The future of entertainment

The future of entertainment is cheap entertainment.

I don’t mean low-budget entertainment. I mean entertainment that is not entertaining.

A long time ago, the American audience received movies that only a studio could make. The sets, costumes, effects, stories were extravagant and expensive beyond our imagination.

Once upon a time, the Oscars award ceremony was the most glamorous, out-of-reach event we could conceive of. We watched, breathless.

Today, we’ve seen every set, story, and special effect and can replicate them with tools we own. Today, the Oscars is torn between staying serious and elegant (and losing viewers who have moved on) and trying to be as silly as the modern audience demands (and losing any distinctiveness or legacy). And the best it leaves us with is a couple of interesting dresses… like every other award show.

Here’s the thing: the next generation tolerates, even prefers, really cheap entertainment. As long as it is readily available (YouTube, Instagram, Vine), it doesn’t have to be well-done or even actually funny. “Fred”, “Annoying Orange”, “Shaytards”, “Jenna Marbles” are not, by any standard, entertaining or insightful. They are merely popular.

The entertainment of future will be more like this, not less. And the audience of the future will not give their money for this “entertainment”, but they will, compulsively,  give their time. Staggering amounts of their time, which is to say: their life.

“Here we are now, entertain us.” – Nirvana

Here’s the result: the more you consume entertainment (and cheap is easier to come by than quality), the more you stagnate. By the simple reality of time—you cannot be making your own art and pursuing greatness when you are staring at a phone screen for most of your waking hours. Said another way, the more you consume entertainment, the further you distance yourself from the Haves. (See this article.)

There could be worse consequences as well. The more you agree to call unfunny things funny, and to value the worthless, the more tenuous becomes your hold on reality. You could, literally, be walking your mind toward insanity—weakening your hold on reality. Until you, too, see the Emperor’s clothes. And they look spectacular to you.

There could be another grave danger. The audience of today is most interested in “entertainment” that features themselves. Am I in this (vertically-composed!) video? Have you seen my Vine? My Instagram? Was I mentioned in a post?

Rare-to-nonexistent is the artist making use of these new tools. Instead, the tools (inadvertently) feed human narcissism. People could become more and more self-absorbed, ego-centric. And less of the opposite of those, and the opposite is what the world needs.

Those who make entertainment will have to make this kind of entertainment because it is what will sell. And because the next audience is already making it for themselves; in massive quantities.

So here’s the conclusion (and the problems): The audience of the future will…

  • care nothing about quality, only about popularity,
  • insatiably, continually consume free content,
  • care more about the “fame” of a dozen retweets or followers than anything else,
  • and have no place in the future economy except serfdom (See this article).
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5 comments

  1. There are many things running around in my head about how I disagree with you in regards to YouTube, and I just don’t know how to explain them. I’ll try and center it around the final bullets of your blog, though.

    “The audience of the future will…”
    – “care nothing about quality, only about popularity,”

    How often do you really watch YouTube? How often do you watch the creators of those channels? Sure, there’s PLENTY of crap on YouTube, but there’s plenty more good content in there, too!

    ““Fred”, “Annoying Orange”, “Shaytards”, “Jenna Marbles” are not, by any standard, entertaining or insightful. They are merely popular.”

    That’s just pure opinion, and I respect that. But take a moment and realize what work goes into their videos and what rewards come out. Fred and Annoying Orange were comedy. I’d say their works aren’t any worse than stand-up comedy. One’s on a stage, and the other is through video. Honestly, the videos require more work in my opinion. The producers not only have to come up with their jokes and witty banter, but must also make it appealing (no pun intended) for a wider audience than just a room full of people. Then they put in hours upon hours of work to make that single video, and hope that someone will get a chuckle out of it.

    The Shaytards are vloggers, Video Bloggers. They do the video equivalent of this blog of yours, but on a much wider scale. The Tards vlog their life. WheezyWaiter vlogs comedy. ApprenticeEh vlogs their life and puts out professional quality videos. The Tards don’t care about being popular. None of those guys do! They do what they enjoy, and that is their life. Literally. But more on that point later…

    Watching their vlogs may not be “entertaining,” but neither is reading this blog. But it got me thinking and triggered an emotional response. Vloggers easily do the same, but they can convey their real emotions through video. We watch them because it’s more human interaction than reading words on a screen.

