The Sky Is Rising: The Entertainment Industry Is Thriving, Almost Entirely Because Of The Internet

from the and-things-keep-getting-better dept

Announcing The Sky Is Rising 2019: a new report offering a detailed look at the entertainment industry.

A funny thing happened on the way to the internet supposedly destroying the entertainment industry. It saved the entertainment industry instead.

A little over seven years ago, we released our first Sky is Rising report for CCIA. At the time, the key point we found in looking at the state of the modern entertainment industry was that the parts that were whining the loudest about how awful the internet was for content were only representing a very small part of the actual content industries. Recorded music may have been struggling as a business, but every other aspect of the music business was thriving. More music was being produced than ever before. More music was being consumed than ever before. More people were spending more money on music than ever before -- just not in the traditional ways. Ditto for video. And books. As we noted back in that original report, if you focused on the supposed true purpose of copyright -- to "promote the progress" of content production -- it was clear that the internet had made that possible a lot more than "copyright" law ever did.

Today, again in partnership with CCIA, we're releasing our brand new Sky is Rising report for 2019, again looking at the state of the global entertainment industry. And, once again, it's thriving. But something big has changed in the past decade or so: even the legacy parts that were struggling when we put together the last report, the parts that were most impacted by the transformative nature of the internet, are now thriving as well. And in basically every case it's because of the internet that the legacy companies have shunned and complained about (not to mention demanded a continuous, never-ending, new set of laws to "tame" the very internet that is saving them).

A few tidbits from the report, though I recommend reading the whole thing. Despite the doom and gloom statements from the industry about how consumers were just "getting stuff for free" and no longer interested in paying for content, the data shows that consumers continue to increase their spending. There was a temporary drop off... but it coincided not with the rise of the internet, but with the 2008 financial crisis:

The recorded music business is often the poster child for an industry "wrecked" by the internet. And you could potentially have made that argument a few years ago if you totally ignored the fact that more people were making and releasing music than ever before. But certainly, "recorded" music revenue had dropped... until, starting around 2014, that turned around. And it's entirely due to streaming music, which last year accounted for nearly half of all recorded music revenue, and continues to grow at an astounding clip. Anyone who says that the internet has destroyed the recorded music business is lying to you:

But, that's not all. As we detail in the report, all other aspects of the music business have continued to thrive -- with much of it being because of the internet. The live music business has continued to grow. Music publishing and performance rights have continued to grow. Music merchandising has become a massive business in its own right. It's literally nearly impossible to find any part of the music business that is struggling these days, despite what some folks in the industry will tell you. Of course, if you're wondering why the RIAA and others changed their talking points from complaining about "piracy" to the made up concept of "the value gap," this is why. They realized that things were going great, and all their talk about piracy killing the industry was increasingly going to ring hollow. So they invented this purely fictional concept of a "value gap" which is basically just whining that other industries are too successful and need to be forced to hand over more money. This too is an old playbook for the RIAA labels, who have spent decades trying to squeeze every penny out of any successful online service, continually insisting that if anyone else makes a dime off of music, it should instead go to the labels.

The video world is another fascinating realm. Netflix and other streaming video providers have helped created the golden age of TV-style programming these days. We detail in the report just how much Netflix, Amazon, and other streaming video services have been spending on content, leading to massive growth in original scripted TV programming. But, it's not just the online streaming services. The number of original scripted TV programs on broadcast, basic cable and premium cable has also risen over the past decade. And this is all happening despite so much competition from other things people can do with their free time:

On the movie side of the coin, box office revenue continues to increase, both in the US and abroad. People are continuing to go to the movies, and more movies than ever before are being created around the globe. There was so much data here, we finally just had to stop adding more to get the report out.

In the past, some people argued that just talking about box office numbers was unfair, because where the internet was really having an impact was in destroying the home video market. There was some amount of irony in that given just how loudly and fiercely the MPAA itself had fought against there ever being a home video market (cue former MPAA boss Jack Valenti's famous Congressional testimony, in which he declared: "I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone."). That wasn't true back then, and it's certainly not true today either. A few years after Valenti said that, the home video market brought in more revenue than the box office -- and that's still true today. The home video market is growing fast -- and it's almost all because of the internet. Note how much of the market is now subscription based, rather than transactional. That's Netflix's innovation, not the movie studios.

