back to article Pirates not to blame for Big Media's sales plunge

The RIAA and MPAA would have you believe that piracy is responsible for their decline in sales. This is all of course blame to be laid at the feet of computers, the internet and the generic "digital boogyman." Even without getting deep into the flawed math in play, there are other reasons for the middling returns on investment …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Can't disagree on any point.

    1. DJV Silver badge
      Thumb Up


      Yes, a good article. It ticked all the boxes for me as well. I especially liked the sentence "Novelling their way through the decades until – like Commodore or Atari – only the name remains." And, for some of the other companies mentioned (such as Oracle), it can't happen too soon IMHO!

    2. Shades

      I disagree... on one (slightly OT) point

      "cheap but "good enough" technologies spanning from Red cameras"

      Between their "entry level" Scarlet-X (30fps @ 4k res) costing $9,700.00, the Red One (120fps @ 4k) commanding $25,000.00 and their Epic-M (120fps @ 5k res) coming in at a whopping $39,500.00 - all of which are bare bones* units - Red cameras are neither cheap nor merely "good enough".

      *No lense mounts, no lenses, no storage, no nothing!

      1. B-D

        Re: I disagree... on one (slightly OT) point

        Absolutely, how the RED range can be considered "indie" is beyond me, maybe if the bar bill was bigger than the rest of the production costs, but that's neither here nor there.

        The Canon 5D Mark II however, that camera almost certainly shook up the indie film scene.

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: I disagree... on one (slightly OT) point

          You are confusing "indie" and "art." Indie films - true indie films looking to make a real movie - have backers and some form of budget. But they don't have the budget of a real blockbuster. The Red gives you the ability to shoot blockbuster-quality for a tenth or even hundredth the price of traditional cameras.

          I am not talking about your pet cat videos on youtube. I am talking about honest-to-god indie films that go “mainstream” and make millions at the box office. Hits that occur outside the framework of the traditional establishment.

          But emphatically *not* your wanky angsty art film.

          Though even for the wanky angsty art film, there is a booming industry in renting RED cameras for such projects, and the cost of rental is WAY below that of other comperable-quality cameras.

          1. TechnicalBen Silver badge


            Thanks Trevor_Pott. So it's a comment towards affordable "movie quality" over affordable "high quality" that the article is pointing to. One being a small professional studio job, the other an individual or hobby job. Both still being miles under the millions needed for a Hollywood flick.

            "The more you know..."

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              Re: @Trevor_Pott

              Wife is an actress. Trust me, I never wanted to know any of it at all. But you learn things...

              1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

                Re: @Trevor_Pott

                "But you learn things..."

                So... "is she interested in photographs?... nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more."

                1. This post has been deleted by its author

                2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                  Re: @Trevor_Pott

                  Even were I to post a link, would you honestly be stupid enough to click it? ;)

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: @Trevor_Pott

                    "would you honestly be stupid enough to click it? ;)"

                    Are you new here?

                    1. Danny 14 Silver badge
                      Thumb Up

                      Re: @Trevor_Pott

                      sure. but not on my PC.

                  2. Tom 13

                    Re: stupid enough to click it?

                    Me, probably not, although as a known author on El Reg you at least have some credibility points.

                    But I'm sure you'd get some takers.

                    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                      Re: stupid enough to click it?

                      Tom, buddy, I have some bad news for you.

                      I'm a commenttard. I was a such an unbelievably loud and obnoxious commenttard that they decided "if you are going to write novels in the comments section, then you should be writing articles instead. We can advertise against those more and make more money." Good business. I approve.

                      Before being a commenttard here, I was a forum whore elsewhere. Still am. I was a USENET regular and a BBS user. I connected up my first 300 baud modem to talk to other people (with help) over the computernets when I was only 4 years old. I built my first LAN at 8.

                      For all intents and purposes I am “from the internets.” In an article, I have to attempt to achieve some modicum of professionalism and respectability. But in the comments section – here, there, anywhere across the wide, wide interbutts – the urge to troll the pants off someone can be completely overwhelming.

                      Never trust a link posted on a forum. There are things you can’t unsee. There is knowledge you cannot unlearn. In an article, you probably wouldn’t get trolled. In a comment where I was making a technical point and backing up with evidence, it might be safe to assume that links will be relevant.

