The entertainment world landscape has drastically shifted in the past few years due to the growth of emerging digital platforms empowering content creators to take control of their careers. Ten years ago, a musician, filmmaker or author needed a record label, film distributor or book publisher for their work to be marketed and distributed. No longer dependent on these gatekeepers, content creators are now limited only by their entrepreneurial skills. Justin Bieber and Rebecca Black successfully leveraged their music videos into breakthrough success and celebrity. Through the crowdfunding website Kickstarter, recording artist Amanda Palmer recently raised over $1.2 million to produce and release her latest record. On the publishing side, self-published books today account for nearly half of The New York Times' top 25 list of best-selling e-books.
Could these and countless other individual success stories have happened a decade ago? Probably not. The emerging digital platforms empower aspiring artists to achieve self-determined success through new avenues. The critical factor contributing to success is the relationship between the content creator and the audience. The savvy content creator understands fan loyalty and how best to motivate their audience to participate in crowdfunding campaigns and to market their content through social media networks like Facebook and Twitter.
Established content creators are taking notice and embracing many of these same practices. The author Bret Easton Ellis, along with his production partner Braxton Pope, is using Kickstarter to finance his upcoming film The Canyons. When discussing this with The Hollywood Reporter, Pope said that "with advances in digital photography and distribution, we can tell a story in the manner we choose. Movies are changing and we're changing." After toiling on his Devo documentary for more than 20 years, independent film director Tony Pemberton is using Kickstarter to secure enough funds so that his film can be completed by this fall. He met his modest $25,000 goal early on, but continued taking donations.
A decade ago, radio stations and MTV solely determined radio and television playlists. Consumers today, however, can discover and access artists they like with Spotify, Pandora, YouTube and other digital platforms. In this manner, today's consumer becomes their own programming director. The strongest indication of this shifting market is reflected in the behavior of teenagers, with nearly two-thirds of teens listening to music through YouTube. This trend is empowering both the consumer and the artist through facilitating easier discovery of new music. An artist might not be played on a radio station, but they can use YouTube as a discovery platform to gain audience awareness. Most importantly, the consumption of film and music by teenagers through digital platforms is an indicator that the market will continue to use new digital methods to find what they want for years to come. Simply put, as this demographic gets older, its willingness to utilize new technology to find music and film will not dissipate, but continue.
The relationship between artist and audience shapes the way films and music are created and produced (not to mention what is popular). For example, understanding the viewing habits of their audience, the producers of The Ten organized the film into smaller chapters, each of which could stand alone as a discrete episode. Where did "The YouChoose Era" begin? Some point to the film, Snakes on a Plane. Due to the demands of fans in blogs and online forums, David R. Ellis, the film's director, went back and altered the film after initial production to cater to the desires of the audience. Had it not been for these fans, the film would not have been successful, nor would pop culture have another memorable line delivered by Samuel L. Jackson.
Based on recent trends, we anticipate that more and more established filmmakers, musicians and authors will turn to using the digital world as a liberating resource and vital tool for creating, marketing and distributing their work. The result will be a tidal wave of new and innovative material for audiences to discover. Welcome to the new renaissance.