There's a lot of money in the entertainment world. Movies, in particular, can be powerhouses, generating hundreds of jobs and costing several million dollars with blockbusters pushing 100 to 200 million to make. These hit the theater and require a set number of people to see them in order to make the investment worthwhile. When they don't, the criticisms get pretty intense up to and including ruining a director or actor's career in the process.
The same holds true with music. The business side requires a lot of an artist. They have to be aesthetically pleasing to look at and if they don't have a gimmick, then forget about it. Do they stand up there and play a guitar with a scruffy beard and a flannel shirt? Not enough anymore, get your ass to the coffee shop. Without an extreme quirkiness or something to make an artist stand out, they're not marketable.
Books are in a crazy position as well. A recent statistic I read, that doesn't include ebooks, stated that 3500 books are published A DAY in America. The big publishers don't have time for all that. You submit to one of them, you're waiting for 7 to 8 months just to hear if you're rejected or not. It's not like they immediately start working on it as soon as they decide they want it. Hell, they might have only taken 3 chapters and you could wait additional months for them to approve the whole thing.
Here's a single line that sums up the 'big business' of entertainment: tried & true.
Music trends so the big business stuff tends to be right along the line of what you've already heard. There are exceptions (to everything, I'll address those), but for the most part, you're going to get more of the same because it sells and it's safe. Movies are the biggest concern because they cost the most.
I'm not putting 10 million toward your movie about iguana people farming in Montana as the youngest enters an interspecies dating with a capuchin monkey from the wrong side of the tracks all while aliens descend on the planet
and open aerial flower stands for the poor. However, if you instead decided to put Zac Efron with Jennifer Lawrence in a coming of age romance set in Georgia, we could talk. I might not make billions but chances are good we'll see a ROI.
Books are a little safer from this, especially 'fiction'. They can be about all kinds of crazy shit but they are NOT the big sellers. Yeah, a few might make Oprah's list but for the most part, they flounder in reader's groups, book clubs and libraries.
Many of these authors do not write a second book (and maybe that's okay, maybe they only had one in them).
Where's it at?
I guess that depends on what you want. Do you want to be a millionaire from your writing/filmmaking/music? Then get lucky, get in line and find a way to work for the next comic movie. If on the other hand, you are more committed to originality, storytelling or unique sound, chances are very good you need to be working independently.
Independent products still have heart.
They are the creation of an artist, not a collective or a manufactured group of individuals doing as they're told. These are people following their bliss and their muse, creating what they feel is good. The end result may lack the polish of those big business counterparts, it might have flaws, it may not be 'perfect' but what it lacks in finish, it makes up for in spirit.
Independent products are controlled by the creator.
This is bigger than you think. Remember the time you wanted to provide some feedback for something you loved? Remember having absolutely NO way to reach the creator? Layers of bureaucracy and red tape stood between you and
conveying your point. Independent artists are right there and while I'm not saying this is your license to be a dick to them, it is an opportunity for you to give constructive opinions straight to the source. This is fantastic for consumers and artists alike. We don't live in vacuums this way.
Independent products can still be original.
We're not bound by the 'rules' of finance and the manufactured direction of whatever our medium suggests. Our stories can be unique, our music doesn't follow any trend but what WE decide and our work can be totally off the wall. This doesn't always work but what it does do is provide an avenue for people tired of what's trending, those starving for something new. The reason I say we CAN be original is that clearly, we aren't always--just like mainstream artists, we're influenced but
chances are better that without barriers, we're going to do something new.
Independent products can come out faster.
Without the red tape, the bureaucracy and the corporation telling us anything, our work can be released faster and provided at whatever price point a market can handle. This is a blessing and a curse and sometimes the work may be even less
polished than others but more often, it can be a great thing. Imagine as a reader knowing your favorite book series won't be releasing another title for TWO YEARS? How about the independent author who produces his books every 8 months? What a difference. (I'm looking at you Dune! )
There are cons to this, of course. I mentioned most of them above but there are some other things to take into consideration. A lower quality product may reach your hands above higher quality goods because the less talented person
may be a marketing genius. Furthermore, what works for one person may not work at all for another. There's a lot of saturation. Getting your work in front of someone is tough. Getting them to read it/listen to it/enjoy it, even tougher. We have to be passably good at more than ever before. Ultimately, every little thing counts.
I have found myself loving independent work. The movies are engaging and jarring because they don't always follow standardized pacing. They feel like watching films from the old days when people were experimenting and pushing the
boundaries. They let people work who might not fit the Hollywood mold. They lay off on the special effects and try to do things creatively--not tossing a PC at it and hoping for the best.
The video games are quirky and different. They can be as crazy as Goat Simulator or provide a semi-role play/life simulator experience like Sometimes Always Monsters. Publishers can create with community involvement and receive instant feedback for their efforts. They can go as crazy as they want with advertisements and offer a variety of special features based on sales or fan assistance.
Music can be unexpected and different. Genres long thought gone can resurface and catalogs can last much longer. Digital music is easier to get and share with fans at shows. Podcasts, You Tube & other feeds allows people to share music across the world when they might not have been able to leave their state before.
Most people have access to FREE creation tools which are VASTLY superior to what professionals had thirty years ago. My music studio probably cost me a grand total of around $5,500 and it's much better than the stuff I used in my twenties that cost the studio $20,000. We can advertise anyway we want and have a million avenues to show our work. There's room for everything if you're willing to make it happen.
That, unto itself, is the best part about independent entertainment. Anyone can create and those willing to seek it out, can enjoy a labor of love. I firmly believe in this form of art and encourage it to grow. There are thousands of resources available and I'll start compiling them into a list of links. If you're an artist and have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them. If you're a
consumer and there's something you want, I'd love to hear that too.
Perhaps putting together demand and talent is the way to go...I'll discuss that more later. But for now, here are a couple of
exceptions to the originality rule:
Inception (Cristopher Nolan can do unique and it's still polished & paced like we'd expect)
Bioshock Infinite (You could argue that the game play isn't all THAT unique I guess but the whole package is)
Assassin's Creed IV (Yeah, the game play is the same as its predecessors but the story and some new conventions make
this a unique experience)
Oblivion (The Tom Cruise movie. Maybe I don't know where else I saw it from but I loved the twist of this plot)
I'm sure there are more. I encourage you to let me know and I'll add them to the list. In any event, independent stuff rocks. Engage more of it!
Author of several books, composer of several CDs. Please check out the rest of the site for some of my work.