The entertainment and media industry is currently undergoing a significant transformation, evoking memories of past disruptions that maintain their impact. Actions like calculated strategic shifts by prominent players, the emergence of NFTs, and the evolving social media landscape driven by TikTok signify the ongoing breakdown of established norms in entertainment and media.

The late 1990s witnessed a notable shift in the media landscape driven by three pivotal technological factors: the advent of high-fidelity codecs like MP3, the emergence of peer-to-peer file-sharing platforms like Napster, and the democratisation of high-speed internet access. These catalysts swiftly dismantled the traditional model centered around packaged content and physical formats, leading to the rapid decline of record labels and studios.

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Albhy Galuten, Senior Fellow, Technology Initiatives, Intertrust

Following this period, the subsequent decade was marked by exploratory endeavors aimed at reconfiguring the traditional value chain using the internet and connected device technologies. Notably, Apple’s introduction of the iPod and iTunes ecosystem initiated a revival, triggering a phase of transformation within the music and film sectors. Those entities that emerged from this transformational phase morphed into higher-margin licensing entities, embracing subscription-based streaming models that were once considered unconventional – an approach pioneered by industry frontrunners such as Netflix, Apple, and Spotify.

In an industry characterised by its insatiable appetite for technology and pursuit of profit, the newly established gatekeepers – formerly reliant on studios – ventured into the realm of creativity with bold initiatives. Concurrently, studios responded by launching their own streaming services.

The global pandemic served as an accelerator, propelling streaming services to unprecedented financial heights while nurturing a perception of perpetual growth. Amidst this upheaval, a surprising harbinger of change emerged in the form of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). Beyond their initial aura of speculation, NFTs unveiled a fundamental shift in consumer behavior – a shift towards the acquisition of rights instead of mere content. NFT marketplaces facilitated direct interactions between creators and consumers, bypassing intermediaries and gatekeepers.

Despite the early limitations observed in NFT platforms – including content vulnerability and rudimentary transactions –, these issues can be addressed through the implementation of Digital Rights Management and cash wallets. Consequently, a new era has been ushered in, marked by direct engagement between creators and consumers. Artists now have the opportunity to explore innovative funding sources and promote their creations through a decentralised network, devoid of intermediary constraints.

This transformative journey carries significant implications for the industry. Publishers, labels, and studios, while retaining their significance, must brace for an imminent wave of restructuring. Strategic pivots towards copyright management and talent development may optimise their evolution.

During this significant change, both creators and consumers reap the rewards. As guided by broad patterns, art reverts to its fundamental beginnings. Quickly developing talents thrive online, influenced by the choices of the audience. As we navigate these transformative shifts, one undeniable fact remains: the future of entertainment is shaped by both creators and consumers.

In a digital world where the limits of the internet vanish, a fresh era emerges – marked by direct interaction, empowerment, and limitless creative possibilities. The next wave of disruption in entertainment drives us toward a time when long-standing traditions might crumble, opening avenues for a vibrant and transformative future that connects and energises.