Putting The Business Back In The Entertainment Business

Many people are under the impression that the entertainment business is not a “real” business. Typically, entertainment is not viewed in the same light as finance, technology, real estate or other traditional sectors. Placing showbiz in this light does not come without merit though. Many in this business treat it as a very lucrative hobby, and this, my friends, is why the industry is under duress.

The music industry took massive hits to its bottom line, suffering drastic losses in album sales revenue. This was famously blamed on illegal downloads. I am here to tell you, that that was only part of the problem. Costs to make albums skyrocketed during the late 1990s and early 2000s when the urban music market became the dominating force in music.

With 20 member entourages staying in 5-star hotels with $100 a day per diems, $5,000 a day studio rentals, $1,000 a day car rentals, excessive wardrobe and image costs and the omnipresent Million Dollar Videos.

The record labels accepted these costs because Rap albums were generating millions of dollars. However, like the housing bubble of 2007, it was not a sustainable business model.

How did the labels get to this point? Joint ventures with production companies and boutique labels run by “executives” who had zero experience in corporate settings, much less running a division of a multi billion dollar media conglomerate.

The music business was, and to some degree, still is the Wild West. Allowing people with no business experience to oversee multi-million dollar budgets, staffing, marketing, promotion and production of product was the worst decision the industry could have made and they continue to pay for it to this day.

Now, let’s move west to Hollywood. The television and film industries unlike music, are regulated by unions such as the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and overseen by media powerhouses Sony, NBC Universal and Warner Bros. with deals being negotiated by the very corporate agencies Creative Artists Agency, William Morris Endeavor, ICM Partners and United Talent Agency.

So, what is the problem in Hollywood? The industry’s major asset, the talent, has NO IDEA what the word BUSINESS means. Thousands of people move to Los Angeles each year to fulfill their dreams of becoming the next big TV or film star with no idea of how the business works. With Reality Television taking over as the dominant media vehicle due to its low cost/high return production model, there is less work for actors than ever before.

This however, has not stopped thousands from moving to the city, increasing the level of stress placed on the city and industries resources. People that move to Los Angeles with dreams of stardom often have no idea where to begin, thinking that finding an agent will automatically get them a starring role in the next James Cameron movie.

This will never be the case. The major agencies listed above represent the top 10% of all talent in Hollywood. The Brad Pitts and Meryl Streeps of the world. The Seth MacFarlanes and Andrew Sorkins. In other words, the money makers.

So what is a young fresh faced actor from Wisconsin supposed to do to separate himself from the pack and “make it” in this town? The answer is simple: stay in Wisconsin. The entertainment business is oversaturated with talent, deficient in the amount of work available for talent, and in the middle of a war with Silicon Valley regarding the monetization of content in the new digital era. Your best bet: make a YouTube video and hope it goes viral.

The entertainment business is referred to as “The Industry” (as if it’s the only industry on Earth) because no one wants to see it for what it really is, a BUSINESS. A very large and distressed business.

Unfortunately, the people that drive this business, the talent, have no idea what it means to be an entrepreneur. They have no business training and no desire to understand the inner workings of this industry. Instead, they rely on managers, agents, lawyers and studio executives to deal with all of that, without realizing that those individuals' only concern is the bottom line of their companies.

This bottom line comes at the expense of the talent who more times than not find themselves not on the red carpet at their movie premier, but on Hollywood Boulevard asking a passerby for a dollar.

If you have dreams of being a star in the entertainment industry, treat yourself as a business and not as person with a gift to sing or act. Viewing yourself as a business will give you the eyes to see the business for what it is and will positively impact your interactions with the corporate units that will ultimately determine your fate.

Apple sells hardware, Mercedes sells cars and Entertainment sells people. You are a product. View yourself as such, act accordingly and you may have a shot at becoming the next Kim Kardashian or whomever it is that your twitter followers tell you that you are better than.

Damani Barham | Elite.