Here we are now. Again. Entertain us! — What to expect for 2023 in media and entertainment — 10 theses
Waymarks for mindful forward moves within a multifaceted industry during times of complex world affairs — a quick overview of what matters in the year ahead besides the obvious and beyond.
1 The crowds are here to stay — supporting the further rise of fan-generated and fan-created content as well as “everything” Web 3
Social Media, Crowdfunding, NFTs, blockchain, YouTube, the Metaverse, consumer comments … — Apart from the enabling backend tech, the most relevant innovations in the media and entertainment space over the last ten to twenty years essentially all rely on how many eyeballs a project can gather behind itself. In one or the other way, congregating crowds is an ongoing meta trend, influencing almost everything content-related and continuing to increase in speed and relevance. Recently fueled by communities spreading out into more messenger-type platforms (WhatsApp, Telegram, Singal, WeChat, etc.). Until further notice, the future of entertainment and media is essentially social.
Know your crowd, know your revenue model. Build a crowd, have success. For example, think how recently Metallica and Kate Bush were able to take advantage of their newfound popularity among younger audiences because these new generations discovered their music thanks to the song’s appearances in Stranger Things.
I’m pointing this out in particular because I hear many voices constantly taking many looks back at every moment, thinkable or unthinkable for such, expressing hopes things might return to a “good old” world “before social.”
Piggybacking on the growth of crowds of followers, fans, networks, “friends,” or “connections,” fan art and fan content will become even more relevant for each creator’s brand.
Every show, every open-air concert I attended last summer, I was greeted by thousands of mobile device screens active filming, recording, selfie-ing, etc., creating what I call FAN CONTENT en masse, spreading it on their social channels all over the place later on.
While some artists complain and jammer about this trend (e.g., recently: Placebo), such a proactive form of live event consumption will always be around for a while. On the contrary, artists should embrace it as it is active fan and crowd engagement. It enables people to share their experiences and helps them preserve memories. Plus, it should ease the pain of rising ticket costs for at least some folk as individual added value is created.
“Standing on the shoulders of giants.” — The same embrace recommended towards fan content should be given out to fan art. Long before the first sample got used in music to create something to be considered a new original artwork (while crediting the sampled piece), fans of artists and creators felt inspired and fired up enough to use other people’s creations as an inspiration for their interpretations of these. As a result, some new creations become affectionate personal interpretations of the original, while others show significant advancements to the original ideas.
One way or the other, both fan art and fan content, always offer incredible ways to connect creator and fan, establish relationships, and enable new forms of revenue as a win-win for everyone involved.
Creators must embrace this fan culture. It’s part of their path into the future.
Crowds, followers, groups, and fanbases are essential drivers for almost any media and entertainment-related business model within the Web 3 space. From blockchain business to XR / VR / AR Games and Apps or Metaverses — no crowd, no fun, no business. With good reason, Mark Zuckerberg jumped on the Meta(verse) bandwagon with such vigor.
2 Populated by the crowds, platforms maintain their relevancy.
Related to this “crowd thing” just mentioned, the relevance and dominance of platform thinking will not fade anytime soon. No matter if things tend towards decentralization, Web 3, Crypto, etc., etc., etc. A statement like this helps little in making new friends among many hardcore innovation voices. But if you look beyond opinion vs. facts, the platform concept continues to win. Again and again. For many reasons. Some of the most vital pros: People love to have some form of guideline and orientation. People love to play, watch, engage, and shop within the boundaries of trusted spaces. So, beyond the pure doctrines of “real decentralization,” platforms of all forms and sizes continue to be the way to move forward for digital business models. Are you still trying to convince yourself? Check out Upland and the platform’s recent success.
3 Social Media will continue to send shockwaves thru “everything” entertainment & media industries.
If platforms and social graphs remain super relevant to find audiences and customers, what about Social Media overall? Good question. Complicated answers only. And because things are that complicated, some surprising things might continue to happen in this space over time. Again and again.
At least as long as the democratic societies/governments of the west shy away from taking their responsibilities seriously about deciding where to draw the fine lines between hate speech and freedom of speech. Advertisement and corporate publishing. In defining who is considered a “Publisher” and who is considered “just the messenger.” Between “everything first amendment” and boundaries in threatening political opponents.
At least as long as governments in Europe and the US alike rather toy around with ideas to cancel Twitter or Tik Tok instead of taking on the challenge to find ways to regulate the powers of such global giants of opinion and entertainment indeed.
Meanwhile, these very Social Media platforms will remain the battlegrounds of public opinion forming on (almost) everything from pandemics to wars to all aspects relevant to entertainment.
Regardless of whether Facebook will rename itself over and over again into something that could become the TV of the future or Twitter being taken over by just another “most controversial” entrepreneur around.
