copyright violation since anyone who already owns the music or media in question (via a CD or other purchase) has the right to have a copy, made by any means. This is currently not being investigated or considered in the United States in regard to the lawsuits being filed by the RIAA, though Canada grants individuals protection for fair use copies.
Music should cost approximately 6 cents per minute, no matter who the artist is. The more popular an artist is, the more people there will be who buy that artist's songs — that is the incentive to strive for perfection (aside from art for art's sake, which seems to have been lost and forgotten). Similarly, movie prices, theatre prices, and sports event prices must be lowered.
Earnings for all entertainment celebrities have been inflated beyond the absurd. This is true in sports, music, film and television. This, in turn, raises the prices for the entertainment consumer beyond what inflation demands. All of these people must be put in their place — they are entertainers, no more important in the long run than any average citizen, and much less important than teachers, police officers, doctors, scientists, and government officials (at least, those who do their jobs). Entertainers' salaries should reflect this fact. Yes, they have particular talents that make them special; however, even taking that into consideration, they are far overpaid. This is not, however, a government issue — the government must not be allowed to regulate the wages of celebrities; rather, the industry must be encouraged to self-regulate.
Under the free market economy, technology will drive these entertainment groups to points where they will have to adapt and adjust.
Music has already reached this point. Digital music quality is already high enough as to make no difference to most consumers, and file sizes are small enough to make downloading easy and fast. All we have to do is not allow lawsuits to settle this issue, and the market will adjust.
Movies are almost there judging by technology advances and the MPAA's recently announced intention to follow the RIAA's example with lawsuits. Digital movies are generally of lower quality than DVDs or VHS tapes, and file sizes are somewhat large. Once technology overcomes these small issues, the movie industry will find itself in the same place that the recording industry does today. Again, if we don't allow lawsuits to artificially fix the problem, the market will adjust on its own.
For TV, the situation is slightly different. The reason that those in the television industry are overpaid is due to advertising revenue being so high. Technological advances such as TiVo allow ads to be skipped, but at present, legal action has insured that ads are recorded and must be manually fast-forwarded through. This is analogous to the RIAA lawsuits against filesharing, and needs to be reversed. Once this is changed, the television market will adjust itself.
Professional athletics bears a different problem, which is longer term. Ticket prices will go up until fans can no longer attend sporting events, and all tickets are owned by corporations (which can afford them) rather than individuals. This will have several affects. One is that arenas will be less full in general, and less full of home team fans specifically. This will decrease the merchandising revenue brought in by vendors, and create a poor atmosphere for the home team (and all teams). Also, this will likely lead to shrinkage in the fan base in general, leading to less viewers, less merchandise sales, and an downward spiral for the professional athletics industry.
We must cut out the middlemen, who are responsible for the outrageous price tags in the entertainment industry in the first place. Technology is opening up new doors, and we must take advantage of that: cartoonists can self-syndicate, writers can self-publish, independent filmmakers can produce their own films, and musicians have access to fantastic software that allows them to record, mix and distribute their own songs. The middlemen — agents, managers, recording labels, and artists' unions — are a leech on the industry which demands higher prices to pay for their (now superfluous) services. Cut them out of the process, and bring art and entertainment directly from the talent to the consumer.