Mike Masnick, the founder and editor of Techdirt, is known for his opposition to onerous software patents and copyright restrictions, his support for so-called “freemium” business models, and for his argument that despite the lamentations of what he calls the “legacy entertainment industry,” there is good reason to believe that the entertainment industry, broadly understood, is flourishing.
And so Masnick came to mind as I read the following passage from a newish New Yorker profile of Scooter Braun, the young entrepreneur best known for having discovered and managed the career of the pop star Justin Bieber:
Staffing at record companies has decreased almost sixty per cent in the past decade, and managers now perform many of the functions traditionally handled by label executives—suggesting a producer, scheduling release dates and media appearances, and devising marketing strategies. Braun sees part of his job as developing revenue streams that labels wouldn’t think of. “This isn’t a dying business, this is a changing business,” he told me. “CD sales have declined drastically, but the over-all business has grown: licensing, merchandising, digital sales. Ten years ago, a pop star might not have a fragrance that does a hundred and twenty million dollars in business in a year.” He went on, “My job is to make sure a client doesn’t have any ‘what if’s—to make sure, when you look back, you don’t say, ‘What if I had done this? What if I had done that?’ ” Among Bieber’s other revenue streams: “Never Say Never,” a 2011 movie that Braun produced about Bieber’s life, which was the highest-grossing concert film in U.S. history; a line of watches, backpacks, and singing dolls; a “home” collection that includes comforter sets and shower curtains; and an endorsement deal with Proactiv, a purveyor of acne remedies. All this has made Bieber rich—his annual income is estimated to exceed fifty million dollars—and has given Braun a unique economic power. A big part of a manager’s job, one industry veteran told me, is “getting an artist to say yes to things.” [Emphasis added]
This makes me think that Masnick should reach out to Braun and at least try to cultivate him as a potential political ally, particularly as the legacy entertainment industry continues to fight against innovative content-driven business models. To be sure, this would be an unlikely alliance, as the decaying legacy entertainment industry remains an important revenue source for Scooter Inc. Still, it can’t hurt to try.