Technology changes everything, or so it seems. From health, to the military, to education, technology’s evolutionary footprint is evident. Entertainment has not gone untouched either. Music, gaming, film, books, television have all been influenced by the transformative and disruptive power of technology.
Historically, the entertainment industry was driven by creativity and popular culture or pop culture whereas today technology seems to be the catalyst that creates or destroys various entertainment industry paradigms. To understand better the impact technology has had on entertainment so far and possibly more so in the future, let’s briefly examine from a basic perspective the role technology has played in the five major aspects of entertainment.
Ideas are the crucible within which entertainment is forged. Ideas drive the initiatives that drive entertainment. Gaming came as an idea and today, the gaming industry is as tremendous as it is pervasive. Today, the concept of entertainment is so abstract, it’s all but impossible to define what entertainment is. You may have figured out what is behind the abstraction of the term entertainment: technology.
While in the pre-technologically advanced days the number and types of entertainment were fairly limited, today you will find a myriad of types of entertainment. For instance, who knew shooting birds from a catapult would qualify as a form of entertainment? How about holding a small piece of equipment and playing virtual tennis or golf? The definition of entertainment has been stretched and skewed to the point where it’s only true definition lies in the individual preferences we all have.
Entertainment production has also significantly changed over the years. Music production is one such aspect of entertainment that has been changed completely. In the past, music production was a labor of creativity and a bunch of instruments and a mess of very expensive recording equipment. Today through sophisticated technology, almost anyone can become a music producer. In film making, reels upon reels of film were used, cameras and all manner of contraptions.
The film industry employed thousands of extras and film crew. Today, with one person operating an HD camera, the three others needed to help with the older cameras are gone. The hundreds of extras hired in movies like Ben Hur are now replaced by CGI (computer generated images) and you have studios such as Pixar that are wholly dedicated to creating fully computer generated movies (they only employ the on-screen voice talent). The list of the number of ways technology has changed entertainment production goes on.
In the past, the really important talents required in entertainment were singing, acting, writing and so on. Today, the talents in higher demand are programmers, content optimizers, IT gurus, editors, social media experts, web specialists, and so on. Hollywood today employs a huge number of technology related talent to drive its technology needs. Studios are no longer just places for camera men, directors and actors but a whole bunch of tech savvy talent has found its way into the production houses.
The digitization of entertainment has been a disruptive technology by any definition. CD sales, for instance, brought recording companies billions of dollars annually one or two decades ago. Today, CD sales have fallen so precipitously, they no longer contribute anything significant to the bottom line of most media houses. Newspapers and other print publications is another niche within entertainment that has been hard hit by technology.
Today you have legacy publications like Newsweek going purely digital while many others struggle to keep sales moving for their print publications. They are all investing heavily in digital distribution. Movies are also seeing the sunset of the DVD and cinema box office business model as technology pushes more immediate forms of distribution such as on-demand streaming and digital downloads. As a whole, the distribution model of the entertainment industry has been upended for good.
Finally, the media and access-points users use to access entertainment have been on an evolutionary cycle of their own. It started with live shows that included music concerts, operas, plays, and the likes. The cinema then came into being with moving pictures followed shortly by the silver screen. TV has managed to remain unchanged for very many years aside from evolving slowly but no truly disruptive technology has yet unseated it from its throne.
That is not to say it does not share that throne. Today the second screen is rising in preeminence. Mobile and tablet media access is on the rise and there seems to be no slowing down just yet. People watch movies and play games on mobile and tablet devices almost as much as they do on traditional media access points like TV and game consoles. The merging of all these access points into a single experience will see entertainment cease to be a commodity but an experience that people pay to access across various media.