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How Entertainment Industry Is Showing Us Post COVID-19 World Leveraging Technology
The industry has a fine credo—“the show must go on”—and from it will emerge some of the most interesting technology use cases and business insights that could help shape other industries in the future.
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There is no historic parallel to the crisis and uncertainty brought about by COVID-19. Businesses are not sure about the duration or ultimate impact of lockdowns, the policy response to the pandemic changes every day, consumer habits are morphing, and human resource investments can’t be logically strategized. The litany of woes is crushing. But wait a moment! Have you noticed how quickly it is forcing some industries to adapt, innovate and build out the next level of business? My favorite example is from the entertainment industry. A whole bunch of musicians, actors, dancers, influencers, and other celebrities, who can’t perform due to the pandemic, are creating personalized music and greetings for anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, and other such occasions, from the safety of their homes. This is how it works: You visit a website that offers the greeting service[i], pick your favorite star, request a video by describing what you want, pay for it and wait for the recording to land in your mailbox. You then WhatsApp it (or mail it if you are old fashioned) to your mother, boss, current social interest, teacher, doctor, or whoever the greeting was intended for. You could get personalized greetings done for anything between Rs 5,000 and Rs 30,000.[ii] Everyone wins. You get to send a greeting that is exclusive, the recipient has an OMG moment, and the artist makes a living. Underlying this is the real winner: technology.
The entertainment and gaming industries have always been at the cutting edge of ideas and innovations. These industries are willing to experiment, work relentlessly to iterate on ideas and are not afraid to fail.
The entertainment industry has gone very rapidly from scratchy vinyl recordings to tapes, VHS/Hi-8, CDs, MP4/AVI, cable TV and online streaming (with Netflix being the industry’s lighthouse example). Now it is using crowdfunding to create new ideas that large music labels and established production houses don’t want to risk. It is using blockchain to create a decentralized entertainment economy, with direct distribution to consumers through tokenization.[iii] The gaming industry has been particularly spectacular with innovations –it went from Tetris to PUBG in the space of 35 years. Today, the gaming industry leads with amazing CGI, Virtual Reality, multi-player networking, interactivity, live chats, leaderboards that every industry wants to mimic, in-game peer-to-peer payments (much before in-messenger payments arrived), mobility and frictionless distribution. It is, unsurprisingly, the focal point of captology which is the study of computers as persuasive technology.
So how is the world of entertainment and gaming responding to COVID-19? Are there lessons for business that these two industries point to? Musicians, of course, have taken to putting out their unreleased work, are using online collaboration tools to create new music[iv] with diverse talent spread across the world, and are teaching others to play music online.[v]
Bangalore-based magician and hypnotist Nakul Shenoy has created an online show called `Sand Shadow Sorcery’ that combines the abilities of sand artist Raghavendra Hegde with those of shadow play artist Prahlad Acharya, and his own creativity[vi] with tickets being sold for the premiere on Book My Show. If Shenoy puts his mind to it, he could be teaching dinner table magic to thousands of interested people using online tools (video conferencing, step by step videos of his tricks, and his book ‘Smart Course in Magic: Secrets, Staging, Tricks, Tips’).[vii] Wouldn’t you want to learn tricks using glasses, knives, forks, spoons and napkins on the table to entertain your guests once in a while?
Here is another example of the artist community creating new business -- while the Tate in the UK prepares to re-open, it is offering online tutorials in how to paint like Andy Warhol and how to create a Matisse-inspired collage.[viii]
With COVID-19, the consumption of entertainment has moved completely online. With its back to the wall, the industry is creating new revenue channels, exploring new markets and getting paying customers they never had.
The question that must niggle you is this: Are online innovations going to be enough to put dinner on the table of artists who normally perform before large audiences, leveraging the mesmeric effects of sound, light, amplification and the electric atmosphere created by a live audience? The seven-member K-pop band BTS put that question to rest. In early July, 756,000 people across the world paid between Rs 2,000 and Rs 2,600 to tune into their online concert called ‘Bang Bang Con: The Live’. That attendance is the equivalent of a staggering 13.5 packed houses at the Dodger in Los Angeles, the largest baseball stadium in the US. The band’s earnings from ‘Bang Bang Con: The Live’ were reportedly $20 million. Forbes magazine said, “That might not be close to what the biggest band in the world would collect from a complete global tour, but in this time of quarantine, it’s massive, and it shows that with the right use of technology and fan outreach, there is still plenty of money to be made from performing live.”[ix]
For those familiar with the legendary status of BTS, which is currently the biggest boy band in the world, the question is obvious: Can small, relatively unknown artists ever hope to match BTS? That is the challenge before music companies and entrepreneurs. They need to scout for talent, develop online models, explore new markets and use technology to think of business differently. And, there is no doubt that the entertainment and gaming industry will come up with brilliant ideas to survive and thrive.
Other businesses must keep a keen eye on how the entertainment and gaming industry solve their COVID-19-induced problems. The industry has a fine credo—“the show must go on”—and from it will emerge some of the most interesting technology use cases and business insights that could help shape other industries in the future.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.