As a person born right on the grey area where the Gen-X era was fading out and the Millennial era was dawning, I had the privilege to witness a world moving from analogue to digital into the new millennium! I was nearly an adult when cell phones and the internet started creeping into our way of life. I was there to witness a spark called "Napster" that started a blazing fire that changed the entire music industry. A fire that also carried right through into the film industry ... and in my opinion, it hasn't stopped since then!
I was a sophomore in college when a friend of mine showed me on the relatively young internet an amazing software called Napster, and my consumption of media has never been the same since then. Kids today should be thanking Shawn Fanning, because his invention set in motion a series of events that now they get to enjoy and that still continues to shape the mentality of the digital landscape!
In the late 90's that train of thought was something new, and no one predicted that the "fire" would keep getting bigger. The film industry then, idly sat around while witnessing the music industry scramble to change the entire way of how they did business for the past 70 years, not realizing that their turn was next..! When they did it was already late! That's when the new era began, when they realized that whatever happens in the music industry, from now on will also happen to the film industry.
Moving forward twenty-something years, we're now at a point where both industries have figured it out. Both audio/visual entertainment is being streamed on multiple competing platforms with a subscription model and all is good right? No! ...well yes..as far as consumers are concerned, both industries seem to have found a working formula to give people what they want at a fair price...and this changing landscape certainly affected not just the consumer side of things..but also the creation side!
Did I mention that I was a music producer and filmmaker through out that entire time? (Still am ..) and that I've seen the analogous shift happen in the creation part of these industries? That's what I want to talk (write) about!
Back in the day, producing music was an expensive hobby (still is but nowhere near what it was back then) Unlike what happened from the consumer's side, where the "fire of change" torched quickly enough for us to see the changing landscape in real time, in the creators department, things weren't as fast so as to see the pattern repeating itself... unless you take a mental step back to see the entire picture....and that's what I did.
In music production the first consumer DAW and computer based music creation software and hardware started appearing in the late 70's, early 80's (ergo the overtly "digital" sound that so characterized that decade) It was still nowhere near up to par to conventional studios of the time as far as flexibility and quality. That soon changed when the entire digital music production industry matured to where we are today...where it's now the norm! In fact it has long surpassed the flexibility of conventional analogue studios and is certainly up to par as far as sound quality is concerned. The software gets exponentially better every year, utilizing less and less resources to a point where now all you need is a laptop to make a song that tops the billboard charts! That's a far far cry from how chart topping music was made not more than 20 years ago.
This gave rise to many aspiring producers to make music in their bedroom..and to the phrase "bedroom producers!" I myself have a gold album somewhere under my bed for a track I made literally in my bedroom! In fact besides the tools of creation becoming better, smaller and cheaper, there is something else that the music industry has progressed to...and that is online platforms. Music producers and artists now have many platforms where they can place their work and get paid from it. Streaming services such as Spotify have already given the ability for artists to circumvent the "gate keepers" and publish their own music there directly and reap all the benefits. Sure it's no where near perfect, but just like in all the previous stages ...it will get there! It's only a matter of time until the right platforms in combination of technological advancements completely eradicate the "gate keepers".
Right now music artists are living their best time, with literally the entire world at their fingertips and with only good news on the horizon. This is what I consider the last stage that could probably fold the conventional music industry and record labels.
Now...remember when I said that whatever happens to the music industry it's sure to follow into the film industry? Well, right now it's a few stages behind because filming requires more "parts" to assemble than music...but the direction to where it's headed is exactly the same.
A while back, I posted a blog about the Red Komodo , explaining how indie filmmakers will now be able to afford a full fledged cinema quality camera. But here's the thing, just like software and hardware got better and cheaper for music producers to make Grammy award winning hits from their bedroom, the same "fire" is creeping into the filmmaking realm. It's been many years since cameras and editing software have become widely accessible (a far cry from when I started out where the price tag of the software and hardware was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars). Of course filmmaking is more expensive than music production, it always was and always will be. But we are also living in the best and cheapest time to be a filmmaker and headed down the same path as bedroom producers!
Looking into the filmmaking market, one must realize that not only cameras are getting cheaper and better, but also lighting and all the surrounding accessories. In fact technological breakthroughs are happening more and more often, to a point where one could film an entire feature with 1/5th of the crew required. There are equipment out there that in the future will probably render several positions in a film crew obsolete and that will keep making productions cheaper (Just like what happened in the music industry).
Here is the big issue though. What's next? All we have to do is look at the music industry to see our future, and based on that we will probably see platforms coming to fruition that enable filmmakers to upload their movies and capitalize on them probably with the same success rate as musicians are right now (If it's not happening already). Something like a "Spotify" for filmmakers! Is that good or bad? Just like in the music industry, I predict that It's good because more and more aspiring filmmakers will be able to showcase their talent, but at the same time bad because more and more filmmakers will be able to showcase their "talent". This will probably lead us to the possibility of having to swim through a sea of mediocrities to find something good. Right now, we are were music producers got to several years ago as far as hardware is concerned...we made it..we can now make full features from home! It's not like it's not happening already, academy award winner director Steven Soderbergh shot his full feature "UNSANE" on an IPhone!
What follows? Filmmakers will be able to get around their own "gate keepers", whether that's distribution companies or big studios. Things will progress for musicians and by osmosis will transfer that evolution to filmmakers, simply because their final products are essentially the same...digital files! It's not a matter of "if"...but of "when".
Today, one could edit, sound design, do VFX, color grade, finish and deliver an entire movie from their laptop! And just like bedroom producers are topping charts and winning awards, we may be at the dawn of an era where movies made by bedroom filmmakers will also win prestigious awards that until then were reserved for big studios and multimillion dollar movies! Look at the pattern from the music industry...In 2017 Chance the Rapper was the first unsigned artist to receive a Grammy, so perhaps in the future we will see a bedroom filmmaker receiving an Oscar at the Academy awards for a movie they made... in their bedroom! And to think all that because of that spark by Napster that has led us here..all the while the fire continues to rage, and is only getting bigger!