2009 is seemingly shaping up to be the year when the internet’s threat to sound the death knell for the traditional entertainment industry is finally about to ring true. With each passing month, systems like Veoh, Vuse, Bittorrent and Crunchy Roll have made TV and film available to the masses, while iTunes domination of downloads is now facing the threat of Spotify, which offers streaming that requires no ownership of music at all, just an unlimited jukebox.
Is the digital age the end of an era for popular music and entertainment? Or just another step in its natural evolution as it tries to keep pace with technological development. There seems to be a consensus amongst copyright owners and creators that at no previous time has anyone been so unsure of where we will be ten years from now. But when the history of cinema, music and animation is just a matter of decades old, stability has always been out of reach, no matter how desired.
Media and its reporters these days are often regarded suspiciously at best, and as vermin at worst. The term ‘paparazzi’ actually comes from the name of a news photographer in Federico Fellini’s classic 1960 film, La Dolce Vita. The character Paparazzo had been supposedly so-named by the director from an Italian dialect meaning ‘mosquito’, describing an annoying noise.
In the past couple of months I’ve been fortunate to see entertainment in its many guises, from Christmas TV in the UK, to New Year nightlife in Thailand, J-Pop concerts and gypsy theatre in Tokyo, Broadway shows in New York, film studios and the Grammys in LA, and some of the world’s best magic and circus shows in Las Vegas. Entertainment, more than any other time in human history, seems to be everywhere, accessible all the time.
Lush, extravagant and star-studded. From a home sofa, the music industry’s biggest back-slapping event, The Grammy Awards, seems like a glorious red-carpeted affair, a paean to the most talented artists of the year in a reverential atmosphere. In reality though, The Staples Center in Los Angeles, more renowned as a sports arena, is as intimate as an Olympic opening ceremony, and the eulogies to god & inspiration echo fall mostly on deaf ears. The problem with music’s most prestigious event, is that like too much of today’s music product, it’s lost its soul.
Just outside Paris lies a small town called Aubervilliers. In it lives a community of 45 members, spouses, children, and, most notably, 38 horses. Like any normal nomad community, they are rarely at home instead traveling the world as a unit. These are no ordinary nomads, however. They are Theatre Zingaro, an extraordinary collection of performers, gypsies, acrobats, and musicians led by keen equestrian and actor, Bartabas.
Aristotle wasn’t right about everything. The beauty of modern entertainment is its power to delight our senses with ravenous intention. And much more than a mere five of them. Our eyes alone give us the dual senses of light and colour to enjoy visual feasts day and night, while the sense of heat can send shivers running up and down our spines in fear or sentimentality. This month’s recommendations abound with sensory delights.
Originally we’d be celebrating the end of the year at this time, as the tacked-on month of February, with its odd number of days, filled up the end of the previously monthless winter in the Roman calendar. Indeed, we’d probably be asking forgiveness for our sins so we could start the new year in March, fully purified – februum in Latin. In the entertainment world, the old model still fits rather nicely, as award ceremonies like The Grammies and The Oscars all bookend the year of entertainment that was 2008 during this very month. That means it’s almost time to look fully forward to the pleasures ahead in 2009.
"January, month of empty pockets! Let us endure this evil month, anxious as a theatrical producer's forehead.” – Sidonie Gabrielle Colette.
January has always been a quiet month for entertainment. Wallets have been decimated by the holiday season and the cold darkness of the northern hemisphere doesn’t encourage trips out to the shops, let alone cinemas, theatres or gigs. The beauty of this time of year is the unexpected.
And so it begins again. Pooped from the parties, stuffed from the stuffing, and drained from family duties, another new year has snuck up and begun without me.
Back when I was an 80’s rock kid, minus the perm hair-do, the New Year’s would begin with the returning of duplicate gifts, unendearing hunks of plastic in the form of tape or video cassette, to the music store in exchange for something else. When I happened to venture into the store’s encroaching aisles of shiny round discs called CDs, I played safe with an album I already had on trusty tape. But it didn’t take long to get hooked on the technology of the future.