Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Do Composers have a Future?

The consensus in the hive mind is that ideas are nothing. Implementation is everything.

This attitude obviously comes into conflict with laws created by people who believe that a person can own an idea.

Short rant:
Seriously? When I first read about Patent and Copyright law at the tender age of 9, (what a freakin' precocious kid!) I thought I misunderstood. I asked adults about it and read everything I could find. It was stunning to me that somehow people went along with the private ownership of ideas.
End Rant.

I believe existing copyright law will become irrelevant in the near future. New creators are simply opting out of the existing licensing structures and selling their wares pretty much directly to the customer. The 35-year Termination Rights clause starts kicking in 2013 and we'll probably see the power of the  record labels decline even more rapidly at that point.

Please don't think that I'm encouraging anyone to break our current copyright laws. I'm the guy who's always annoying the Creatives with Rights and Clearances issues. "Did you license that font?" "Who's the rights holder for that photo?"

I suspect that by the time we ring in 2015 many popular new creators will be deploying content outside the current licensing systems. And the RIAA ("Recording Industry Association of America" the music label association), MPAA ("Motion Picture Association of America," the movie industry organization), and the PROs (Performance Rights Organizations) will not have enough operating funds to pursue enforcement of today's licenses.

I'm actually fine with most of this. Everything in entertainment production is going to get a lot cheaper. Right now, LA simply can't produce content for online distribution because of licensing and union contracts. And they can't compete against the next generation of content producers who choose to operate without that licensing safety net. Today's budgets for cheap reality TV will seem like fortunes compared to what these new shows are going to spend.

But the bottom line is that I think lots of people are going to have great careers in this new cheaper world. Not the million-dollar-an-episode sort of job, but realistic jobs where you can take care of your family and have a nice house.

Except composers and writers.
In a world where ideas are nothing, how do we pay the idea people?
Will it even be possible to someone to have a full-time job doing only composing?
This possibility troubles me because when I was a wee nerd, I hoped to be a composer.

But the end may already be here.
I just don't use rights-managed music, video or photos in my productions. Ever.
Because of low budgets, online distribution and the Creative Commons, I simply cannot do it.
But I'm all in favor of commissioning original works.

And that might be the model of the future:
Actually pay people for their work up front.
It seems a lot more fair than enticing them with dream of hitting the lottery if your work gets used in a syndicated TV show.
Can you imagine? Salaried composers for film and video! I think that's way cooler than the current model.

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