Youtube iPadIt can be easy to forget sometimes that ‘entertainment’ does not live in a vacuum. Entertainment is a group of industries that meet at the intersection of business, technology and leisure. For most of us – or at least those likely to read this blog – we are aspiring actors, writers, filmmakers, musicians, or entrepreneurs and with such a strong focus it can be difficult to really see the big picture. Where is all of this heading? In many ways that is the question The Snobby Robot seeks to answer. Obviously this is a very broad subject, but looking broadly there are some very real changes I see taking place currently which will continue to expand in the future.

I recently read a series of articles in The Wrap about the decline of work in Hollywood – cameramen not finding work, successful writers struggling to make ends meet, actors without auditions, etc. While studios will blame the recession (and I am sure there could be something to that) the real issue is the disruption of the industry by technology. It is no secret that technology destroys jobs in favor of increased production capacity. The issue for the film and television industries is that movie tickets are not getting any cheaper, tv ratings are slipping and less people are visiting cinemas. In other words increased production capacity is wasted on these industries. In response studios are using the opportunity to slash production budgets and make fewer movies – and the movies that are being made are the ones most likely to turn a profit, with the least risk. This will be the status quo for the foreseeable future.

There never was an easy time for finding your big break in any entertainment field, and times are only getting worse. There simply is not the same amount of money and opportunities that there once were in the traditional entertainment industries. But the truth is that the increased production capacity is not lost. Seven months ago youtube announced that 48 hours of video are uploaded to the site every minute, and people continue to spend more and more time streaming videos over netflix – two companies now moving into content creation. Mobile views of youtube videos had increased 300% between May 2010 and May 2011 and tablets like the iPad and Kindle Fire are continuing to explode. According to a report from last July hundreds of youtube partners are making over $100,000 per year.

Hollywood is not in the business of taking chances anymore. Their money is tied up in the sure fire bets, the big stars, the sequels, the tentpole release. The real innovation will be done on the web. The increased technology is allowing anyone and everyone to make whatever it is they want. There are no longer any rules – your screenplay wont get pissed on and set ablaze for formatting errors, your video may not get a theatrical release and a huge P&A budget but you will always find distribution, no matter how small. You are now in charge.

Will there ever really be money in it?

That is the real question I suppose. The entertainment industry seeks to gain eyeballs and from there monetize the time you spend with the product. Therefore, the primary competition among various forms of entertainment is the battle for attention. Let me illustrate with a graph.

 Potential audience video

While it is likely that the graph of ‘Potential Audience’ is extremely convex, the straight line illustrates the point strongly enough. Production values are the combination of money, talent and execution that go in to creating an entertainment product, where as noise is the level of competition a product will face. There are many business models in here, specifically the tentpole productions of the Hollywood model at the top left and the platform distribution of youtube – a quantity distributor – at the bottom right. That does not bode well for content creators at the bottom of the graph.

The way I see it the only real business model for those not yet reaching Steven Spielberg status is in getting the greatest amount of ‘production value’ possible out of the least amount of money. This is where talent, execution, and ingenuity will win out. For actors and producers this means making the best products you can as many times as possible. Spending time working to get people interested – building an audience. Maybe gigs do not pay, or pay much, but you are doing what you love so do it 100%.