All hail the militant creative stakeholder
Now that 2008 is well and truly in full swing, I’d like to kick things off by looking at the phenomenon of militant creativity (or lack thereof). I am referring to the on-going strike action by the Writers Guild of America which seems to have Hollywood by the short hairs. Is this a sign of things to come within other creative industries, and more importantly will it also happen over here?
Early 2007 brought with it the signs that major record labels were finally ready to get ‘DRM free’ with their digital repertoire, likewise it appears that 2008 may be the year in which the major motion picture and TV studios will get their comeuppance (and by no less than a miserable bunch of the great creative unwashed). Hah! Wonders will never cease. As ever, the main bone of contention is money – what other bone is there really?
The saga started in late 2007 when the Writers Guild of America (WGA) decided to take strike action over their percentage earning from DVD sales and, perhaps more significantly, their demand for a share of potential profits from other distribution channels (including Internet and mobile platforms).
A Guardian Unlimited article provides good coverage of this disagreement and points out why it may not happen over here in the UK, (the Writers Guild of Great Britain have already negotiated a satisfactory deal), but it also hints that the writers strike may only be a harbinger of similar action by other creative stakeholders (think actors and directors) for much the same reasons.
Although the WGA have now negotiated specific deals with a couple of production companies (e.g. United Artistes and WorldWide pants), the strike action has already had severe repercussions on the flow of US TV and Film production / programming, and it now threatens the awards season with the cancelled Golden Globe Awards ceremony as its first casualty. This clearly illustrates how a key stakeholder group can easily upset the apple cart when its needs are not being addressed in the new content economy of the digital distribution.
If this trend continues and spreads to other creative stakeholders in other industries we could witness a rapid transition to a new status quo where power belongs to those most willing to wield it, and perhaps a more equitable relationship between creative and commercial stakeholders. Dare we hope for this outcome, and what would it mean for the future of content creation?