Consolidation in the record industry

A Major Change In Their Tunes (TechNews.com)

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Two quotes I want to pull out here, though:

All music companies — large and small — are wrestling with an industry-wide depression. Music (principally CD) sales have dropped more than 30 percent over the past three years. The industry blames the falloff on illegal Internet file-sharing and bootlegged CDs, though others outside the companies said consumers have been alienated by high CD prices and a rash of uninteresting artists. Sony, for instance, lost $81 million in 2003 after reporting $188 million in operating income for 2001.

And then this one:

Five companies — Universal Music Group, EMI Group PLC, BMG, Sony and Warner — sell more than 80 percent of the industry’s music.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Put out better product and the people will buy it. Also, the current business model CDs are sold under is no longer sustainable. If a company wants to sell more CDs, it will have to cut prices as $15 – $20 is no longer (and never really was) a realistic price when the individual songs people really want are available at iTunes for $.99 a pop. It’s a matter of knowing your audience.

Here’s my take: Young fans of Britney Spears, Usher and 50Cent are internet-savvy and are more likely to be hooked into iTunes or one of the other internet-stores. The companies have to realize that. If they want to sell a physical CD from these artists, drop the price. If a ten-song Justin Timberlake album can be purchased through one of the music-download stores for a total of $10, make the CD in the store available for $8. Use this as part of a marketing pitch. It may work. If sales don’t go up after a year, figure out why.

Older fans of Steely Dan, though, are more likely to buy the whole album at a store because that’s what they have been doing their entire lives. It’s alright to price a ten-song SDan CD at $13.99 because that consumer is not going to be as savvy to the alternatives. Besides, they want ALL the songs on the album, not just the single. That’s your selling point.

As long as companies foolishly think they are going to get kids off the computer and into the record store they will lose money. You have to shift your thinking to make money.

Movie Marketing Madness: The Day After Tomorrow

So Roland Emmerich wants to repeat himself. First by destroying the world (or at least some recognizable American monument) and second by casting a decent actor who remains mired on the B-list (in Independence Day this was Bill Pullman, now Dennis Quaid). Excuse me if my interest level barely raises the needle.

It’s not so much that Emmerich, either with or without his sometimes partner Dean Devlin, makes bad movies, it’s just….yeah he makes bad movies. Stargate was passable if I had had enough to drink and was just making fun of Kurt Russell’s haircut, ID4 was horrible and let’s not even discuss Godzilla. There’s no amount of penance they can pull that will right off that sin. I felt the most sorry there for Matthew Broderick, mired in his pre-Producers funk. Oh well.

The Trailer

Like most action movies, this is a very quickly cut trailer, delivering the broad plot outline, a few glimpses of key developments and lots of computer-generated effects. I counted at least three waves of water crashing through downtown New York, two shots of an glacier breaking up and two impassioned declarations by Quaid, who I will always envision being lodged in Martin Shorts nose.

Perhaps the funniest part of the trailer is when Jake Gyllenhaal looks at the “No Smoking” sign come on in the plane he’s riding in. The look on his face is priceless as it’s a mix of “That’s my cue to act scared!” and “Will I have any artistic integrity left when this opens?”. I like to think this is the same kind of look he had when he found out Tobey Maquire was coming back for Spider-Man 2.

The Teaser Poster

The main selling point of the movie seems to be the arrival in New York City of the second ice age. Both teaser posters take this plot point and hammer it home, taking the Statue of Liberty and covering it in ice, albeit from different points of view. This is a big portion of the Emmerich School of Filmmaking, the destruction of a national monument. Even without knowing who was behind this suspected turd, I would have been able to guess it was the ID4 team pretty quickly.

The Poster

What seems to be the final poster moves the camera away from Lady Liberty and points it toward the New York shoreline, again covered in what appears to be a light butter-cream frosting.

Here’s my problem with both poster concepts: They give away the ending. Unless the filmmakers are holding out on us and Dennis Quaid miraculously shifts the earths alignment, causing the ice to melt and weather patterns to return to normal this is how NYC looks at the end. Why am I going to pay $9 to see that if I already know it?

The Website

It’s tutorial time as we move to the movies website. So much of the content here is designed to be educational it’s almost funny. After giving you eleven different languages to choose from, the introduction gives a nice effect by counting down the number of days from 300 to the day of the opening. The first time I visited it the number ended on 007 making me think this was actually the new James Bond site. Presented entirely in a Flash-animated pop-up window, the site has about four main sections.

In “The Production” we get the usual cast and crew biographies where everyone gets to sound like they have personally helped to save the world by participating in this movie. There’s much intoning of how “THIS CAN REALLY HAPPEN!!!!”.

“Multimedia” is simultaneously the most interesting and the most ridiculous sections. The sections “Montages” and “Galleries” almost play like DVD extras, starting slideshows of production sketches compared with finished scenes or stills from the movie. Pretty cool, but still not very informative. There are also trailers, clips and desktop themes here.

