Brian Shall The big prediction
In technology, predictions are useless. The iPhone is 8 years old. Had I told you just 10 years ago that 2 billion people would today carry a supercomputer in their pocket, all the time, you wouldn’t have believed me.
Had I told you that one of its most popular uses was to be wedged onto a long stick so the owner could take a picture of himself and share that with millions of anonymous viewers, you’d have thought me mad.
Maybe you were right all along. Madness is only discernible inside a static environment. With everything in a state of change, the dividing line between madness, magic and making becomes increasingly difficult to pull apart.
But we can piece together what has happened, what is happening, and begin to understand — in fits and starts — just how all the change is shaping us, shaping business, impacting our culture.
A big one is now happening. Another big one. And, yes, it’s totally unexpected:
Silicon Valley is leading our culture, shaping it, controlling it. Meanwhile, Hollywood is teaching the world how to build a business, even how to make money.
Yes, it’s true.
And it’s not simply because tech has all the money. Apple can buy the services of Drake or Jimmy Iovine, for example. Hollywood can make a TV show about nerds. What’s happening now is much bigger than that.
Tech is creating, re-making, altering, limiting and extending the bounds of popular culture.
Beats 1 is attempting to direct what people hear — and was global from the start.
Netflix algorithms guide what you watch.
YouTube has delivered an audience of billions to anyone with a cheap webcam.
Snapchat is remaking how we experience current events.
Facebook knows us, and shows us the news we want to see, the stories we want to read.
Scrolling through our Instagram feed is more emotionally impactful than just about any book we read, and most television programs the networks offer up.
With a few billion smartphones, there are probably several trillion photos. Google Photos will store our pictures for free, and its algorithms auto-generate photo stories that can move us.
Video content is being optimized for the tiny smartphone screen — and for experiencing both in binges, and with social media. Human-created content is being used as a vehicle to sell targeted ads, or prop up the margins of expensive computer hardware.
Cord cutting is no longer a relevant issue. Everything is Internet first, this is especially true for news, culture and entertainment — and no one will cut that cord.
Streaming music from Pandora alters what and when and where we listen to music. Smartphones enable podcasts to thrive. Kindle has actually made it possible so anyone can write a story and publish it, reaching millions of readers.
The entire culture is being subsumed by technology, yes, but now also birthed by it.
Only, nobody seems to be making any money on the stuff. Worse, too many of our biggest tech companies, lacking creativity and daring, are merely attempting to force the old business model through their new channel. That Apple wants to pay broadcasters to funnel their television signal through Apple TV is even more backwards-looking than Apple Radio. Only, they do it — and the networks do it — because nobody can be sure of exactly what will work when everyone is connected, everyone has a television screen in their pocket, the entire AM/FM band in their pocket, a videocamera in their pocket, a microphone in their pocket, and multiple apps that help them — help anyone — write a novel, or cut an album, or break news.
We now turn to Hollywood.
Hollywood, which once led on culture, will now teach the culture leader, Silicon Valley, how to build a business for this new reality. Spoiler: not just for culture, but possibly for the future of work.
Firstly, the big money goes to the talent — and talent are those who deliver an audience, either a really big audience, or one with a rabid following and an open wallet.
Next, nobody is ever on staff. Everyone is a contractor.
Everyone comes together in a highly focused environment, with a highly specific goal, and works tirelessly until their highly specific piece of the project is finished.
Using technology to help create the content, the visual effects, the sound effects, every piece of the undertaking, is vital.
Networking, networking, networking. Relationships with people, the talent, are radically more important than prior history with a company or organization.
Those who can quickly bring a team together, one that’s experienced, proven, that’s worked together before, they will get hired over and over again. Think of whoever JJ Abrams pulls together at the moment funding has been allocated, or think of the anonymous Wrecking Crew making sure every sound on the album is perfect.
Work is split amongst highly capable, atomized units, each with a distinct set of skills, spread across geographies (place) and dates (time), all working on the same project, the same goal, but not necessarily in unison. Others who have significantly contributed to the project may now be finished with their part, possibly even unemployed now, while you are just getting started.
You gotta make a massive splash, get huge buzz, bring in big money right outta the gate because there is simply too much out there competing for every second of everyone’s attention. If you don’t get noticed immediately, odds are very high you won’t succeed. Too damn much noise.
After opening weekend, take a breather, you’ve earned it or you’ve failed.
Okay, that’s enough. Now go find funding for the next project. Find it anywhere possible. Always get a piece of the profits.
Always be learning, expanding your skill set, but be an expert in at least one area. This is critical. You must be at least great at at least one thing.
Support media that always talks about you, always talks you up. Fund them if necessary, directly or via ads and sponsorships.
Trailers, cons and behind the scenes projects — access and transparency — are vital to attract your audience for the finished product. These access efforts must run in parallel with the actual end goal. From the start!
Got your audience? Great. Now devise the hundred plus ways to monetize them.
Take your culture from Silicon Valley. Learn how to build your business from Hollywood.