A Literacy of the Imagination

a deeper look at innovation through the lenses of media, technology, venture investment and hyperculture

When does a market value get attached to art, if at all? #ConvergenceCulture #OurMediaFuture cc: @BrendanHowley @StephenDinehart

I’ve appropriated this exchange between my colleagues Brett Heard and Brendan Howley of Fresh Baked Entertainment in Toronto as a follow-up to my last piece on Developing Open Narrative Frameworks. And of course, I’m terribly relieved to not have to actually write a post from scratch... There’s nothing like promoting the words of others in a mutually beneficial way ;)

Anyway, I thought there were some very sage insights expressed in these excerpts, and some interesting examples of how our media and technology evolution has come full circle in many respects. Further, what we face are cultural challenges (necessitating the need for cultural solutions), above and beyond anything else.

**First, from Brett:

"When does a market value get attached to art, if at all?"

There is art, and then there is applied art. All artists decide if they want to be pure artists, meaning there is no monetary consideration in creating their art pieces, but the art pieces can still be sold after the creation, but are uninfluenced by the patron's wishes.

The other option is applied arts. Artists apply their artistic talents to a business transaction. Many artists do both pure art and applied art.

When does a market value get attached to art, if at all? #ConvergenceCulture #OurMediaFuture cc: @BrendanHowley @StephenDinehart

[image provided by Ads of the World]

There are varying degrees of applied arts where some are more business oriented than others. My wife is an art director for large ad agencies. That's about as "business side" of applied arts as you can get. Us comics are on the opposite end of that spectrum. Still applied art, but as close to pure art as you can get, given the freedom we have with what we choose to put on stage. When we do it at the Rivoli for no money, it is pure art. But when we do it at the Laugh Resort or Second City for a salary it is applied art, but one of the freest versions of applied art.

A far less free version of applied art is the television writer. Movie writers have a little more freedom, and spec screenplay writers have even more.

"Now what does the new paradigm look like to you?"

When does a market value get attached to art, if at all? #ConvergenceCulture #OurMediaFuture cc: @BrendanHowley @StephenDinehart

We are less than a year away from all of us having as much access to people's living room television screens as networks have. In fact, we will have more access than they've ever had because we will have access to every television in the world. No broadcast license or broadcasting equipment or deal with cable companies needed. This is why the CRTC is obsolete.

Branded entertainment is going to be a huge player in the new paradigm. Client direct is going to be a new and exciting path. Television entertainment is going to break down into niche markets. People can get whatever they want now, they don't have to just watch what three networks or even 90 networks have to offer. There will be millions and millions of networks. I haven't decided what to call mine yet.

It's true that there's not much point complaining about the old system now. Those are the problems of the past, and the present (sigh) but not the problems of the future. That old system will die an ugly death in denial to the end. And I'll not be attending the memorial service.

**... And from Brendan:

My answer is short and personal: I have a very small vanity project, a thriller set in Toronto's Chinatown. I am microfinancing its production and while there's a strong CBC connection, I doubt there'll be much broadcast interest: it's political and tough... which is why it's being microfinanced. It'll give the creative team the freedom that only serial writers in the UK and a very few US and Brit feature filmwriters now have: “to speak truth to power”, as the Quakers say.

I'm certain that in the near future the vast proportion of filmed entertainment will be made this way and that a pay-per-view business model will apply to web feature and episodic content: the cable TV model. It's inevitable. Question is: who're the gatekeepers and who's gonna control the technology?

When does a market value get attached to art, if at all? #ConvergenceCulture #OurMediaFuture cc: @BrendanHowley @StephenDinehart

Hence my two-fold passion for microfinance and to build platforms: it's the tech that ensures market share---the iPhone and iPad being the obvious examples but NewTeeVee daily tells the same story.

My sense is that, within a very short time, the current broadcast model will work for sports and maybe news...the instant 'feed' material we demand very high production values for. 

And not much else.

On the feature side, the marketplace is already disintermediated. It's exceedingly difficult (odds well over 100:1) to get a big budget film made now. The marketing costs aren't coming down because there's a collision between the real solution (open source sharing of material with one's audience) and copyright...and Jobs is only delaying the inevitable. 

It's even more difficult to fund mid-budget features. Try getting a $40M film made in Hollywood. I know this because I talk to the producers there who're trying to get 'em made.

The drive is all to the other end of the spectrum: a solid hit for >$10mn upfront. And with the right material and the right tech and the right marketing...it's happening. Kickstarter and Hulikai are just the beginning... Jawbone.tv is now running stories about this business model weekly. It ain't even news anymore: it's reality. The studios---just like the music conglomerates before them and orthodox ad/marketing/media companies now---are teetering on the verge of an entirely new business model that looks a lot like organizational suicide. (They'll survive. But it won't be because they innovated fast enough, e.g. VW's GTI iPhone app to launch the new model.)

The precursor? The recording industry in the 1950s, when dozens of tiny studios (Chess, Atlantic, Sun) discovered this thing called Rock 'n' Roll (R&B that went white, really) and took it international. The mass distribution of the transistor radio (the 1950s version of social media) then drove a global audience.

When does a market value get attached to art, if at all? #ConvergenceCulture #OurMediaFuture cc: @BrendanHowley @StephenDinehart

Point is, there are billions of networks already: social networks are still expanding exponentially and creating a daily (soon to be hourly) tsunami of content and the really intimate interactivity---on mobile, in real time---hasn't even started yet.

We have the business model on the table in front of us in Sarah Polley's project: a brand, a superb piece of entertainment (art, I'd argue), and the ability to get right in the decision wheelhouse of the audience via high engagement, sustainable social networks---well before the film's debut.

Here comes the reality check for us: the revolution of rising expectations will sweep away mediocrity. There'll be so much personal, great stuff that the so-so will vanish in a mouseclick. Quality of concept, execution and sheer power of engagement---in social media, everything is a cause, people---will do its timeless 'pull' thing. 

But the real killer is sustainability. 

How does one create a sustainable business around this emerging reality?

I'll say it again: the answer is where brands (the bank and the audience) meet networking theory (how to optimize audience via social media and mobile) meets gaming theory (how to create long running, sustainable episodic entertainment for that audience). 

That's how. And we're already there. Now we have to execute to world-class standards.