                      But regardless of occupation or hobby, if you ask someone (even jokingly) for “tits or GTFO” of their old lady…

                      …you’d have to be a complete moron to click that link.

                      Particularly if the individual in question is perfectly capable of slapping together a website that flashes a series of images that you would wish you could burn from your mind with an acetylene torch while in the background a dozen different cross-browser, multi-operating system zero days are pwning your machine, emailing dongs to your contact list, uploading everything on your hard drive to a torrent site, spreading to every system on your network, and then dbanning the whole thing.

                      The internets; here there be dragons.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: I disagree... on one (slightly OT) point

        News out today

        2.5K resolution for < $3K and a lot better workflow and usability than a Red or a Phantom or Arri

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: I disagree... on one (slightly OT) point

          Only way to compete with RED is to continue the commoditisation they started. :)

      3. goldcd


        but most (I believe) film kit is rented. I'd have assumed the cost of renting some kit for a few weeks and then spending a few months of post-production on your laptop, is massively cheaper than hiring film cameras, buying film stock and having to rent the edit suite for the duration of post.

      4. Pinky

        @Shades: "cheap" is relative

        Comparing the specs of the Epic-M with the Sony F-950 (the last camera I worked with), I'd say the Red gear is definitely cheap. In a previous life (seems like aeons ago now), I was building accessories for Sony, Thomson GV, etc that cost more than the Red chassis.

        The cost of the lenses, mounts, storage etc are the same no matter what kit you buy, so "good enough" is right.

        For the sake of full disclosure, my boss at that time is now with Red, and the accessories have been integrated into the Red product line.

      5. sisk Silver badge

        Re: I disagree... on one (slightly OT) point

        $10k-$30k sounds pretty cheap for a camera capable of shooting a real movie to me. When you consider that most cameras in Hollywood are in the six figure price range that's dang cheap.

  2. Ru

    "democratised content creation"

    Hurrrrgh. What an awful web2.0ism. I shall forgive you just this once.

    Granting people the means to create things just goes to show that:

    1. It is harder than it looks, and

    2. There are an awful lot of really talentless people out there.

    Sadly, Big Content don't seem to understand (2), and has spent a fair amount of time inflicting the products of those sort of people upon us, without the benefit of the zero overheads that the monkeys on the internet have.

    A "democratisation" of stupidity, perhaps. Reality TV is a perfect example.

    1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

      Re: "democratised content creation"

      " There are an awful lot of really talentless people out there."

      Yup, and it used to be more on the web than on telly but the web is getting more pro while the telly is catering more and more for the noise and gloss and glitz.

    2. Schultz

      Re: "democratised content creation"

      I have to second Elmer Phud: A lot of talentless people must have found their way into the mainstream media. Not that the falling height is all too great.

      All TV content is stretched to the breaking point, trying to make it into the next advertisement break without introducing a new thought, trying to hold on to a few listless zombies which may or may not have gone for the next beer ...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > Microsoft's Windows 8 is something of a Hail Mary

    They'd have been better sticking with what they usually do - an 'In Nomine Satanas'.

  4. Darryl

    It looks like the tech companies are all falling under the same spell as manufacturing did 10-20 years ago, where the only thing that matters is this year's bottom line. If you can close a few plants or offices and lay off a few thousand people, the 'cost savings' make the share holders some money this year and keep the execs in jobs and bonuses. Who cares about five or ten years down the line? That'll be the next CEO/board's problem.

    1. YetAnotherBob

      Business Profiteering

      Standard Harvard Business School. They teach that the job of a corporate executive is to maximize profits this quarter, then take the money and run.

      Of course, the best way to make huge profits on a short basis is to sell the factory, gut anything longer term than later this year, and then have the board award you (and it) HUGE bonuses. Then, you can use your resume as a "Top CEO" to get on another company, or to join the Board of another couple of corporations.

      Harvard started teaching this in the 1960's, it came to the fore in the 1970's, and America got all outsourced by the 1980's. It's now standard MBA program world wide.

      New industry wasn't quite in that way of doing things yet, so the new "High Tech'" survived. But, they are now being migrated from the ranks of 'New Startups' to 'Professionally Managed' (read MBA managed) corporations. So, expect the life of a Tech Titan to be about 20 years.

      By the way, Apple and Microsoft are both now about 30 years old. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are both gone. Microsoft no longer has most of it's workforce in the US, and Apple no longer owns any factories. Like HP, where the generation after Hewlett and Packard have all been replaced with "Professional Managers". It's not any wonder that HP is going rapidly downhill. Microsoft and Apple will follow.Whitman and company are not real HP. Eisner was not Walt for Disney. It's the victory of the vacuous and ruinous.

  5. Jop

    Buying patents and then suing those who infringe them seems to be a major money maker for tech companies lately. It will all end in tears...

    Great article!

    1. YetAnotherBob

      It's just Monopoly in Action. Governement involvement in economies always messes things up.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Novelling their way

    Allow me to raise my hat in honor of these fine fellows at El Reg. They said it brilliantly.

    1. Tom 35 Silver badge

      Re: Novelling their way

      Some may Nortel their way...

      Do ANYTHING to keep the stock price going up (as if that is the actual product) until everything just blows up.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    someone else's fault

    The problem is always "someone else's fault," and the critical eye never turns inwards.

    My wife comes to mind.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't matter

    I could care less what sales are for the RIAA or MPAA. All I care is that pirates and hackers go to prison for their crimes. Denial isn't a river in Egypt.

    1. Escape Velocity

      Re: Doesn't matter

      Would that prison time be for the lewdness or the criminal consumption of trans-fats?

      1. YetAnotherBob

        Re: Doesn't matter

        No, Piracy should be a criminal, even capitol crime. Real pirates kill people, rape women, steal, burn ships, extort an so forth. Indonesia has cracked down on it's pirates, Somalia is the current largest supporter of real piracy. Real Piracy has always been an act warranting war.

        RIAA and MPAA (often collectively referred as MAFIAA) don't care about real piracy, they only care about imaginary piracy, which they affirm is drastically reducing their imaginary sales. It isn't real piracy, it's just copying without permission. But, there isn't that much of it going on. that's because what the MAFIAA are selling isn't worth copying.

        Oh, and one more thought the Parent Poster is wrong, Really, denile IS deriver in Egypt. It's even on demap!!

    2. Juiceman

      Re: Doesn't matter

      Just how much do the media companies pay per post, or are you salaried?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Doesn't matter

        He doesn't need to be paid to be correct. Trying to rationaize piracy is futile. The courts ain't going to tolerate piracy and new laws are being implemented to punish pirates even more.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Doesn't matter

          Lets call it what it really is first, it is Copyright Violation

          IF someone was to download a film without the copyright holders permission (i.e. from a torrent site)

          They are violating their copyright, and they can be taken to the civil courts, but it is not a criminal offence.

          If they distribute said film without taking any payment, then they can be be taken to the civil courts, but it is not a criminal offence.

          BUT if they take that film, stick it on DVD's and then sell them at a car boot sale, they are committing a crime and the POLICE can arrest them and they can face fines/jail from criminal courts.

          Things are different around the world, but copyright is a strange beast.

          I am a content creator so I do care about Copyright Violation, but I also don't treat my customers as criminals when they are not.

          The only thing you can say about downloads is they MIGHT be impacting sales, you cant say 100% they are.

          One thing though, If they provided a non DRM'd digital copy of films/tv, many people would buy that rather than download.. I buy my music online rather than CD's and rip them, simply because its easier now than it used to be and I can get MP3's with no drm!

        2. JEDIDIAH

          Cruel and Unusual.

          He doesn't need to be paid to be a shill for his masters. Just watch and episode of the Tudors and see how enthusiastic the peasants are about the King.

          Your rhetoric about piracy is ultimately irrelevant as current punishments are grossly inappropriate.

          Punishment is fine. Just make sure that it fits the crime. Something like piracy should be along the lines of a speeding ticket or a jaywalking ticket. A single infraction or "set of facts" should get you no more than actual shoplifting would.

    3. Anonymous C0ward

      <-- Don't feed it.

    4. Heathroi

      Re: Doesn't matter

      Because lobbying the government to pass laws and getting the courts to stuff people interested in your product is an excellent way to build your business, yet doesn't stop the torrents.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Next Step, please

    Nice rant! I agree with it completely.

    And now that we have heard about the *symptoms*, the next step, please:

    What is the *diagnosis* of the causes? Everyone just getting stupider by the quarter? Or greedier?

