[Manic Monday] Remember the "Old" Content Industry?

One of the tragic things of our increasingly digital lives is that, whatever appears to us on a 'screen' (whether it be a TV screen, computer screen or mobile phone screen', is just there, in seconds, and can practically be pulled up on demand. Either its on the Internet, or it isn't. There's hardly a transitional state for anything on the internet - even services that are in beta are well, right there already, and you probably won't notice its building progress unless you look closely. Mimicking its basic building blocks of bytes, the conditions of '0' and '1' apply. It's either on, or off. And in many cases, it's either good, or bad. 'Liked', or not liked.

I'm of the generation where we ran home from school to catch the afternoon cartoons on TV, because, well, there wasn't any other way to watch them. Saturday morning was something I looked forward to because the string of cartoons I could watch from early morning to 10 am, and one or two days every week was spent in anticipation to what our favorite TV series episode would be like next. And of course, the movies were a special event - everybody watched the new movies at around the same time, and would become the topic of discussion for groups of friends.

Music was more or less the same. You could hear one or two songs from the TV and radio, but you had to get out and buy the cassette album to listen to other songs. I think many music lovers would remember the rewarding experience of listening to a new album while reading all the liner notes - or perhaps get disappointed from the laughable quality of the songs other than the hit single. Searching for limited-release albums or completing our catalogue of a certain artist became a pilgrimage or treasure hunt of sorts - looking for that one out-of-the-way store that might hold the CD I was looking for.

That consumer journey took the effort of an entire industry to put into motion. TV shows were shot by camera crews on special sound stages after lengthy screenwriting and casting processes. The same TV shows were pitched to the TV networks, which then picked up the TV series they thought had the most promise to bring in viewers (and advertisers).

It was (and is) basically the same for music - from talent scouts, songwriters, musicians, sound engineers, producers, marketers, radio music directors, right to the guys who lift up the boxes of CDs into the trucks that deliver them to the CD stores, music goes through a very lengthy process before ever reaching your ear. Entire industries were built to fulfil the endless cycle of creation and consumption of content.

The content that you view has gone through the work process and creative process of possibly hundreds, or thousands of individuals - from the indie movie screenwriter to the girl selling you popcorn at the cinema - to make sure you can enjoy the movie.

Today, these industries - that literally support hundreds or thousands of people at almost any given country - has been taken hostage. Is it the popcorn girl's fault if she can't find a new job when more and more people are watching movies online? Or the vocal coach that can't find new clients because most newer artists just simply publish directly online without the guidance of a producer?

The "old guard" of the content industry is not without its wrongs; they failed to anticipate the almost-total change in consumption behavior and even transaction flows. They failed to recognize that copyright and copyright enforcement alone is not enough, or that it may be outdated. But aside from the studio executives chasing million-dollar bonuses for blockbuster movies, the industry has mouths to feed, and we can't expect it to just switch over or stop because a growing number of consumers do not experience the consumer journey as it was before. The digital economy cannot feed everybody yet, because, put simply, there are not enough people who actually can switch themselves over to the still seemingly new arena.

The "old" content industry may be slow and apprehensive in adapting to the new digital economy, but I don't blame them. The amount of payrolls they have amassed over the years needs to be considered, as it is part of a company's survivability. The transition is definitely ongoing, and it cannot be postponed. But how it will be done and how it will end for some, is the big question.

Ario is a co-founder of Ohd.io, an Indonesian music streaming service. He worked in the digital music industry in Indonesia from 2003 to 2010, and recently worked in the movie and TV industry in Vietnam. Keep up with him on Twitter at @barijoe or his blog at http://barijoe.wordpress.com.

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