Meanwhile, Back in Old Media...

Both the film and music industries recorded record low sales in 2010. Let’s take the film industry first, courtesy of Time magazine:

The number slumped to 1.35 billion tickets in 2010, which is a 5.4% drop from 2009 and the lowest figure since 1.33 billion tickets were sold in 1996. But revenues remained high, going over the magical $10 billion mark for only the second time, due to rising ticket prices and 3D surcharges. Hollywood’s continuing obsession with its pushing of 3D might end up giving the industry some cause for concern if viewers feel that plot and great acting is being pushed aside in favor of (admittedly spectacular) effects.

Acting being pushed aside for spectacular effects — what could go wrong?

And here are the numbers for the recording industry, via Big Hollywood:

USA Today:

In the 52 weeks ending Jan. 2, album sales fell 13% to 326.2 million units, and digital track sales managed only a 1% gain, to 1.17 billion. That hefty consumption of downloads helped offset overall music losses, which fell only 2.4%.

Piracy, vanishing record shops and decreasing shelf space in big-box stores continue to depress album sales, and the digital boom has been flattening. Only 13 albums sold more than 1 million copies in 2010, down from 22 in 2009.

Labels remain optimistic about digital’s future. More than one-fourth of albums sold last year were downloads.

What boomed in 2010? Vinyl. The throwback format grew 13%, with The BeatlesAbbey Road leading the charge. Consumers bought more vinyl albums in 2010 than any other year in SoundScan history. Fans bought 71% of vinyl albums in independent record stores.

Read the full article here, and then combine that news with this news:

Gross revenues and total ticket sales from concert tours were down considerably in 2010 as the faltering economy and a glut of overpriced shows shunned by fans cast doubt on the music industry’s last sure bet.

Pollstar year-end numbers show overall grosses for the top 50 tours worldwide fell 12 percent to $2.93 billion and ticket sales dropped 15 percent or about 7 million from 2009’s 45.3 million.

Estimates from the touring industry trade magazine show Bon Jovi pulled in more than $201 million worldwide to land 2010’s top tour. AC/DC was next ($177 million), followed by U2 ($160 million), Lady Gaga ($133 million) and Metallica ($110 million) rounded out the top five.


Both industries have shown enormous contempt for wide swatches of their audiences, even as they’re also still riding out the technological trend created by the rise of the Internet and other forms of demassified media. The traditional music and film industries were created during the first half of the 20th century, when media meant mass media — by the 1950s, you had three channels on your TV, a handful of radio channels, and a couple of local movie theaters within easy driving distance.

Today you have YouTube, Blip, iTunes, Netflix, DirecTV, etc.

Concurrently, both the music industry and Hollywood have watched their stars age and decline. Most of the people we still think of as stars in both Hollywood and the recording industry date from the last days of mass media — and Hollywood in particular has been hurt badly by their decline.

Some of Hollywood’s biggest stars have simply aged: Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery and arguably Harrison Ford are all getting too long in the tooth to be leading men. Younger stars such as Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise severely damaged their careers during the preceding decade by publicly unleashing their inner demons. Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn and Robert Redford put politics ahead of stardom, damaging their brand in flyover country.

No wonder Hollywood basically has four options left. First, there are the franchises based on brand names developed during the mass media days. These include the superhero movies, the James Bond, Star Wars and Star Trek franchises, and porting over TV shows and even toys and games to invoke boomer nostalgia. In a similar vein, there are the Brit-lit franchises such as Harry Potter, Tolkien and Narnia. There are digitally animated movies such as the Pixar line. And then there are gimmicks such as 3D.


On the surface, this doesn’t sound like it will bode well for Hollywood’s future. Essentially the recording industry, with its own aging stars and genres, faces many of the same negative structural trends as well.

Contraction is always painful for any business model; any thoughts on where these industries go next?

Update: Somewhat related thoughts on the state of art and old media at Whiskey’s Place.


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