Hollywood, show business, call it what you will, it has lured millions of hopefuls and dreamers for well over a century now. Given its promises of fame, glamour and fortune, who wouldn’t want to work in entertainment?
Unfortunately, that cliché also suggests that dreams of entertainment success are almost always destined to fail, that there is no point in dreaming and that most aspiring actors, filmmakers, musicians, directors and producers would be better off getting a ‘proper’ job. However, with the advent of new technologies, it really does seem increasingly realistic to consider a role in the entertainment industry, even with minimal start-up resources. So is it true, can technology really help even the newbies find a place in the entertainment world?
Entertainment is a huge industry in the US, and is increasingly dominated by technology. As a result, large media and entertainment companies are key investors in technological innovation. Yet while technology has allowed entertainment companies to increase their profits, it has also generated threats to their welfare.
The US film industry generated $31 billion in 2013, an increase on the previous year’s revenues, and the US domestic box office alone generated $10.7 billion. Clearly, there is strong demand for films, and the film companies are becoming increasingly reliant on digital means of production and distribution. Not only does this increase the quality of output and innate efficiency of the industry within the US, it also generates further opportunities to profit, as US-based digital expertise is much sought after by foreign entertainment firms.
However, alongside this pleasing growth, the film industry is plagued by illegal downloads and unauthorized distribution that result directly from the very technology that powers it.
With US music incomes having dipped somewhat since 2008, the industry rallied in 2013 to make $15.1 billion, an increase on 2012’s figures. The music industry is now heavily tech-based, with digital production and high quality, low cost recording and distribution being the norm. Although big media companies, such as Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group, still dominate the recorded music industry, the US has a large and thriving independent sector, and the easy availability of digital recording and distribution makes this ripe for growth.
On the flip side, illegal music downloads and file sharing are the bane of the music industry and incredibly difficult to police.
Few industries are as tech-driven as gaming, and this has been particularly marked in recent years. The combined revenues from entertainment software expanded by 10% between 2005 and 2009, reaching $10.5 billion. This sector employs more than 120,000 people either directly or indirectly, and has heavy overlaps with the film and music sectors.
Like film and music, the gaming industry is susceptible to copying and illegal distribution of its products, but in reality this occurs to a much lesser extent in the gaming sector than elsewhere.
Room for any more?
While the entertainment industry is clearly doing well, the question for would-be entrepreneurs or employees is simple – is it saturated, or is there room for new entrants? The answer would appear to be ‘yes’, based on the facts that (a) revenues seem to be on a generally upward trend, suggesting a continued, if not increasing, demand for products and (b) modern technology makes it easier and more affordable than ever for those wishing to enter these sectors to equip themselves with essential skills and resources.
For example, those wishing to enter the gaming, animation or CG sectors can now access motion capture animation software, which is a key resource, easily and for relatively little cost. Indeed, the advent of open source gaming has opened the way for virtually everybody to become a game designer or developer, and thus to threaten established providers, but the extent to which this will become a reality has yet to be seen. Would-be musicians can, quite literally, establish a music studio and publishing hub in their own kitchen using consumer-level recording tech and online distribution. Aspiring filmmakers can achieve that goal with a standard hand-held digital camera, or even – at a push – a smartphone.
What of the future?
Whether any of this accessibility will lead to the development of an indie entertainment sector that genuinely challenges the dominant corporations, has yet to be seen: it seems unlikely in the short term, but the democratization of entertainment via technology is growing. Will the big corporations still dominate the industry in ten years’ time, or by an assortment of indie set-ups at various stages of development? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure – now is a great time to be getting involved.