Technology has reshuffled the deck when it comes to entertainment and other industries in our world. It is restructuring many industries and putting millions of people out of work. When we were kids we were told that robots would someday replace men. That day is here, but we are not being replaced by robots, but by microchips.
There is no doubt that technology has played a significant role in the decline of the music industry. Streaming is undoubtedly the future of music and an acceptable compensation plan will not be devised in time to save the major labels. In short, 5 maybe ten years at the most, NOBODY will be paying for individual music. It will be a prix fixed menu for everyone. You will be able to listen to whatever you want, for the same monthly charge. If you use Spotify or Pandora you can essentially do it now.
The publishing industry has hit the skids as well. Barnes & Noble is in serious financial trouble. I remember seeing a quote from their CEO about five or six years ago, as the E-book was coming onto the scene. He said he did not feel threatened by the E-Book. He felt that “the customers’ experience of browsing in a book store is an essential part of the industry and cannot be replaced”. I screamed when I read this. I remembered seeing a very similar quote from key record retailers. Wasn’t this guy paying attention! So, we can basically say goodby to B&N and eventually all book stores. Books will either be purchased digitally or through Amazon.
The education industry is about to go through its own traumatic period in the near future. Why? Because of MOOCs. A Mooc is a Massive Open Online Course. Essentially, anyone will be able to take an online course from some of the greatest universities in the world and receive credit. At a time when people are questioning the value of a college education a change in the paradigm along these lines will be catastrophic. There will be fewer teachers, less brick and mortar colleges, less school in general, no libraries and the list goes on and on. Millions of jobs will be lost.
Even professional sports will not be immune to the digital age. Ticket sales have started to decline sharply in the last year or two. Essentially HDTV is to sports, what Napster was to the music industry. People are opting to stay home and watch sporting events in the comfort of their own home in front of their 60 inch screen. In order to see the game in the same perspective you would need to pay $300 or more for a ticket. By staying at home you don’t have to spend $1000 to attend the game, deal with traffic, parking, drunks, cold weather, hot weather, souvenirs, tolls, gas and of course food. At home, the food is better and you can always take a nap if the game is boring.
Just tune into a baseball game this month. There is nobody there. The Yankees did not sell out for the playoffs last year. When was the last time that happened? The Jets and Giants are not sold out. The Spurs and Lakers did not sell out their playoff game earlier this week. We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg. The question is, will the owners be able to pay players the outrageous salaries they are demanding, when they are drawing 15,000 people to a game instead of 50,000. Whose is going to be the first owner to offer a superstar $2,000,000 instead of $20,00,000 a year for his new contract. Ticket prices are way too high. Most teams have dropped the price of the tickets, but it hasn’t helped. Season ticket sales are way down and the secondary ticket market (walk-up and team ticket exchanges) is essentially non-existent. The best strategy is to wait until the day of a game and go on stub hub to buy a ticket for a fraction of the face value.
The movie industry is not exempt either. Movie distribution is about to undergo some major changes. A friend of mine who is a nurse decided to opt out of the Operating Room, because she was tired of hearing doctors complain about how much money they don’t make. Lawyers are struggling (I am not losing sleep over this) . With the exception of some financial institutions, practically every industry is suffering. If you look at the roots, technology is a major factor in almost every case.
So our brilliance has essentially brought us to where we are now. We have spent centuries developing the “Grand Design”. It is about to all fall apart. The question is, how will all the people that are being put out of work find a way to make a living. Will the standard of living in this country decline sharply? Will the chasm between the “Haves and Have Nots” get larger. There is little doubt that there will be less “Haves” in the not too distant future. Couple this with the fact that we live in a carbon-based/fossil fueled economy that will need to be re-invented eventually and you have the whole picture.
We are essentially wiping the blackboard (white board for those under 45) clean and starting all over again. Hang on to your hats.