Quantity and quality in the entertainment industry

While reading this post at Techdirt about a starting decline in DVD sales, I was thinking about quality and quantity…

We get more and more music and movies released these days than ever.  But most of them suck.  Most of them suck so badly, that nobody cares about them.  If I’m bored and I have plenty of time on my hands, I’ll watch a movie.  It’ll help me kill a couple of hours.  If that movie sucked or if it didn’t left anything for me to reflect on, I’ll grab the next film from the top of the pile and I’ll watch it.  And then the next.  And then the next.  A couple of years ago I had a period of time when I was watching 4-5 movies a day.  (I had a lot of time on my hands, and I had a friendly DVD rental right next to my apartment).

If in my crusade to burn free time I stumbled upon a good movie, my behavior changed totally.  After watching a good movie, I’d need some time alone to “sink” it into my brain.  To think about it.  Then, I’d go on the web to read more about the movie and people involved.  That can range anywhere from actors biographies and filmographies (most IMDB pages) to movie mitakes and trivia. I’d often feel the need to discuss the movie with other people, read other people’s reviews, blog about it, and, eventually watch the same movie a few more times.  I’d have no problem buying a DVD (bonus materials anyone?).  I’d be more inclined towards investigating and watching films with the same actors, of the same director, producer, screenwriter, etc.  I’ll even go to the movies.

Something similar happens with music.  I’d get an mp3 from the web.  If I didn’t like it particularly, I’d get another one.  If I liked it though, I’d get an album. If the album was any good, I’ll get the discography.  I’ll try to get my hands on live performances.  Videos are very welcome too.  And posters.  And interviews.  And I’ll listen to the music several more times.  Then I’ll learn the lyrics.  Then I’ll listen some more.  If I get a chance to go to the concert, I won’t miss the opportunity.  I’ll blog about it.  I’ll talk about it with people I know…

Now, back to the quantity vs. quality.  Producing a good piece of entertainment, be that music, movie, or anything else, is hard.  Everybody knows that, and I’m not an exception.  It takes time, money, dedication, and talent.  Mass producing crap seems simpler.  However, when applied over huge numbers (think globalization), is it still so?  Is it really easier to keep up with the demand for entertainment by  producing, distributing, and advertising crap?  I don’t know for sure, but I have my doubts.  Why?

Because of two points:

  1. Anybody can produce crap.  Seriously, how hard can that be?  Even I can do it.  I know, because I did. (and still do sometimes)
  2. The lower goes the quality, the harder it is to see the difference.  How much one crappy movie was worser than another crappy movie?  Nobody cares?  Both of them weren’t worth the time and money the spectator spent on them.  That’s as bad as it can go.

Content is getting easier and cheaper to produce.  Mobile phones had built-in photo cameras for years.  Most of them can record video now too.   And sound.  Semi-professional equipment is getting cheaper too (think camcorders, DSLRs, etc).  Software and hardware is getting more and more powerful, closing up the gap between a personal computer and a rendering cluster.  More and more people are getting connected to the Web.  More and more content sharing web sites are coming up (YouTube, Google Video, Flickr, PBase, etc).

I think the competition in crap producing is getting tougher and tougher because everyone and their brother can do it now.  The quality stuff, on the other hand, is something completely different…

2 thoughts on “Quantity and quality in the entertainment industry”

  1. I would extend your idea about “something completely different” saying that once upon a time there was a concept that at a certain point the increase in quantity may turn out into a qualitative breakthrough. Or, in simple words, the tons of crap could serve like a fertiliser for the richer soil on which the flowers of true art might blossom one day…

    However, it seems that the roots of the blossoming arts still origin from some other, rather outer soils.

  2. Lana,

    the moving breakpoint between quantity and quality is very similar to the one of good and evil… it happens all the time with sides taking turns in winning the battles, but the war is with no end. And there isn’t much we can do. :)

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