Wednesday, February 22, 2006

industrial culture

A recent Le Monde article on the French "culture industry"'s downturn (books, movies and music) took an interesting and unusual tack. While most articles highlight the demand side of the equation, this one sheds some light on how culture is supplied and distributed. While it's about the situation in France, many aspects are probably similar in other countries. Here's a summary:

Movies are down 10%, book sales are stagnant, CDs are down 9% (30% overall since 2002) and even DVDs are down 8.8%. Illegal downloading aside, the main problem is consolidation and skyrocketing supply.

On a typical Wednesday (in France, new films come out on Wednesday), there are 18 new films, 32 new DVDs, 600 new CDs and 950 new books [it's unclear to me whether the period covered by the "new" CDs and books is also a week, or longer].

"Product life-cycles" are becoming ever shorter. Five years ago, the average film was shown for 7 weeks, now it's shown for 3. Books are on the racks for 3 months instead of 6. CDs used to last 1.5 years, that's down to 1 year for an "important" disc, 2-3 months for a "minor" one.

There's a massive concentration of the sales period. In the Fnac (sort of like Borders, but with far more cultural/social importance), 35% of all Harry Potter 6 sales were made on the first day, whereas for the previous volume that figure was 27%. 33% of Madonna's "Confessions on the Dancefloor"'s business was done within the first week, versus 29% for U2's "How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" a year earlier. Movie theater owners decide whether to keep a film beyond its first week based on the Wednesday to Saturday figures.

In the Fnac, 5% of their 200,000 CDs generate 80% of revenue, while the 190,000 others sell less than 100 copies per year, i.e. less than one per store.

For the first time in 3 years, the majors signed more musicians than they let go, while cutting their marketing budgets by 27% [this is seen as a good thing in the article].