Tag Archives: spotify

The failure of The Artist

Silent movie The Artist may have won five Oscars last night, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, but in Brazil – a country of almost 200m people – only 144,840 people in 51 theatres have paid to watch it (HT to @brazzil for the stats).

This may seem like a terrific failure in the cultural taste of Brazilian movie-goers. Language is no excuse, because the film has almost no dialogue. Many are asking the question why so few in Brazil have been to see the movie.

But surely the answer is obvious?

Walk down any major street in urban Brazil and there will be a guy on the corner selling DVDs. The going rate is usually three movies for R$10. That’s about USD $2 a movie. Now check out how much it costs to go and watch a movie at the cinema. I looked just now at the cinema inside the Bourbon shopping centre in Pompeia, São Paulo for a ticket for Hugo tonight – normal tickets are R$40 each.

To be fair, this is an IMAX movie and therefore a little more than a regular presentation, but even so it is a real ticket price for a movie that is on right here in Brazil in a theatre tonight.

So even a person who is fairly honest and doesn’t like supporting DVD piracy has to compare R$40 to watch one movie in the theatre with R$10 to watch three on DVD – twelve movies for the price of one.

This problem is also compounded by the legitimate DVD market, which is like the legitimate cinema, just overpriced.

The public in Brazil have voted with their feet. Water cannot run uphill… if pirate movies are a twelfth of the cost of the legal version then who will pay the “correct” price. Only those who want the full cinema experience, those who refuse to support piracy at any price, and those who managed to get a date with a girl and know that a pirate DVD will not impress.

I still go to the cinema myself and I like the communal, inclusive experience… being surrounded by that big Dolby sound and hundreds of other people all watching the same movie, but I don’t watch every single movie in the theatre. I bought a pirate copy of The Artist – and it was watermarked as a DVD that came from the Academy Award judging process… so one of those judges allowed their DVD to leak and be copied for millions around the world to watch almost for free.

The real answer to piracy is not to go out arresting the guys selling DVDs on the street, it is to make the legitimate route to enjoying a movie easier than buying a pirate – and good value. At present there is no incentive for anyone to keep supporting cinema tickets and legitimate DVDs when they are priced so much higher than the pirates.

Of course the argument goes that if everyone bought pirate films the movie industry would collapse – which is nonsense. It would just move from a model funded by tickets and DVDs to product placement and sponsorship – a process that is already developing anyway. Morgan Spurlock financed an entire film this way in 2011.

Services like Netflix are offering Brazilians unlimited movies for R$15 a month. Of course it depends on having good broadband, and many people don’t have the technical ability to hook up a computer to a TV, but Internet-enabled TVs are standard today. As this latest generation of TVs rolls out with tools like Netflix built-in and on the remote control, it will be easy to click a button to get any movie from a library of millions – easier than going out and selecting from a limited range of pirate DVDs.

And this model is affordable too… that monthly charge is less than half the price of one ticket to see Hugo tonight at the cinema.

The recorded music industry is finally seeing this, with services such as Spotify taking off and killing the illegal copying of music because the legal route is so much easier. But it took years for the record companies to ever understand that they need a new business model – not more litigation. Let’s just hope the movie business doesn’t make all the same mistakes they did…

Oscars 2007

Photo by Donna Grayson licensed under Creative Commons

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French government subsidises music

Why on earth is the French government subsidising music purchases?

They say it is to get people into the habit of purchasing music, rather than stealing it through online file sharing. Did any of the bureaucrats ever consider that French citizens might use up their free allowance and then return to file sharing?

The big issue with music is that we are moving from a world where the consumer paid for a physical recording (LP, CD…), to a digital download (MP3), to access only. That’s right – even the MP3 files on your iPod will seem archaic when the next generation of iPods allows you to choose an artist or song, which it then automatically streams.

Most new TVs are already Internet-enabled, you can flick through YouTube as you watch regular TV. Imagine once car stereos, home audio systems, and iPods are all geared up for constant Internet access? There is no need to ever own a physical music product – you just pay for a song as you play it or pay a monthly access fee allowing you all you want to play.

Spotify uses this model already. The one thing that prevents it becoming the norm is that playback devices are still not ready for streaming-only – most people using Spotify are still playing the songs on their computer. But it won’t be long. It’s common to see streaming jukeboxes in pubs now – a jukebox with every song ever recorded and released. And that is what we will all have at home soon, a sound system with access to every song ever recorded.

The future is how you purchase access to recorded music, not purchasing a copy of recorded music.

Charts will be based on plays, rather than sales, and artists will be (more than ever) focused on live performance, merchandise, and specialist products – like the 78rpm vinyl version of the new Elvis Costello album. Who can even play a 78 these days?

Music is entirely changing and for a government to waste tax-payers money on a scheme that encourages ‘legal’ digital downloads is outrageous.

Trocadero and Eiffel Tower