Entertainment is a core part of our lives more than ever. According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, there has been a steady increase in leisure time as well as money spent on non-necessities since the beginning of the 20th century.
However, as people spend more resources on entertainment, I believe entertainment is decreasing in quality. More specifically, music, movies and video are becoming less original because unoriginality is more profitable.
For music, this trend has been empirically shown. A study by the National Spanish Research Council has found that timbral diversity, or the amount of different sounds in a song, has dropped drastically over time.
The study found that today’s music is about 2.25 time less diverse than music in the late 60s. What does this have to do with money though? It’s all about minimizing risk in order to get the highest profits possible.
People love things that are familiar to them or the familiarity principle. The familiarity principle states that people prefer and will interact more with things they have had past experiences with.
This means that if every new song sounds the same, people are a lot more likely to like those songs because they are familiar. It reminds them of the songs they have already heard which they liked, so they will listen to the new song. Songs have also become more repetitive for the same reason.
This essentially guarantees that listeners will like a new song when it comes out, which greatly reduces risk for production companies. Original songs can either sell really well or not sell at all. If they don’t sell, then the companies don’t recoup the cost of production and lose money.
One argument to redeem modern pop music is that at least the songs are still somewhat different and are written by different people, except that is not always true.
Max Martin, a swedish songwriter, is the writer behind many pop hits from the past two decades. He has written for numerous artists such as Ariana Grande, P!nk, Backstreet Boys and countless more. He has also written hit songs such as “California Gurls,” performed by Katy Perry, “Shake It Off,” performed by Taylor Swift, and “Can’t Feel My Face,” performed by The Weeknd. So far, he has written or co-written over 200 songs for other artists, with 22 number-one hits.
Movies are also becoming repetitive more and more movies being made are either sequels or are based on some sort of past material.
According to an analysis by producer Stephen Follows, 61% of top 100 movies from 2005 to 2014 have been movies based on some past material. According to the same source, the number of top movies that have been sequels has doubled over the same period.
This is, again, because people like familiarity. People watch sequels and remakes because they know that they will like the story because they have already liked it before. This means that they are more likely to watch movies that are unoriginal, movies that are significantly based on previous material such as a prequel or a book.
Film companies make those movies because they make a lot of money. This is apparent when looking at sales statistics. The top ten grossing movies of 2017 are “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”, “Wonder Woman”, “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume Two”, “Justice League”, “Spider-Man: Homecoming”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Despicable Me 3”, “Transformers: The Last Knight”, “Fast and Furious 8” and “Star Wars: Episode 8”. Not one of these movies are original stories, and this is not just an anomaly from last year.
The same is true from 2007, 2013 and 2016, and only one of the top ten were original stories in 2012, 2013 and 2015. The analysis by Follows found that from 2005-2014, only 15% of top ten grossing movies were original.
Another facet of entertainment that has been facing the same problem is the video game industry. In the past 17 years (2001-2017), there were six years were none of the top ten best selling games were original and five years where only one was original. Game franchises such as Call of Duty are notorious for releasing pretty much the same game every year.
Video games are a relatively new medium and yet it seems to have adopted the same originality problems as music and movies, which have been around for much longer. As time goes on, entertainment is probably just going to become less and less original. So, how do we fix this problem?
Although the entertainment industry has moved away from artistry in favor of money, we can’t blame them. It is still a business and making money is a business’s purpose. The problem lies with us, the consumers. Producers put out unoriginal, recycled products because they sell well, and they sell well because consumers choose to buy them. In order to get original content, we must buy original content.
The majority of original content comes from independent creators, whom aren’t backed by huge production companies. The biggest problem they face however is a lack of exposure. If no one ever knows a cool new song or game, no one will ever buy it. Luckily, because of the internet, it is easier than ever to find new and original content, but that’s not enough.
Independent creators need the help of other people in order to become more well-known and sell more. You can help by promote independent content yourself. If you find original content that you liked, make sure to tell your friends so they can enjoy it too.