Saturday, October 24, 2009

Rights, Rituals, and Revenue

Who doesn't want culture to evolve?

The branding folks over at Black Coffee posted the "Remix Manifesto" a great documentary on sampling and intellectual property in the music/movie industry. At the core is the notion that while culture evolves by creating mashups and new rituals the old guard wants to prolong the status quo.

Aren't Orange County Choppers and Girl Talk doing the same thing? They both remix samples of existing products to extend our sense of culture with new icons. However, one gets a TV show and the other potentially gets sued. What's the difference?

Money flow.

It appears that the amount of fighting the incumbents do is directly related to their business model. Any industry whose revenue stream is based on residuals will fight anyone who changes what was originally produced. This explains the musvie industry's protracted fight for digital rights management as well as big pharma's support for extended patent protection. The mantra is simple: "Protect our revenue stream." This is why we can't sing Happy Birthday without paying royalties; but does allow us to take a Trek bike and make a single-speed.

Marketing sits at the intersection (in the cross-hairs) of cultural evolution. Our job is to satisfy two distinct masters. On the hand the consumer needs a solution that is culturally relevant. On the other is the business objective of earning as much from an investment over as long a time as possible. When these two objectives can't be resolved equitably, as with digital entertainment, culture goes underground and emerges again at the fringe where new rituals, and possibly business models, emerge.

While the law is always on the side of money; time is always on the side of culture.

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