Naomi Osaka doesn't need to play ball with the press. Taylor Swift doesn't need to cooperate with her old record label. Dave Chappelle doesn't need Comedy Central.
Today's stars don't need the old-school distributors anymore. They build, and fans come. They move, the fans go with them. They need listeners or money or whatever, they just ask for it directly. It's exactly what Donald Trump did with Twitter and politics--disintermediating the traditional distributors. Then it was Elon Musk in the world of finance. Now, everyone's starting to do it.
Have you seen AMC shares today? They just hit $60!!! Nearly triple where they first spiked to back in January. The CEO, Adam Aron, is loving it. He's on Twitter, speaking directly with his new retail shareholder base. He's explaining and defending their latest capital raise, he's following hundreds of "Apes"--as his trading fans have nicknamed themselves, and now he's offering them new perks like free popcorn if they register on AMC's new portal for individual investors.
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Why go direct? Because you can. Ben Thompson of Stratechery wrote about this a few months back, when Taylor Swift was basically like "I'm gonna tell my fans which of my music to listen to so I get paid for it instead of the labels I'm fighting with." Said Thompson: "...if she decides that albums are valuable, they will be, not because they are now scarce, but because only she can declare an album 'Taylor's Version'." (Emphasis mine.)
And the fans support her. They support the artists, the doers, the creators--not the intermediaries who are perceived as self-interested toll collectors, at best. It's why everyone is so excited about the creation of NFTs, which can build in things like royalties that kick back to artists each time a work is sold, so they get paid directly as that value grows instead of watching from the sidelines as "the industry" enriches itself.
Call it Roosevelt's Revenge. You know the famous speech of Teddy Roosevelt's: "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena...who does actually strive to do the deeds...and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." Does this not kind of encapsulate Tesla, or AMC fighting to live another day? But never before have fans in these kinds of arenas been able to connect so directly. The internet has unleashed a tremendous democratization this way.
So yes, content is still key. But more than ever, content creators--and their fans--are king.
See you at 1 p.m!