Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Digital Distribution: Movies and Music

Scott Kirsner has contributed an article to Release Print about the state of digital distribution for movies. He admits that
Digital distribution, circa 2007, resembles a high-concept science fiction script: conceptually intriguing, potentially feasible, but not quite part of the fabric of reality.

The New York Times Magazine has an article called "Sex, Drugs and Updating Your Blog," which talks about how musicians are using digital distribution to build audiences.

Both these articles deal with creative people attempting to cut out the middle men and go straight to audiences and I'm intrigued with the differences between the two fields. Music has the advantage of being produced faster and cheaper than films, which allow musicians to regularly add new material and build an audience. Musicians are also interacting more heavily with their audiences than filmmakers are. The Times article talks about Jonathan Coulton, who has uploaded a new song weekly and personally answers dozens of emails a day from fans. John K. has developed quite a following through his blog, but based on the posted comments, he's not committed to answering every question that comes his way. If you're aware of anyone in animation or film who has taken this further than John K, let me know.

One of the major differences between music and film is the personal appearance angle. Concerts and club dates are a major revenue stream for musicians, where personal appearances by actors or directors might goose attendance at a screening but don't generate revenue separately the way music sales and personal appearances do.

Finally, there are the physiological and psychological differences between music and film. Sight is our specie's primary sense, so we're able to use our hearing while engaging in other activities. Music can accompany our activities in a way that films never can. A teacher of mine, Bob Edmonds, once said that there was no visual equivalent to whistling.

Furthermore, there's an emotional difference between music and film. A lot of animation is based on humour, but a joke won't be as funny the 20th time you hear it as it was the first time. By contrast, the 20th time you hear a song, it may be more satisfying than the first. Music grows on us while humour, stories and films tend to go stale.

I'm fascinated with how all of this is developing. I desperately hope that animators figure out a way to make the web work for independent production. The goal shouldn't be to become the next George Lucas and get rich. The goal should be to do the work you want to do and make enough money from it to live. Coulton, the musician, is making a middle class living. Can animators do the same? Maybe the web will never be as friendly to animators as it is to musicians, but the rules are still being written and there's enormous potential to change how animators live and work for the better.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can relate to the link author's sentiments. We animators love what we do. It's our passion. Having said that, our profession requires us to always work for someone else. In an ideal environment, you genuinely like the project or people you work with. And more animators are producing short clips on their own time with their own computers (and no, it need'nt always be CG).

It's a good dream, to work full time doing your own animation and be paid for it. It's worth working towards.