    Quality doesn’t matter as long as you do what you love. Popularity is just a side effect of being a good blogger.

    – “insatiably, continually consume free content”

    Oh, we do get satisfied by watching YouTube videos. Even more so than going to the movies and watching some billion dollar project with some cliche story line! I can go watch The Avengers and I’ll be good. I know the plot and called every part of the story before it happened. Sure, there were fancy graphics and a good soundtrack, but it’s not real. I’m much more satisfied by watching real people do real things on the internet.

    REAL LIFE IS REAL! It’s not pure entertainment, but it’s satisfying to us! Shaytards show a day in their life. I giggled at a few jokes they randomly threw out there. At the end of the video, I enjoyed it. I may have loved it! And that’s because I’ve learned about these real people. I’ve fallen in love with them.

    We will continuously consume free content because it really is entertaining. Not just funny, but fun, beautiful, and raw.

    – “care more about the “fame” of a dozen retweets or followers than anything else,”

    Sure, there are people who do that. But that’s not everyone, not even close. I’m in a Role Play on twitter, and my biggest character has about 6.5 thousand followers. Sure, that’s a nice number. I have some people following me! I could get technical and say how 200 or so are spambots, and another 2,000 are alt accounts of people already following me, but it just doesn’t matter. 1 follower or 1 million followers, I’d be doing the exact same thing. Same with most of the other characters in the RP. Same with most people on the internet!

    Retweets and favorites are nice to get, and often we do strive to get them, but we’re always doing it while having fun. That’s what matters.

    – “and have no place in the future economy except serfdom”

    ………………

    No place in the future economy? Really? It saddens me that you didn’t do your homework on this point. I’m guessing you don’t realize that YouTube is not going away like MySpace or Facebook. Social media networks, even including Vine and Instagram, will fade away because they get crowded and used for purposes other than what they were originally intended for. But not YouTube. It’s growing, and it’s never going to stop.

    I’m guessing you didn’t know this, but YouTube is a career path! Not many people realize that, but in the future YouTube will be the main location of entertainment. When you make good videos, you get subscribers. When you get subscribers, people watch your videos more and more. When they watch your videos, ads are shown to them. When they see the ads, the producer gets paid.

    Take Corey Vidal for a moment. In 2006 he was living in his friend’s basement because his parents kicked him out for wanting to go into a video production career. At that time, you couldn’t just to that. But then YouTube came along.

    He made a dance video for a friend and uploaded it to YouTube. Unbeknownst to him, that video was public to all of Canada. When he woke up the next morning, he had a few more views than he expected, and they wanted more! Using a $10 webcam and an old desktop computer, he kept making dance videos. It never led to real fame, or supporting his life, but he liked doing it.

    Soon enough, in October of 2008, he uploaded a video with the help of Utah’s Moosebutter of him lip syncing to the Star Wars a Capella, a tribute song written for John Williams. Said video can be found here for /entertainment/ purposes: http://bit.ly/4GDsZh . When Corey woke up the next morning, he had over 50,000 views which at the time was HUGE. YouTube later contacted him and asked him to be the first YouTube Partner from Canada, and he accepted. This meant that his videos would have ads placed on them and he would make money from them. This was the start of his YouTube career.

    Now, Corey works with his close friends making YouTube videos for a living. I remember one of his daily vlogs mentioning that his job pays him in six figures. He has been contracted by Disney and Lucas Arts to make official videos for different purposes. Example of a Lucas Arts video: http://bit.ly/wdAgsB . Right now he is working on a feature length film with Shay Carl (The Shaytards) documenting the vlogging life. The movie will much better explain all of this when it premieres, but for now, watch the trailer which was recently released at VidCon, a convention for YouTubers and their fans: http://bit.ly/16ScvPM

  2. Powerful. Well-written. All too true. Perhaps the “cheap entertainment” is yet another means of escape… from life, with all of its beauty, creativity, joy, and wonder. A fair trade? IMHO, No. Oh for more inspiring, motivating, and artful entertainment. Thank you for raising the bar.

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