Digital Media Distribution, Final Project Proposal

Digital Distribution

Viacom's CEO famously said "Content Is King" in the media industry. These past 5 years or so have been full of great evidence against this notion. As digital media distribution becomes better developed, traditional content owning media companies like the major record labels and TV networks are fighting with small startups who are either controlling their content online or making profits by distributing large amounts of Indie content.

I think distribution will be king in the near future if it already isn't right now. It's only a matter of time before networks and labels will be forced to contract with YouTubes, Joosts and Music distribution platforms and then offer DRM free content. There is a huge revolt among these traditional companies because of "content sharing" and because they are unwilling to adapt to the changing form of media vehicles. I think it's inevitable that much of their content will be online and will be viewed by an audience interested in getting it "on demand" and for a cheaper price than they do now.

More people listen to music and watch video than every before in history. There must be a way to monetize all this media consumption. In my project I will address the issues that I think are at the heart of this changing media milieu:

1.) Piracy: It's not about legality or morality, not about making sure that artists are paid. It will continue unless media companies make compromise. Possible dissolution of record labels followed by independent digital publishing.
2.) Digital Formatting and DRM. HD-DVD against Blu Ray to Steve Jobs and the major record labels.
3.) Media Search engines vs Centralized media hosting. YouTube vs BrightCove. Will content owners distribute their own media or feature it on aggregators?

My project will focus heavily on companies and their business models because I don't think media distribution will change unless companies offer satisfactory services. Although I'd like to think that Indie content will get noticed and consumed without the help of well financed industry trend setters, I think this is mostly just a pipe-dream.

Let me know if I've forgotten anything interesting about digital media that I should include in my project. In short, what does the class think about piracy? Why would you prefer YouTube over individual artists hosting their own content or vice versa? Anything you guys think I might not have heard before? Thanks.

Neat idea! I am somewhat interested in going into marketing, but anyway, one of the marketing firms in L.A., Fanscape, specializes in grassroots campaigns. Check it out! Look under the 'methods' tab on the main page . . . it's under grassroots/viral. (And by the way, I think the term 'viral' is a really interesting term to use to describe advertising and marketing intentions, hmmm.

I just thought this might be an interesting thing to look at, just to see what corporations are doing to approach underground trends and artists.

Have fun!

You've got a lot going on in this project, all of which is of vital importance for the future of digital media. You'll want, of course, to take a look at the work that's being done by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and by Larry Lessig's Creative Commons, in terms of attempting to think through new models for intellectual property in the digital age. You'll also want to take a look at the writing (mostly in the blogosphere) about the recent attempts of labels and television networks to counter piracy not through punitive DMCA measures but instead through either creating content that consumers still want to buy (special tracks on CDs, for instance, that don't appear on online versions of albums) or by beginning their own network distribution mechanisms (streaming TV shows from ABC, for instance). While these measures seem as though they're making more material more available, there remains a question of the kind of effect they're going to have on indie media. I'll look forward to seeing how your focus narrows as you continue your investigation, and which direction you'll want to take this in.

This stuff interests me like no other. I can't wait.

You're probably already covering enough, but if you want another field, guitar tabs certainly relate. For those who don't play the guitar, tabs are a simplified form of sheet music. Some tabs have complex solos written out note for note, others are just a series of chords. There is a huge industry of free guitar tab websites -- users listen to songs, figure out the tab, and submit it to the site, which hosts it for all to see (paid for by advertising). This past summer, the US Music Publishers Association (MPA) started to attack these sites for copyright violations. I was made aware of this all by a good friend of mine Rob Balch who made his living creating and running a very popular guitar tab website. He has since shut it down under pressure from the MPA and has instead started It's obvious that free online tabs drive the MPA out of business, as the MPA makes its money by selling books of sheet music after buying the rights from the artists. What's not obvious is who has the rights to begin with. If a tab is as simple as a series of chords -- "A E A D" for example -- can anyone really have that copyright? After all, that simple progression is used in thousands of songs. Rob asked an MPA executive the following line of questioning: If I was listening to Led Zepplin and figured out how to play one of their songs, have I violated any copyright? When I'm hanging out a friend later that day and I show him how to play it, have I violated any copyright? If I write it down on a napkin and give it to that friend to help him remember, have I violated any copyright? If I email that friend to show him how to play it, have I violated any copyright? If I send that email to 2 people, have I? 20 people? 100 people? Everyone connected to the internet? I think you get the point. The MPA guy kept saying, "no, I guess there's nothing wrong with that" up until the email to 2 people question, at which point the exec said he had to go to a meeting and hung up. These tabs are just one example of conflict between New Media and traditional ideas of copyright.

It looks like EMI and Jobs will announce a DRM-free deal tomorrow -- this will certainly apply to your project.

Yay! Someone tacking the issue of copyright in the new media world! I think this is an incredibly important issue, especially as someone who creates media content. We really need to figure all this stuff out; clearly the major copyright holders are making things miserable for everyone involved. How much of a revision in copyright structure do you think needs to take place? I play with the idea sometimes that we might need to tear everything down and re-do it but I haven't had a lot of time to rationalize it. If people have to pay for access and whatnot, can you really have a truly hyper and collaborative media? It seems like you would then be perpetuating a system of economic power that isn't very hyper and postmodern. Also; hasn't a centralized content ownership system already bred corruption and stifled innovation? I am very curious to see how you address these questions in your project and look forward to reading it.