Dear Entertainment Industry,
We need to talk.
You're not going to like what I have to say, but we've been avoiding this discussion for too long. I get the feeling that no matter what I do, you still don't seem to listen. It's almost like you don't care. And that hurts.
Sure, we've had an on and off relationship over the years. I know I've hurt you in the past. I know you're still not over that Napster thing, but come on…I was young! Everybody was doing it! Won't you ever find it in your heart to forgive me? After all, I've been pretty faithful with my dollars ever since those crazy days. Just check my iTunes receipts!
Oh, Entertainment Industry, you've always been there for me. From singing along with the radio on family car trips to Saturday morning cartoons to the first LP I bought as a teenager (Styx, "Paradise Theater." I know! I'm blushing, too!) all the way to the first time I downloaded an MP3 into my iPod. I've always been able to count on you to make me laugh, make me cry, and make me feel, well…entertained!
But lately you seem distracted. We used to be so close, but now I feel like you're holding me at arms-length.
I don't really know what happened. Maybe you didn't like it when I got that TiVo and started to take a little bit of control of our relationship. Or maybe it was when I stopped buying albums and started buying songs individually without having to pay for all that other crap you like to sneak in there to pad things out.
Things started to go wrong when that Internet thing came along. I know…it's kinda scary. It's a new thing, and if there's one thing I've learned over the years it's that you don't like new things!
But did you have to act so mean?
First it was the lawyers. Did you really have to treat all those folks so badly? Maybe they weren't always playing by the rules, but you certainly didn't seem all that interested in working things out like you did in the past. After all, even after that dustup over home taping in the '80s, things got back to normal. We managed to work it out then. Why can't we work it out now?
I guess what's really bothering me is how you've gotten so combative. We used to get along but now you're always like "What about me? What about my needs?" You always want things to be your way and frankly I don't feel like you care about my needs anymore. I've gotten pretty tired of having to deal with all your petty rules and "licensing agreements."
Sometimes it seems like you're starting to act like your old self again. But then you go and do something stupid whenever things start going all digital. You seemed cool with Netflix when it was sending discs through the mail, but as soon as it started streaming video…bam! There you go again with the licensing and the lawyers and the restrictions sucking all the fun out of things.
At first I liked your new friend Hulu, too. It seemed like things were going the right way until you made it complicated again with "Hulu+" and "web only" restrictions on content and weird gaps in your library. I'm not even irritated by the commercials...I understand your needs. But when I'm giving it up for Hulu+ every month, I'd expect a lot more respect.
I'm becoming convinced that you want things to go back to the old days when you held all the cards. Whenever anything new comes along you freak out, and even when the new stuff can give you what you need, you don't seem to want it. Why'd it take more than two years for Spotify to come to the U.S.? Was it because you were scared? Did you think it was another thing that was going to drive us farther apart or make me cheat on you again? Didn't the fact that the service is the second biggest driver of revenue for you in Europe mean anything to you? Hasn't the success of Rhapsody and iTunes taught you that I am willing to do my part in the relationship when I can get my needs met?
It's time to face facts. Things aren't the way they used to be and they never will be! Sure, CD sales have been declining like crazy over the past few years, but things are starting to look up. Yes, that whole 3D thing you tried doesn't seem to be panning out all that well, but people seem to love online video. If you'd just open your eyes and get with the times, you'd see that it's possible for us to be together again.
If things are going to work out between us, our relationship can't be restricted to an old-school business model. I don't want to have to meet you through a bunch of different services because you are always on the lookout for the best deal. I want to be able to experience our relationship seamlessly, no matter how we get together – in my car, on my iPhone, on my laptop, on my TV, or through my tablet.
I know I may have sounded harsh in this note, but I want things to work out. I want you to be around and I'm willing to do my part to keep the relationship alive. All I ask is that you do your part by showing a little respect. I don't want to have to worry about whether or not this service or that one is going to make you mad, or lawyers sending me nasty notes. I just want to be entertained!
Is that too much to ask? I sure hope not.
With hope and fondness,
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Sean Carton has recently been appointed to develop the Center for Digital Communication, Commerce, and Culture at the University of Baltimore and is chief creative officer at idfive in Baltimore. He was formerly the dean of Philadelphia University's School of Design + Media and chief experience officer at Carton Donofrio Partners, Inc.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT