Tuesday, October 27, 2009

File Sharing Killed the Video Star

I was listening to an NPR show this weekend where a guest argued that the age of stadium rock shows was ending. He said that when big room filling acts hang it up, they aren't being replaced. There's U2 and maybe Metallica from the late 80s/early 90s, but beyond them there isn't a Rolling Stones waiting in the wings.

It is an interesting claim. I starting thinking about the time frame. What happened at that time that would have caused such a shift. Three hypotheses came to mind. First, cash. Big concerts have finally priced themselves out of existence.

Problem is that we are still spending absurd amounts on entertainment of other sorts, so it is unclear why concerts would be any different.

Second, demographic shifts. The stadium fillers tended to be baby boomer groups that appealed to those of us who wished we were 60s flower children after the fact -- the Stone, the Who, the Dead, Paul McCartney... Once the baby boomers moved beyond their stadium show days, there was not the demand.

The problem here is that the baby boomers had kids, so there has been a second boomlet and they are prime concert going age now. That group should be big enough to support

The third hypothesis is the web. It perfectly coincides with the birth of Napster and on-line file sharing. The thought is not that file sharing deprived groups of the royalties they deserved and that caused problems, but rather that removing the whole stadium scene required funneling large portions of the youth to a few acts and that in turn required limiting the number of acts who get past the gate keepers onto cds and then get radio airplay. By removing the gatekeepers, have we democratized the marketplace and done away with the necessary conditions for megagroups while opening the field for more reasonable success. We cut down the old oaks and let a thousand flowers bloom in the meadow.

Reasonable hypothesis? Other factors? Simply false presupposition?