Addressing the disruption of media release cycles

A huge challenge for media companies today is the disruption of the release cycle created by the Web.

Records are routinely leaked before their official distribution date. The financial risk for film studios is even more devastating, as Eric Garland points out in an interview with CNET News. A carefully planned and staggered release schedule is not only a revenue driver, but can be a huge part of the emotional impact of music and film. As Garland points out, once a product hits the Web prior to it’s release date, it’s buzz is largely neutralized regardless of the quality of the work.

This raises several important questions:

Does the audience have too much power?

How does this change not only the business reality for content owners, but also the nature of the relationship between artists and fans?

What can companies do to adapt? The music business has tried for years to dig in and hold on to their old models. We have a pretty good idea how that is turning out.

As Larry Kramer says, fans demand greater access to content, have an increasing sense of entitlement, and more choices than ever, including the choice not to commit.

Artists are approaching this in different ways. Guitarist Bill Frisell recently changed record labels so that he could accelerate his release schedule. He is also selling a series of live board tapes (in MP3 and Hi-Res formats) that augment his official label releases. This is a great solution for busy jazz musicians who are continually involved in multiple projects and create amazing music every day. Their output is not easily channeled into the typical once or twice a year record release schedule. Companies like Aderra are recording shows and selling to fans in an interactive format at the venue.

These approaches work for some artists but not others.The scale of the film industry creates an entirely new dimension to this challenge.

What are your thoughts?

How can musicians, record labels, and film studios maintain control of their distribution strategies while strengthening their relationship with fans?

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