free markets, free culture

Layoff schwag: the curious pile of left-behinds

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roulette industries

roulette industries

In the office kitchen, there’s a table crowded with knick-knacks and odd-ends, like the forgotten corner in a yard sale. Old books, plastic flowers, a vase, a bowl, several variations on a paperweight.

Upon closer inspection, you realize these are the desk remains of colleagues recently departed — most of them involuntarily, part of the fallout of an organization shedding layers to improve efficiency.

One book left behind was the above 1998 Cambridge Press title, Entertainment Industry Economics: A Guide for Financial Analysis by Harold Vogel. I flipped through it and immediately knew it would be one of my more, well, entertaining reading projects.

This book interests me for a few reasons:

1. It provides the economic theories/realities behind contemporary entertainment industries. It’s a financial analyst’s perspective of pricing structures, revenue models, distribution methods, and other considerations that an MBA would need to know, but may not be as apparent to the person marketing these industries. Someone like me, pursuing an MS in Strategic Communications, is used to approaching these industries from a narrow marketing perspective. This book is like a transparency filter to me, and fills in a lot of gaps I had about these industries. On the marketing side, I knew there were a lot of missing answers, but I didn’t know how to ask the right questions.

2. Because this is a real economics book, it does go more into the social sciences aspect of entertainment itself. The introduction dives into conceptual differences between “leisure” and “work” and the sociological factors that have increased our time for entertainment and the cultural place it holds in American society.

3. The book is tightly-written in the language of finance — macroeconomics, profitability synopses, corporate overviews, big-picture accounting — but is easily grasped as a simple narrative. I credit Vogel for striking a good balance of intellectual depth with accessible readability. As Edith told us (from Zinsser’s book On Writing Well), the simpler your words, the smarter you sound.

4. If the internet is a time machine, old books are the way-way-back machine. This book was written over a decade ago and it’s so much fun to read sections on the Music industry or the Broadcast industry or Motion Pictures and laugh about all the things the analysts never even saw coming! (Retro Futurism in general is a fun genre, looking at the past’s idea of the future, often involving flying cars and other imagined flights. My favorite retro-future concept involves food — surprise! — as featured in The Gallery of Regrettable Food, including some real culinary puzzlers from mid-century America… weiners in a sea of beans, anyone?)

I recommend this as required reading for anyone in or entering the entertainment industry, to get a lay of the land and understand the economic forces behind it all. This text doesn’t look readily available for mass market purchase, but you can preview the latest edition of this book (2007) on Google Reader or find it at the library.

On second thought, I guess this type of analysis is readily available from research consultants like Forrester’s or Deloitte, who routinely publish their industry outlooks as their core business. I prefer the book and its physical presence though. The weight feels appropriate — 500 pages, bound and covered, in your hand.


Written by @hellopanelo

April 23, 2009 at 1:02 pm

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