Streaming, Sharing, Stealing | Michael D. Smith

Summary of: Streaming, Sharing, Stealing: Big Data and the Future of Entertainment
By: Michael D. Smith


Are you curious about the transformation of the entertainment industry and the impact of big data on its future? In ‘Streaming, Sharing, Stealing: Big Data and the Future of Entertainment,’ Michael D. Smith dissects key examples like the demise of CDs, the rise of digital music streaming companies, and the successful strategies employed by Netflix. The book also discusses how artists are benefiting from this shift and cautions businesses to spot and respond to technological changes efficaciously. In this summary, you’ll explore various instances from the music, movie, book, and television industries, providing you with a comprehensive understanding of the ever-evolving entertainment landscape.

The Demise of CDs and Print-Based Businesses

CDs and print-based businesses suffered a similar fate due to their ignorance of the potential of digital technology. The big players in the music industry ignored the possibility of digital downloads, which allowed companies like Apple, Pandora, and Spotify to emerge and kill off the CD. Similarly, Microsoft requested non-exclusive rights to Encyclopedia Britannica in 1985 to digitize its contents, but the print-based business wasn’t convinced. The repercussions of this decision were felt in 1993 when sales of print encyclopedias plummeted. In contrast, Netflix, a modern-day company, harnesses the power of technology and uses data analytics to customize the user experience. When the creators of House of Cards pitched their show to Netflix, the company ordered two seasons for $100 million without seeing the pilot, knowing that House of Cards would be a hit with their audience. The show’s creators were further incentivized to exclusively release both seasons on Netflix because, as a digital platform, it didn’t have the same airtime limitations as TV networks.

Artistic Freedom through New Media Platforms

The emergence of new media platforms has brought about a paradigm shift in the entertainment industry. In the past, only a few companies had the financial capacity to produce content and determine the direction creative vision takes. However, digital media platforms like Netflix, YouTube, and others have democratized content creation and provided greater artistic freedom to creators. One notable example is the acclaimed TV series House of Cards, which was not limited by time slots and traditional cliffhangers, thanks to the absence of ad breaks on Netflix. Also, viewers have the flexibility of watching their favorite shows anytime they want. Moreover, these new platforms lower the barriers to entry in content creation by offering affordable production equipment and facilities like YouTube Spaces to save cost. This article explores how new media platforms are revolutionizing the entertainment industry, providing more opportunities for creatives and disrupting the traditional models of content distribution.

Learning from the Mistakes of Thomas Edison

The entertainment industry is constantly changing, and leaders must be able to perceive these shifts, understand their scale and respond effectively. The story of Thomas Edison and his failed musical invention illustrates the importance of correctly assessing the marketplace. Edison created the phonograph in 1877 and patented it, but others continued to improve upon his invention until the graphophone, which used wax cylinders to record sound, was introduced. A wealthy businessman bought the rights to both machines, but his company eventually went bankrupt. Edison repurchased the rights to his invention and planned to use it for jukeboxes, but the emergence of Emile Berliner’s sound recording on discs proved to be far more lucrative. Small indie record labels of the 1950s correctly perceived the emergence of rock ‘n’ roll, but major music companies saw it as a fad. Alan Freed, a disc jockey, championed the genre, and independent labels collectively embraced it, leading to its widespread popularity and success. The mistakes of Edison and the success of these indie labels serve as examples of the importance of correctly assessing the market to stay ahead in the entertainment industry.

The Power of Big Labels

In the twentieth century, a select few dominant companies held power over the entertainment industry. Big labels in music, film, and publishing used their economic strength to attract top talent and control distribution. Smaller labels, unable to offer financial incentives, were left behind and unable to compete. These giants controlled up to 80% of the market, giving them an air of invincibility. However, their control was maintained through traditional means such as radio airtime, in-store promotions, and theatrical releases. The emergence of technology and the internet led to a shift in the landscape – one that big labels failed to anticipate. As technology evolved and physical media became less important, their power began to fade, and independent companies emerged with equal reach and influence. The rise of small companies now offers a diverse and inclusive industry, vastly different from what once was.

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