Media Moguls: Get On Or Get Out Of The Way

The last two posts have been about companies aiming to simplify access to digital media. This is a noble aim but one that can only be accomplished if the companies producing and distributing digital media wake up to the realities of life in the 21st Century. I have covered this point before but I wanted to reiterate just how important it is.

What has spurred me to attack this topic again is the continued idiocy of the music and film industries in their efforts to protect revenues from sales of music and video content. Nothing about the way these companies are addressing the problem makes sense. Everything they are doing seems to be completely contradictory to the lessons of the past. ‘Home taping is killing music’ anyone? It was nonsense then, and it is nonsense now.

It has been demonstrated time and again that people would rather do the right thing than the wrong thing, whether or not they are forced too (read Freakonomics for a great example from a bagel seller). What prevents people doing the right thing is not an innate desire to do bad, or to screw the system. They will do the wrong thing when it is easy and doing the right thing is hard.

At the moment it is still easier in many cases to acquire media illegally rather than legally. Illegally acquired media is free of restrictive Digital Rights Management controls that prevent the user from consuming media as they would like to. Legally acquired media is overpriced because it continues to support the extremely inefficient industries that were built to control it in the last century.

Rather than reduce their overheads, respond to consumer demand, or invest in innovative ways to distribute and consume content, the music and video industries spend millions on adverts and lobbying designed to scare people. They have failed: their efforts leave them looking daft and outdated (for example, the current ‘you wouldn’t steal a car…downloading is a crime’ ads).

I’m not saying that there doesn’t need to be a ‘stick’ with which to beat persistent offenders. But surely it is clear by now that offering the right ‘carrot’ is a much more efficient way of changing consumer behaviour on a large scale?

To the music and video industries the message is this: get with it, or get out of the way. Plenty of people believe they can do a better job, and they will if you continue to give them the opportunity.

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