The funny part is when you access the “City Freeze”. Pick one of eight major cities and watch poorly animated snow fall until it covers that cities most recognizable landmark. A giant frozen Big Ben is almost worth the price of admission.

I’m not even going to discuss the “Weather Gone Wild” section. It’s all about the science behind the movie and would have been much more enjoyable if they had done one or both of two things: 1) Drop the straight face and/or 2) Present it all like one of those flickering film strips from grade school science class.

“Out of Time” is interesting not so much for the content but because it is basically where people register. You create a profile, hoping that yours is then selected as the profile of the day. I didn’t register so I don’t know what kind of info they ask, but it is a nice tactic to make people revisit the site.

Overall

Lots of special effects! This could really happen! Watch cities get frozen and actors emote amidst the snow! These seem to be the overriding messages. It’s an effective campaign showing it to be Memorial Day escapism. Anyone remotely interested in movies won’t and shouldn’t expect more. If they were going for a younger-skewing I would have expected to see the romance between Gyllenhall and whoever he’s stuck in New York with played more in the trailer. This is a bit surprising since that’s where the repeat business is going to come from.

Random thoughts

Can someone please tell me what the schedule is on the following events?

1. Jessica Simpson’s MTV show gets cancelled.
2. She and her husband decide to have a baby.
3. MTV agrees to create a show following her around while pregnant.

Anyone else see this as tremendously bloody likely?

–Chris

Movie Marketing Madness: Shrek 2

I have little to no interest in the second Shrek movie. Mike Myers has overstayed his welcome (which ended after Austin Powers 2) and I never particularly cared for Cameron Diaz (at least I don’t need her to talk) and her “slightly ditzy but oh-so-playful chick” routine got old before it was new.

Don’t even get me started on Eddie Murphy. I once remarked to a friend of mine that somewhere around 1992 his manager must have come up to him like Ving Rhames visiting Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction. “Somewhere around 1995, you’re going to start doing family-friendly junk that demeans everything you’ve tried to do in your career to that point. You may feel a slight sting. That’s pride fucking with you. Fuck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps.”

THE TRAILER

Not bad, but there’s absolutely nothing original in there. There’s more adult-oriented humor (a CGI Joan Rivers on a red carpet) more scenes of classic fairy tale characters (Gingerbread Man and Pinocchio both make appearances) and, as is the case with most sequels, a brief glimpse of the expanded cast, including John Cleese as Cameron Diaz’s father and Antonio Bandaras as Puss in Boots.

My basic sense is that the studio isn’t even trying to attract kids with this one. They are aiming squarely at the adult demographic, counting on them to bring their kids with them or simply send the kids because they had seen the first one. There’s nothing about this trailer, to my eye, that sets its sites on the under 12 crowd.

THE POSTER

Boring. All the characters poking their heads out at us. If more then 15 minutes elapsed between the time the concept was conceived and the time the finished product was locked up, the graphic designers and marketing department were playing ping-pong.

THE TEASER POSTER

The teaser poster basically takes the same concept as Ghostbusters 2 and applies it to Shrek. Instead of a ghost holding up two fingers, we have the number two with Shrek’s weird horn/ear thingies. Not very original but it is effective at its core function of letting people know there’s a second one coming. Again, they are playing into adult or at least older children’s concept recognition abilities.

THE WEBSITE

Here’s where they start trying to appeal to kids. The site is very Flash-animation intensive. The central feature seems to be a “Find the Secret Ingredients” game, narrated by Pinocchio. I didn’t bother to play the game since, quite frankly, I have my intelligence insulted enough each day without actively seeking out new sources. If your not interested in this game, skip the section labeled “Travel Papers” and go immediately to “About the Movie”.

Even then, the entire “Fun and Games” section is filled with Shrek-ified versions of basic web-games (Memory is now “Think Donkey Think, for example). “Media and Downloads”, where I was hoping to find posters, backgrounds and such, simply contained the teaser trailer and two theatrical trailers.

“Meet the Characters” and “The Story” sections are pretty self-explanatory. “Behind the Fairytale” is where some of the filmmakers get their due, though portions of “Raising the Bar Again” read like a press release for Hewlett Packard. I’d be willing to bet that the quotes attributed to Myers, Diaz and Murphy throughout the site were concocted by press agents. They read to me like the “too good to be true” quotes that every interviewer dreams about but knows will never happen. There are s too many quips and funny asides in there. Even money says the cast doesn’t even know they’re on the site.

There are also the usual links to the information/purchasing options on the soundtrack (complete with SmathMouth’s “All-Star”! Again! Just like three years ago!), Shrek 3-D DVD and movie tickets.

It makes sense that the site is more geared to kids considering how internet usage demographics are shifting. Adults aren’t going to get much out of it.

OVERALL

It’s interesting to note the different demographic targets among the media types. The Internet is obviously aimed at kids whereas traditional media is looking to snare adults. Not an overly original campaign from my point of view which, quite frankly, doesn’t bode well for the movie.