    1. Marshalltown

      Re: Next Step, please

      The answer is that busniess is a "dairy" situation and that isn't cream you find floating on top. The situation Mr. Potts describes is not limited to high tech either. Take a gander at the history of US automotive companies for instance, or commuminications, even labour sad to say. There seems to be a natural progression from innovation to an presumption of entitlement. Companies sometimes fight their way through a period of it - IBM has at least once, and so has Apple (but they're headed right back into it). Ellison has perpetually tended to treat his customers as cattle or sheep whom he is entitled to milk or fleece for minimal out going benefits. If the customers are even slightly brighter than your average carrot, sooner or later they leave for more beneficent climes.

  10. irish donkey

    Where the pirate witch hunter general? AO

    He will rein fire and brimstone down on you for such blasphemous words.

    dissent will be crushed. Nothing must stand in the way of progress... opps sorry progress must be stopped if it affects our bottom line.

    No nothing must change…… our profits must go up or else we will legislate, sue punish and imprison

  11. Anonymous Coward 101


    I'm pretty sure there is more to the failure of AOL etc. than lack of investment. All of those companies were on a hiding to nothing against better competitors. I seem to recall Nokia investing rather a lot of money trying to make a new OS and bringing Symbian up to modern consumer expectations.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: R&D

      Sure there is! They each in turn became obsessed with something or someone outside the company and allowed it to distract them. Nokia kept SHIFTING FOCUS of its R&D. It would invest in it...but it would get impatient and pull the funding before a final product could ever really be reached.

      They were cashing the market leaders instead of trying to simply make one product and make it well. Constantly trying to be someone else (multiple someone elses!) ended up with them in fact being nobody.

      If you want to succeed, then get a skunkworks going, DON'T give them direction every quarter, fund them to whatever level you are capable fo doing so, and let them produce you something novel. Don't Microsoft up a Courier and then kill it.

      If you can't stomach R&D yourself, then send out your scouts looking for the new and the novel, not the “it’s more or less like what that other major competitor has on the market.” By the time you get your copycat product on the streets, they will have 80% of the market and you’ll be fighting an uphill battle.

      Microsoft had the right of it with Kinect: buy the technology from some third-party research team, make a few minor tweaks, and bolt it on to your console…presto! Something nobody else has. Don’t make a different version of the motion controller that Nintendo has. Nintendo already stole the market for it!

      No, the issues here are manifold. Treating R&D like a cost center, quarterly revenue based short-sightedness, and focusing on someone of something external to the detriment of understand what it is you do, and making sure you do it really well.

      Take Apple; they make a comparative handful of products. Far fewer SKUs than Microsoft, HP, or pretty much any of the other tech titans. But they had a megalomaniac with severe OCD fret over every single detail of every single product for over a decade. It created a corporate culture that caused runaway success. Focus on the product, ignore the competition.

      Where do Apple start to fall down? The Jihad against apple was a personal vendetta, there was no business sense to it. Cook is looking for a way out and for a damned good reason.

      Not listening to customers. Every time there’s a real complaint against Apple, it boils down to treating customers like the enemy. (Final Cut Pro X!) If Apple would take customer issues to heart – and be a little bit more friendly with their customer engagement – then they would own the emotional loyalty of the majority of the population as well.

      They could get away with treating their customers like cattle for a long time because they simply made better widgets than the next guy. The growth market there is ending; they have addressed the needs and desires of the bulk of the bell curve, growth now lies in addressing the corner cases.

      The beauty of it is that their ardent refusal to talk about products until they are ready to ship is one of the smartest moves in tech. Sure, journalists hate it, but fans LOVE it. You can speculate all you want, but you know that when an Apple product is officially shown, it will be ready to BUY right away. No Asus MeMO that looks like sex on roller skates then quietly disappears, never to be heard from again.

      But they are learning. They backed down on Final Cut Pro X. Mountain Lion looks to address as many of the complaints about Lion as possible while still keeping the overall direction that Apple is aiming for. They are a ruthlessly efficient corporate megalith that already understands everything I wrote about here.

      Red Hat is another I would throw on the pile as “getting it.” To a greater or lesser extent extent, Rackspace, Arista, Intel, Palo Alto Networks, F5 and Citrix all seem to grasp this as well.

