Over the past couple years, we’ve seen the bottom fall out of the entertainment content business and it’s become increasingly difficult to monetize content of any kind.
In the music business, album sales have disappeared and taken record labels and record advances with it.
In the movie business, studios have slashed production company deals, cut back on the number of movies they produce and scripts they buy, and they’re selling fewer movie tickets each year (despite the illusion of increased box office grosses which are solely due to more expensive ticket prices that hide the fact that fewer people are actually going to the movies).
And of course in the comedy business, there’s fewer TV development deals, fewer comedians that are able to sell tickets, depressed DVD and album sales, and in general comedic content doesn’t generate the kind of money that it used to.
It all adds up to a pretty dismal portrait of the entertainment industry. But, I think there’s a way out of this mess if you look hard enough.
The value of entertainment content is decreasing, but the value of entertainment experiences is on the rise. And it’s now easier than ever before to create an experience if you’re willing to put in a little work and creativity.
While people seem hesitant to shell out cash for content, they are eager to spend money on something that gives them a unique experience – and in many cases, the more unique the experience you can offer, the more likely it is to succeed.
Here’s some examples:
In the music industry, sales of music (content) are way down but concert sales and revenue (experiences) are way up. Musicians have started to realize that the key to their financial success is now their ability to create and monetize these experiences and that if they do, it’s even better for them than the old model. You know who it’s bad for? The record labels. But that’s there problem and they know it, which is why so many of them are now trying to do “360” deals with their acts so that they can get a piece of the “experience” money from touring, merchandise, etc.
In the movie industry, there’s a reason why you see more movie theaters offering better food, serving alcohol, allowing you to reserve a seat, and offering other appealing amenities. It’s because they’ve realized that the movies themselves (content) are no longer enough to get people to theaters, but people are willing to pay for a better theater-going experience.
I believe that the secret to monetizing the comedy business in the coming years will also be figuring out a way to create experiences that people will pay for. Sure, the content is an important piece of the puzzle, but your content really will serve as a marketing hook to attract an audience that will then be interested in ultimately buying the experience you have to sell.
This is all still evolving, but if you look closely you can start to see some examples of how it’s already working.
One of the biggest comedy events of the year is UCB’s Del Close marathon. Sure, you can see most of the participants in the show all the time at the theater, but the marathon format turns it into a unique experience that people want to be a part of.
Erika Adickman is a self-described “pop culture guru and a writer/blogger/pundit/performer” who describes her goal as “to bring people together through nostalgic collective pop culture experiences.” Sure enough, she’s done just that by putting on events like “Troop Beverly Hills: The Experience” and “Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead: The Experience.”
And here’s another creative one that I noticed recently:
Patrick Melton is a Los Angeles-based comedian who hosts the popular Nobody Likes Onions podcast. On an episode in late December, he spitballed live on the air an idea to offer something unique to his fans, something he dubbed the NLO Experience.
Essentially, Melton had an empty room in his apartment and decided to offer fans the opportunity to book themselves a stay at his apartment for a weekend and the chance to sit in on tapings of the show, hang out with him and the show’s other regular comedian guests, and go to some of the places that are regularly discussed on the show for a small fee.
Check out this video from the 16 minute mark, to see Melton describe the idea:
In speaking with Melton recently, he told me that his listeners loved the idea and he had already booked just about the first half of the year. It was a great idea and one which fans clearly are more than happy to pay for because it’s offering them not just content, but a unique “experience.”
So what’s the point of all this?
The point is that if you’re interested in monetizing your talent, you should think about what kind of unique experience you can offer people beyond just the brilliance of your content.
Want to sell more tickets to your stand up shows? Well, figure out a way that you can make those shows a better and different experience than every other stand up show out there.
Want people to pay you to make a video series? Think about how you can create a series where they will get a unique experience for their contribution beyond that of just being a passive audience member.
Creating great content is important, but it’s only half the battle.
9 thoughts on “Why Creating An Experience Is More Valuable Than Creating Content”
I just discovered this website and LOVE it!
This was a terrific column…You just earned yourself another fan!
Thanks Debi! Welcome to the site…
Wow. Awesome column. Just found you on Facebook and within ten minutes I’m already beginning to rethink my live comedy shows and daily radio show and podcast.
That’s great advice. I recently started planning shows that offer something different than just sitting and watching a comedian be funny. This blog is great. I love it and it offers great advice.
Thanks Michelle. What kind of different stuff are you doing at your shows?
I am consistently impressed with the quality and thoughtfulness of your writing here! Well done!
I am struggling a little with finding ways to enhance the Cameryn Moore experience for my fans and followers on FB/email, but for theater festivals and live shows, I try to build in things like artist talkbacks and workshops.
I recently made the offer to my mailing list that, if people were in the same town where I was doing a show, they could come hang out at my homestay with me while I was signed in for my phone-sex job. No responses yet, but I’m thinking about ways to offer that experience to my FB fan base that could be monetized and/or used as a prize or reward for other kinds of fan behavior that I want to encourage (i.e. posting reviews somewhere, referring other people to me, bringing X number of people to a show, etc.)
I saw your show in Vancouver, Cameryn, and you were wonderful! Go get ’em.
I would like to see the source of the statistic that ‘concert and live show sales are way up’. I don’t believe this to be true.
I see your point, but I would like to see actual statistics that prove what you are saying is true, because with the quick easy access to video versions of entertainment of all forms and increased internet speeds giving access to all the live entertainment you want (Hell, you don’t even have to go to Bonnaroo, you can watch it on Youtube with a 6 pack you bought for a normal price…)
I agree unique content is the key to building a bigger fanbase and continuing to make money on your live ticket, but I don’t agree that the Live Ticket is doing well at this time. Just the bigger events are doing well, hence why Bonnaroo got Jay Z last year and Eminem this year (because they draw better then Widespread Panic as a headliner).
Thanks for this great site though, it is awesome to see these facts finally put in front of comics faces that otherwise wouldn’t know!
Hey Matt, those are fair points but I should clarify a bit what I mean re: the music industry and concerts.
Those stats you’re referencing only refer to the ticket sales for the Top 100 and Top 50 acts – yes, ticket sales for those acts are way down. There’s a lot of reasons for that, but the biggest is that they’re charging insane prices and offering mediocre experiences. Here’s a good read about that:
But what I’m really referencing is that while the established huge acts may be struggling to sell tickets, newer acts are now breaking in ways they never have before on the backs of their live performances (experiences) as opposed to their record sales (traditional content).
Bands like Mumford & Sons and Fitz & The Tantrums have seemingly come out of nowhere to have careers on the back of their live shows. In fact, Ticketmaster’s overall concert ticket sale business was actually up last year, despite the fact that sales for the Top 100 touring acts were down.