Friday, September 5, 2008

And the other shoe drops...

It's official: movies are free.

Napster ruined the Big Corporate Music Model by setting the expectation among fans that music can and should be free to acquire. Many musicians disagreed, but many accepted the new order, and found other ways to make money in the music biz.

Bittorrent technology did for movie piracy what Napster did for music piracy, making it easier to download huge files over the Internet.

I have long contended that the same thing is happening with the movie industry, and eventually, even big filmmakers will give over to the "free" model, just the way big musicians like Trent Reznor, Radiohead, and others, have.

Now it has happened. Michael Moore will release his latest movie (I keep wanting to call them "films", kind of like I keep referring to "albums") for FREE. Like Radiohead, he is only releasing it for a limited time as a free download, and fans can buy the value-added DVD if they want.

This, combined with the legal Web distribution of movies, TV shows, and Web-based content, means that the film business is following exactly the same path, albeit slower, as the music business. What does this mean for actors?

It means that it will probably be harder to earn a living. Why? Because free or cheap Web-based distribution opens the floodgates to amateur filmmakers who compete with big studios, and because there are no existing mechanisms for making big money from Web video... yet. This means that studios will want to drive down their costs as much as possible, as they throw a bunch of spaghetti at the wall, and see what sticks.

Now, I do not pretend to know this for sure; it's just my guess, based on experience in the music industry and as a small business owner. The analog to live music is live theater, not film. You can't pirate a live theater show experience. So, as musicians now give away music and sell concert tickets, so, too, must actors- particularly film and television actors- find other ways of capitalizing on the shows they create.

Shows which are now free.

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