      Do what you do best. Don’t chase after the seemingly tantalising treasures that others have already claimed. Don’t get caught up in CEO catfights with other companies. Don’t lose sight of the long term while chasing quarterly gains.

      Don’t treat your own customers like the enemy. Listen to your customers and do your best to meet their needs. If you can’t or choose not to meet the needs of your customers, respect your customers enough to tell them why.

      It’s not that hard to understand. But it does seem anathema to modern megabusiness.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: R&D

        "Jihad against ANDROID." But you bright chaps knew what I meant.

    2. Tom 35 Silver badge

      Re: R&D

      Nokia had too many managers all trying to push R&D at the latest trend. So they just ended up herding cats. Lots of effort but no results.

      Unlike HP who made ads about cat herding

      but outsourced it all to India. Costs less, but still no results.

  12. Keep Refrigerated
    Thumb Up

    Nailed It!

    Also, I think part of the problem, for middle men publishers/distributors, is a confusion over what their business model was about. They didn't sell music, they've never sold music, they're distributors. Taking a voice only available in one location, packaging and delivering it worldwide.

    They provided distribution and advertising for the artist, in return they charge the receiver of music (and via loan to the artist) for the delivery. - in the same way that UPS charges for packaging and delivery of goods from a online store (the next industry in decline when 3d printing takes off).

    The internet was a major gift to them but like Kodak, rather than embrace digital they tried to protect the old method of storing images.

    Instead of finding ways to fulfil their business priority of distribution utilising the internet, they've hurt themselves by trying to artificially slow or stop such methods.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Nailed It!

      That post sounds like the things they will write in history books. :(

    2. Kobus Botes
      Thumb Up

      Re: Nailed It!

      Part of the problem also arose when they (specifically the recording industry, later followed by Hollywood) decided that they were sellers of media (vinyl, CD, tape, etc.), rather than distributors of content.

      At least, that is how I interpreted their actions in going after customers who taped records in order to be able to listen to their music elsewhere.

      My take has always been that, when I buy an LP (or CD), I actually buy the right (or a licence, if you will) to listen to the music on the album, as often as I like where I like and when I like. So, if I wanted to listen to ELP while driving, for instance, I taped it, since there were no viable record players for cars at the time. And this philosophy still applies.

      Big media's take on it, however, has seemingly always (ever since the technology to do so cheaply and easily became available) been that you buy the media, so, if you want to listen to an album you bought whilst driving or jogging, you had to go out and buy a tape, as taping an album was considered theft.

      In other words, their attitude was that the important bit is the media that the content came on, and not the content itself.

      The other part of the problem arose when music turned into a money-generating commodity (as opposed to entertainment and enjoyment, for instance) and they started to dictate to artists what they should produce and how often, heavily promoting and pushing it in order to drive sales, rather than producing quality merchandise that will sell on the basis of its own merit (I know, I am generalising terribly here, but otherwise the post will become way too long).

      It would be interesting to see what the difference in quality of music is between that produced by Big Media and Indie producers (if any). By quality I mean musical and lyrical merit, as well as longevity (in other words, would I still want to listen to that music next year or in twenty years, rather than throw it away after a week or so when the Next Big Hit/Artist comes along).

      Subjectively it seems to me as if more of the good stuff lately comes from Indie companies, but then, my taste mostly goes against the popular stuff in any case.

      1. YetAnotherBob

        Re: Nailed It!

        For me, the difference is already there. I don't buy many DVD's. Never have. I do buy some that are greatlyt reduced in price. (Seldom pay more than 10 Dollars, rarely more than 7.) but, lately, I don't buy DVD's at all. It's just to easy to go to Hulu or Netflicks and stream.

        Much the same with music. The music I like isn't really mass popular. I prefer Classical, Baroque or Renassiance. The folks who produce it are seldom given much shelf space. But, I can go online and find lots that is quite reasonable. Smaller orchestras are often the best venue for unusual stuff, and radio stations online are sometimes the easiest way to find these things.

        'Albums' of classical from small town orchestras or even selected high schools and colleges are really quite good enough for casual listening.

        My son, who is really into Techno can only ever find that online. Same goes for real ragtime or swing.

        Now, what is the purpose of these large Media Consortia again???


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