Making Fun of Prince Is Easy–Figuring Out How Talent Thrives in a Digital Age, Not So Much
So, yes, the quote from Prince about the Internet being “completely over” made him sound like a Luddite idiot.
And adding that computers and other digital gadgets “just fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you” pushed the music superstar over the edge into seeming like that crazy ranting dude you often encounter on the street claiming the government has invaded his brain.
But–after spending several days here in Los Angeles this week, talking to execs, talent and others who toil in the entertainment industry–I can’t say what I am hearing is that much different in terms of the continuing frustration with the lack of decent business models to replace the ones that have worked for so long and been so lucrative for the entertainment and media industry.
From music to movies to television, the biggest minds here still sound perplexed as to what will finally be the golden ticket to carry them through to the inevitable next era of digital distribution.
Still, so many questions and so few answers.
Will consumers buy subscriptions to cloud-based content? Will advertising be enough to pay for broadcasting online? Who will pay for the high up-front production costs of most major entertainment projects? Can costs come down enough to make up the difference?
And while there is now a lot of interest around tablets, such as the Apple (AAPL) iPad, and Hollywood types seem to accept that their customers are shifting their buying and consumption habits around entertainment drastically, there still remains a level of outright hostility to it all that has not changed much.
“Why is the consumer always right?” said one exec to me this week in a typical statement. “You can’t have a business if there is no business model.”
Indeed. And, in fact, that’s just what Steve Levitan, co-creator of “Modern Family,” the ABC television hit, talked about cogently at the eighth D: All Things Digital conference last month, telling a largely tech-centric crowd some truths it much needed to hear.
(FYI: We’ll be posting the video of the entire interview session with Levitan and also longtime Hollywood player Lloyd Braun here tomorrow.)
As much as he himself loves tech products, Levitan noted that lack of a business plan or credit for consumption online made digital largely pointless to his work.
“At its core, 90 percent of my job is still sitting down in a room full of people and breaking stories,” he said. “And that requires virtually no technology.”
It’s a salient point and not so different from Prince’s saying: “I don’t see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won’t pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can’t get it.”
If you remove the sillier parts of his quote that preceded it, such a statement is not unreasonable from an artist who wants to be paid for his creative efforts.
Thus, instead of mocking that sentiment, perhaps it is time for tech leaders to figure out a way to keep talent from being dragged into the future without so much kicking and screaming.
Or, as Prince might sing: He was dreamin’ of being paid when he said the Internet was over, so sue him if he went 2 fast.
Speaking of which, Prince really deserves a little more respect, folks, if only for his classic “1999,” seen here (jacked onto the Web, natch):