4 Entertainment is becoming more and more political. Once again.
Speaking of Elon Musk and Twitter, the other global “can’t miss” controversy of 2022 in entertainment and media might have been the case of Ye, previously better known as Kanye West. It remains to be seen why exactly Ye said and did some of the things he said and did. Apparently, some things are related to mental health problems and some things he truly believes in. — But, in the end, it does not matter as Ye stated way too many things being truly ugly and unacceptable. (Some overview of Ye’s wrongdoings here). It cost him almost everything. Personally. Business-wise. Sportswear giant Adidas cutting all ties with him alone cost him over a billion USD so far — and counting.
Media and entertainment industries and content have never been entirely apolitical. Politics just took a backseat for a while — ca. from the early 1990ies into the mid-2000s. However, by all standards, but especially after rather unpolitical decades for the mainstream pop, entertainment, and media spaces (apolitical compared to, e.g., the 1960ies/70ies), the fast and drastic decline of Ye’s career due to ultimately politics-related broken taboos is a strong signal of how political pop, entertainment, and media spaces have become — again. In hindsight, this time, it all may have started with #metoo continued by #blacklivesmatters — and now, politics are back in pop, entertainment, and media with no intention to leave before long.
Not least because governments must adequately revitalize their efforts to fulfill their roles in relevant policy-making power as requested by the people. Not least because crowds are so powerful and organize so well on platforms, messengers, or social media spaces (proving my case about the track record of the crowds as mentioned above).
By the way. — this is nothing just concerning the media and entertainment industries. Everything economy has become more political over the last five to ten years. And counting.
5 From “on the radio” to “my podcast.”
From hype into the establishment — podcasting has become new talk radio (on demand). And it’s holding out strong. Fiction or nonfiction. Podcast behemoth Tim Ferris just recently launched a new fiction podcast series. Podcasts are the ideal source of audio information and audio entertainment in our complex anytime-anywhere-anywho world. Beyond the issues of language with barrier-free access. One can do without a subscription also to stay on top of things. Plus, one can do many things on the side while listening. And the entire content universe is right there on the smartphone.
Hence, podcasting is your friend if you want to build “your crowd.” A successful podcast is a thing to strive for.
6 The Metaverse is here already
Mark Zuckerberg is very interested in making you believe that the Metaverse isn’t only something brand new but also something rather sophisticated. Something that needs a lot of new subscriptions and devices and services (in his idea, preferably sold to you thru or — better! — by his group of platforms and companies called Meta).
However, the Metaverse is already in place in many ways. We live with it already, and — here, I agree with Zuckerberg and the many others singing his gospel — we will live with it even more in the future.
Because at least in the west / in industrialized countries, our online- and offline lives are intertwined a lot already, often merged beyond the point of recognition. Every time we shop online, use internet-based government services, use our internet-connected devices from TV sets to smartphones, or use GPS- and web-connected navigation services, we enter a metaverse or at least a part of it. Right here. Right now.
So — feel free to get overwhelmed. Don’t get FOMO. It’s all here and happening already. (Bad news: for those considering “boycotting” this Metaverse — you might have lost the “battle” already.)
As bullish as I am about everything Metaverse overall, as bearish, I remain again for at least another year about the potential of a true mass market adoption of XR / VR headsets. And, yes, I’m aware of the rumors about what Apple is preparing to offer. But still, it will remain to be a massive clunky goggle. Not to mention the price etc. etc. etc.
7 Content vs. culture
We stream, chat, text, watch, listen, film, and share — our popular content and entertainment consumption is constantly rising. But what about the cultural aspect of it all? What about the arts? The state-of-the-art sophisticated niche projects representing new ideas? What about old-school but culturally relevant formats like cinema, opera, performing arts, and stage plays? Well … sad truth is: They all have a rather hard time these days. They were battered by, at times, horrible ignorant treatments from governments during the pandemic — today still suffering from the outfall of these. Cornered by the fight for eyeballs and people’s time-budget, often limited by their old-school nature of running their business and the corresponding business models, I see a lot of need for innovation and updating for the following industries: Cinema, Opera, Theatre, Musical, smaller Live Concerts (in clubs). — These parts of the entertainment industry better start now as they all hold the keys for customer access to something precious: real-life experiences the digital world can’t provide. Offline and able to offer the touch, smell, and feel of things — hence: Things people (also: customers!) crave intensively.
Yes, there is a lot of future in all this — for those who manage to leave biases behind and are willing to get their hands dirty. Think, e.g., all these immersive pop-up shows that recently started populating big urban centers’ downtowns. A new exhibition genre is reigniting technically worn-out artist IPs, introducing them to new audiences in never before seen ways that adapt well to what audiences are looking for today.
Thus, if you are active in one of the sectors mentioned before and find your project/initiative lacking the recognition you wish to have (money, audience, attention, etc.), chances are good you should update your strategy and adaption to today’s rules of marketing, audience approach and marketplaces. (I did so before and will continue writing about great opportunities for worthwhile futures in your sectors.)
8 A next big thing — immersive shows. If:
Frida Kahlo, Monet, Van Gogh, Klimt, etc. — as mentioned before, there has been an absolute flood of new so-called “immersive” art shows recently across cities of the industrialized world. They are successful for a good reason: In a continuously distracted world, it feels excellent to immerse into just one thing for a while. And while immersed, you can still film or record it with your device while remaining immersed. Nice.
