Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Anatomy of a Sale (or Lack Thereof), part 2

I just wanted to watch a movie, that's all. No big deal. I was willing to pay good money for it, too.

But here's the thing—there's no DVD of it. Not in America, at least.

Rewind. Someone told me about a movie. It's research for another movie I'm writing. The movie came out in 1991. It starts two A-List actors (1 is still A-List).

Step 1. I'm willing to rent it. I check Netflix. Not listed.

Step 2. I'm willing to buy it. I check Amazon. The first listing is VHS. For $35. No way am I paying that amount for a VHS cassette. Seriously? If I'm going to buy this movie, I want to keep it for a long time. So I check to see if it's on DVD.

Step 3. Amazon has it on DVD but it says, "Region 2.0 encoding (This DVD will not play on most DVD players sold in the US or Canada [Region 1]. This item requires a region specific or multi-region DVD player and compatible TV." Fail.

Step 4. I check to see if it's listed there on DVD. Nope, only VHS. I could buy it for $18.00, but if I'm going to own a copy, I absolutely won't buy it on VHS. Does anyone even have a VHS anymore? Isn't the whole point of owning something to let you share the experience with your friends?

Step 5. I check Wikipedia to find out more about it. I find that the movie was released on VHS, and then a DVD was released in Europe, but the studio hasn't yet announced plans for a region 1 release, i.e., in the U.S.

So, now I come to the conclusion that a movie I'm willing to pay for isn't available to me. At all. I haven't even bothered to check iTunes because if it's not on Netflix, there's no way it will be on iTunes.

The clincher is that I would be willing to pay up to $10 or even $15 for a DVD. I guess I could scour the library for a copy (and the odds of an older film being at the library are about even), but if I'm going to get it at the library, that's essentially free to me... which leads us to...

Step 6. Watch Movies. Where I found the entire film posted on Youtube.

And we wonder why movie piracy is so commonplace?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

An Ode Before Dying

You think you sell a movie—you do not.
You think you sell a book—you do not.
You think you sell a song—you do not.

You sell an experience, something communicated, something elusive and ephemeral. Something mystical and transformative and inspiring. All these abstract things simply come in the shape of a movie, a book, or a song.

Never before has it been possible to strip away these experiences from the product... until now, the Digital Age.

The Digital Age lets us duplicate products infinitely. And, for the first time in human history, creators are not deprived of their original copy.

So how do creators sustain? What do they sell?

It's simple, if creators are willing to accept one simple fact:

Creators don't sell products, they sell experiences.

In fact, creators never sold products, although it must have always seemed that way. They just never saw it before because products and experiences have been so deeply entwined.

The Digital Age has changed all that... we can read a novel without buying a book. we can watch a movie without buying a movie ticket. we can listen to a song without buying a record.

So how do creators sustain? What do they sell?

They sell the experience.
They sell access to themselves.
They sell uniqueness.
They sell convenience.
They sell membership.
They sell customization.
They sell exclusivity.
They sell benefits.
They sell patronage.
They sell magic.
They sell the experience.

They sell that which cannot be felt, something that transports their customers to another place for a brief time. When customers buy a $500 shirt, they aren't being sold a simple shirt, they are being sold self-confidence.

Creators will sell the same thing they've always sold—intangibles—though some will stubbornly claim they (should) only sell the product. Those kinds of creators have never seen the distinction between experience and product because, before the Digital Age, intangibles have been inseparable from books, movie tickets and records.

The key to the Digital Age is to recognize that many existing products already embed intangibles, which is why those products are still being bought. However, once those intangibles stop being offered, or a competitor offers better intangibles, the customer will go elsewhere.

Creators can sustain. They will sustain. The market wants to sustain creators. Yet only the ones who realize that they don't sell products, but experiences. Only those creators are the ones worthy of survival in the Digital Age.

The rest will whine and commiserate as they slowly fade into obscurity.

And to them, we offer a fond, and sad, adieu.