It’s never easy to predict the future and it’s especially precarious to try to predict a decade in advance. For example, 10 years ago Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and podcasts (or iPods for that matter) didn’t even exist so it’s unlikely anybody would have predicted the role they would currently play in comedy careers.
But just because looking a decade into the future is nearly impossible, doesn’t mean it isn’t a pretty amusing exercise. So, with that in mind, I thought I’d share some thoughts I have about what comedy careers are likely to look like in the year 2021.
A Lot More Comedians Will Be Able To Make A Living From Comedy
It may not seem like it, but the current shifts in technology are actually making it easier for people to make a living from their comedic pursuits. As technology continues to make it easier for you to reach audiences and distribute your creations to them directly and at lower costs, it increases your ability to monetize your art. With the traditional Hollywood gatekeepers no longer necessary for you to reach the world with your comedy, I think we’ll see a lot more people managing to build successful comedy careers. However…
A Lot Fewer Comedians Will Get Rich From Comedy
While I believe it’s going to be easier for people to make a living off comedy, I also think it’s going to be much more difficult for people to get rich from it for those same reasons. The Hollywood machine continues to splinter and the “mainstream” is likely to continue to break into millions of smaller niche audiences. Small niches create opportunities for more people, but the lack of a mainstream mass audience will make it much more difficult to get rich as a comedian.
We’re already seeing this in the music industry, where a lot more bands are able to make a living catering to their own particular niche, but the days of the MTV-fueled superstar are pretty much over. That’s why the only successful stadium tours in music these days feature bands that have been around for decades as opposed to new stars.
There Will Be Fewer Comedy Clubs And They Will Be Less Relevant
In a world where comedians can build and control their own fanbases and where customers can have instant access to all the information in the world, it seems hard to believe that consumers will continue to go to comedy clubs where they often don’t even know who the acts are that are performing. The majority of comedy club goers may be attending to see a specific act, but the clubs also do a lot of business based on uneducated customers who just want to “see some comedy.”
I believe that will change and that people will become much less likely to go see somebody they don’t already know. And if that happens, then the power shifts more to the comics, who can attract their audience to any venue they want. The result will change the economics of the comedy club business and likely make it much more difficult for many clubs to survive.
Stand Up Comedy Shows Will Become Much More Multimedia Driven
Here’s another thing we’re already starting to see happen. Comedians are going to incorporate a lot more into their acts than just standing on stage telling jokes. Video content, interactive gimmicks, and who knows what else will become tools in more comedians’ arsenals because it continues to become cheaper and easier to incorporate these things and because audiences are going to start to expect a bigger “show.”
The Line Will Blur Between Local And National Comedians
I think in the very near future comedy venues will broadcast almost all of their live shows online in one way or another. As a result, a “local” comedian in a given city will have the opportunity to be seen by everybody in the world without ever even leaving his city. I think this is going to change the concept of touring, of being a road comic, and probably the trajectory of how careers develop. Because it will now be possible to build a national following without spending years on the road.
Podcasts Will Be Primarily Video
This will happen a lot quicker than a decade from now. The podcast boom has been great for comedians and I think it will continue to expand – especially into video. Within a couple years I believe that just about all comedy podcasts will be available on video (because that’s really where the money is) and likely will also be broadcast in live streaming video as well. A decade from now, the idea that all these podcasts were once audio-only will seem antiquated and foolish.
Lots Of Established Comedians Will See Their Careers Disappear
Here’s an unfortunate prediction – I believe the changes that are coming to the comedy industry are going to wind up sinking the careers of a lot of “established” comedians. There’s a lot of comedians out there right now who have built careers that rely on the current/traditional model of the business. They have no real connection to their audience, no interest in being entrepreneurial, and they are too comfortable with the current state of their career because they regularly get bookings and work the club circuit.
But I believe that system is going to fall apart and suddenly there’s going to be a drastically smaller market looking for “hired guns” to entertain generic comedy crowds. I think many comedians are going to wake up one day and wonder what happened to their industry – the same way established journalists woke up one day to find their business had changed without them.
Comedians Will Become Moguls
While a lot of established comedians will be too slow to adapt to the industry’s changes, there will be some that do exactly that and will wind up reaping huge rewards as a result. Comedians with big fanbases who decide to be entrepreneurial will discover huge opportunities not only for themselves, but also to help launch new comedians and projects by leveraging their own fanbases to help grow new ones.
I see a scenario very similar to what used to go on in the hip hop world, where one artist would sign another to his “label” and then help launch that person’s career. For example, NWA led to Dr. Dre, who led to Eminem, who led to 50 Cent. A similar thing can happen in the comedy world – especially as comedians have better established connections to their own individual audiences.
Who knows if I’ll be right about any of these predictions, but it’s a fun thing to consider. Post a comment below and tell me what you predict comedy careers will look like in 10 years…