I’ve just finished reading an interesting article on the economics of online film reviewing.
If you can’t be arsed to read it (which would be ironic considering its content), the gist of it is that because people are no longer interested in reading full-length film reviews (or anything over 1000 words) there’s no point in paying to generate them. That ‘no point’ refers to the fact that these things cost money and putting them up online is simply an exercise in losing that money.
But shouldn’t we live in a world where in-depth film reviewing is a valid, valuable pursuit?
This is where the world ‘should’ reveals its true colours as being essentially meaningless unless it’s attached to a logical context (eg: ‘if you want to be clean you should have a bath’; not ‘I’ve been out of work so long I should have a job by now’). But whatever world we think we ‘should’ live in, we don’t (yet); we live in the world our actions have created, so unless we all suddenly start preferring 1000 carefully chosen words analysing the themes of education vs instinct in Blue Is The Warmest Colour to 25 things I saw in Grown-Ups 2 that I can’t unsee, we’ll be getting a lot more of the latter and the former will wither and die.
Of course, this all comes down the financial imperative that seems to drive most things today. If those sites are the sole source of income for somebody then the need to make money out of them is inextricably linked to their very existence, and who are we to say what should or shouldn’t be on them? There are colossal reviews of all films that come out in the UK in Sight and Sound, so it’s not as if the needs of the devoted movie buff lie unserved, but they exist only as a result of sufficient interest to make them economically viable.
Or, as with this blog, you can write for the pure pleasure of it and the response it generates. In case anyone thinks I make money from this, let me now officially disabuse you of that notion, but I believe it has brought me indirect financial benefits that were not planned or courted. So I continue to do it because I think it makes me a better writer and CD, allowing me to discuss all sorts of issues that would otherwise remain inside my brain. But lucky me and my day job.
So what this really comes down to is the need to patronise the things you’d like to continue. Illegal downloads may not kill the movie industry right now, but they have compromised its financial benefits and by extension its ability to take risks that might have delighted us. The ‘disappearing middle‘ is where the good movies emanate from, but studios are no longer willing to back those horses. Do the meagre royalties of Spotify screw the ability of a new band to get a recording contract, or compromise the inclination of an established artist to do something more experimental? Does it matter? Were musicians on too much money in the old days of three decent tracks and seven shit ones on one £13.99 CD, the current situation being a rebalancing to where things ‘ought’ to be?
As I’m fond of saying, there’s no right or wrong here; just the workability of financing the things you love so that there are more of them. If you don’t want to subsidise the creation of something don’t be surprised when it disappears, or ends up flashing its knickers on Kickstarter.