And then there's books. Once again, rather than destroying the market, the internet has saved it. More and more books are being published. Interestingly, in the book market, the story was a bit different than elsewhere. While ebooks and audiobooks are now a significant portion of the book market, physical books seem to be making a bit of a comeback -- and a lot of that has to do with the ability to buy them online.

Indeed, what we found in our research is that a tremendous uptick in new books is coming from authors self-publishing (in 2017, over a million self-published books were released for the first time -- a massive increase over the past decade). Believe it or not, most of those self-published books are available as paper books, rather than ebooks, thanks to internet services like Amazon CreateSpace, Lulu and Blurb.

Indeed, as we saw back in the 2012 report, a huge part of the story of today's entertainment industry is how much is now being driven not by the old gatekeepers, but by the fact that anyone can make use of the internet to create: whether it's video, movies, music, books, or video games, lots of people are using the internet to create, to build an audience, to distribute globally... and to make some money. So many of the new "stars" are coming up via the internet, rather than waiting for some legacy gatekeeper to discover them. That hasn't made those gatekeepers obsolete, but it's certainly taken away some of their leverage.

Back in 2011, we noted that so many people kept referring to their being some sort of "war" between Hollywood and Silicon Valley, but it struck us as odd that Silicon Valley kept coming up with the "weapons" that seemed likely to help Hollywood thrive. Eight years later, the evidence is in: the entertainment industry is thriving. The sky is rising. And Hollywood should be thanking the internet, rather than continuing to attack it at every single turn.

Go check out the full Sky Is Rising 2019 Report for a detailed look at the state of the entertainment industry today.

Filed Under: books, hollywood, movies, music, sky is rising, tv, video, video games

Reader Comments

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  1. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 8 Apr 2019 @ 11:03am

    Except many of the books that were illegally sold were bestsellers at regular prices, by celebrity authors who are already wealthy and obviously either didn't want to publicize the piracy or didn't think they could stop it. It would take the presence of a mainstream, respected journalist to get an answer that isn't a nonsequitur like that.

    How would having a “mainstream” journalist around get you any better an answer than the one I gave you?

    The person who stole the books didn't have to pay for them, and every time someone downloaded that book, they became an "eyeball" for any advertisements, which is also where money is made (just ask Google).

    They might have had adblockers on, you never know. (Also: Adblockers are an actual thing.)

    What this did was turn e-books into marketing copy for extremely high-priced, personalized instruction that subsidizes it, instruction available to the wealthy, not the masses.

    Yes, yes, we all know that you are a scam artist who is upset that all his “secrets” got leaked on a CD-ROM in Africa for mere pennies. What scam do you specialize in: Ponzi schemes or mail fraud? Or are you one of those pick-up artist douchecanoes that teaches guys how to “persuade” consent out of women who are “playing hard-to-get” by saying “no”?

    Article 13 passed because governments lose tax revenue every time a work is pirated.

    [citation needed]

    Without copyright protection, those who would have created good material simply won't

    [citation needed]

    (Also: I consider anything I create to be in the public domain for anyone to use as they wish. If I can monetize it, cool; if not, I can make something new and try again.)

    It's like the erosion of housing laws due to "tenant screening."

    No. No, it is not.

    an author with no practical power to protect his or her work is going to protect it by only doing work that pays well enough to justify its creation, and with valuable information, that means charging exceptionally high prices for content marketed directly to the wealthy, i.e., patronage

    Patreon is already a thing. Try to keep up.

    which is also what copyright was designed to stop by making it more available to the masses

    And yet, copyright has evolved into a system where a copyright term lasts longer than the lives of everyone who initially experienced a given creative work, which ultimately robs “the masses” of the chance to (legally) use that creative work as a springboard for their own creativity, which is one significant way that culture moves forward. Avengers: Endgame will eventually enter the public domain (and this is assuming no changes to the length of a copyright term crop up between now and then) sometime in the early 22nd Century; how many people going to see it on its opening weekend do you think will live long enough to see that happen?

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