The most significant threat to a bright future of immersive tech might be immersive tech itself. With comparatively cheap technology on hand, there are more and more shows popping up — all asking relatively high prices for relatively short shows. If this trend continues, people could become tired of “the Immersive” before the party has started indeed.
Right now, people are hungry for immersive content that gets them out of the house but still helps them to remain in a bubble: big halls, big pictures, big shows, good friends, and great entertainment.
Nonetheless, keep the quality/price ratio in mind, creators. Don’t get too greedy. A helpful way forward here will be to present unique and exclusive content packaged as a high-quality experience at fair prices.
9 AI has arrived on your desktop. — Can you dig it?
2022 did see two relevant waves of “off the shelf” AI getting in touch with “the common man” (here again, amplified massively thru all sorts of Social and Messenger channels).
In late summer/fall, we saw a bunch of Text-To-Image-Picture generators becoming quite popular (Dall-E, Midjourney, and later in the year, AI-based image “transformer” Lensa App). Then, in December, Open-AI released ChatGPT, a “trained model which interacts in a conversational way,” meaning that for the first time, whoever signs up to Open AIs website can have a conversation with a working AI, get texts generated upon a simple 1-line-request (e.g., “Tell me a story about a tiny dragon flying thru an enchanted forest”) or ask for advice about almost anything. And get useful, comprehensive answers that are correct most of the time.
As so many consumers noticed, this time, people across the creative industries have at least started to take note as well, for real. As a result, the outcry among creatives and creators, long expected by AI industry observers, has finally arrived. Pessimists among them see Pandora’s Box wide open, and even optimists see not just one but at least many Trojan horses inside what they considered to be well-protected walled gardens so far.
Moaning is loud, anxiety in the air: “We all gonna lose our jobs!” — “AI is stealing from artists …” — “AI needs to be banned” — the usual reflexes of people getting disrupted that until recently considered themselves safe from disruption.
A blog post can’t be the place to discuss in detail all potential solutions and challenges to this new chapter in the history of the creative industries. However, the relationship between the creative industries and AI will also warm up over time. (more about this here somewhere in 2023). Nevertheless, it’s sure that AI will continue to change the work environments of artists, creators, and entertainment industry workers on all levels. In the same way, AI changes these things in many, many other industries.
As always, it’s not all doom and gloom like some try to make us believe. On the contrary, I’m rather happy the creative industries finally seem to wake up to the challenges ahead. As a result, chances are good too, e.g., establish some form of “ASCAP for creative designs,” with a corresponding license model that will generate revenue for those designing (or having designed already) taken from those yielding profits from AI.
Also, no AI in the world can take an IP or a design patent away from its owners/creators. — Just sayin … ;-)
In any case: The creative industries, entertainment, and media need to pay the best possible attention to everything happening in the AI space.
Are you still trying to figure out the transformative powers of AI in the media and entertainment industries? Let’s look at Apple’s (and Google’s) most recent offerings to change how we consume (audio) books fundamentally. Their “Digital narration technology” will soon be able to turn every book into an audiobook. No more people’s voices needed, no studios, no scripts. Just a machine digesting a text file into an audio file.
If I had decision-making power within the book publishing industry (especially among the top brass of the leading three publishing conglomerates left standing), I would start land-grabbing all royalty deals for all audio formats imaginable I would be able to get a hold of connected to the worlds leading technology firms and platforms. Now. Because this AI audio train is just about to leave the station. And it will become the Snowpiercer-Polar-Orient-Express for the book publishing industry once it runs at top speed on the open track. Publishers can be either on it, or they will be left behind forever. (And, closely connected to that, we still need to start talking about AI-generated visuals based on text files. You can be sure they are just around the next corner already.)
10 If it can’t happen on your smartphone, it does not happen at all.
Further on, the smartphone continues to establish itself as the primary hub for everyone for everything entertainment.
The smartphone is here to entertain you. You can stream Netflix or whatever platform thru its Apps. It keeps track of your time budget. It’s excellent for gaming. It helps at live events. Be it buying — and carrying! — your tickets. Be it recording your favorite artist on stage once you have arrived at the show.
Smartphones carry our photo collection, our music library, our most beloved TV shows, and an app for the most giant jukebox in the world — YouTube. Our social lives revolve around smartphones — thru messengers, thru social media apps. No selfies without smartphones and the instant opportunity they provide to publish such. Smartphones make each rental car your personal entertainment center thanks to Apple car play or Android Auto. The same applies to long train rides or flights.
In other words: if you are in entertainment & media today and in need of a mobile strategy, you better rush to find one. Otherwise, you and/or your art and/or your company will be non-existing pretty soon. (How did you even make it this far? Let me know via PN, please.)
All the best for 2023!
Note: My previously announced Year-End-Blogpost-Blast “Content Futura 2023 “ had to be partly postponed due to work overload piling up within our companies towards the end of 2022. Therefore, I will finish this series in Q1/2023.