Monday, December 8, 2008

Thoughts on the Looming SAG Strike

Well, if there is one thing noticeable there are a lot more talks about unions, auto workers, door manufacturers and of course entertainment. But let's get to the issue...

New Media. What is it? Let's call a mountain a mountain and call New Media, Internet revenues because that is what this is the Internet and the money that really is already there, though producers are pained to admit. The reason SAG and formerly WGA have been all over this is because they were late to home video revinues. During negotiation in the 80's, unions were asked to wait and see, they did and their members lost money. Now they are being asked to wait and see again and they can't, their membership doesn't want to be late to the table.

As someone who doesn't have a union and does not get any type of residuals on secondary markets, home video or Internet. I believe that SAG, DGA, WGA, AFM and everyone else should get a small piece of the pie or be able to request far larger wages upfront.

The get-around for bigger stars has been to become a producer, regardless of their financial commitment up front. As a negotiation, they receive a producers cut in exchange for their "star power" as well as the SAG/actor's contractual monies.

But there is a bigger issue at hand. There are changes to the business model that are coming. The bell weather signal rang and the studios, distributors, theater owners and retailers know it. The bell rang loud in their music departments. Remember, SONY pictures is also SONY music/Epic/capitol, Warner Bros Film is also Warner Bros. music/Chapel Hill Publishing and so on and so forth. Music as a manufactured commodity is worth net to nothing. This is far removed from even 10 years ago, remeber napster started in 1999, TEN YEARS AGO. This will happen to the DVD market, it is inevitable. Music recorded direct to disc and digital tape first, digital editing, round digital things that you put in players. And the music biz had one thing that the film biz doesn't. Music fans liked holding gatefold artwork! But they gave it up in exchange for price. This will happen to film.

The music biz has yet to regroup into it's obvious new form, live music. The only thing holding it back is that there are too many hanger-ons to the music biz, radio and magazines. Not too long ago, I was listening to an interview with a Rolling Stone critic who actually said his job is too hard now because he doesn't know what is good and that the record companies were a good filter.

OK I'm off on a tangent in a big way.

The point is that there is a money grab here, the revenue stream in growing immensely. I actually watch more Sunday morning political pundit round tables because I can watch one or two live and then the rest streaming (with commercials) I can catch up on that episode of Heroes (with commercials) and it is better faster, for the moment, then their bit torrent rival of the same shows on the free/web arena.

TV is getting close! Films will see their DVD revenue migrate to the Internet sooner than we all may think. It was very sudden for music. And the entertainment unions are smart to figure this all out now than differ for years or decades.

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