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The only new streaming service we need is a creator-owned one

By Jon Sherfey

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV. 

There is nothing worse than trying to watch a new show and seeing it’s on a streaming service you don’t have. These days, there are more streaming services than you can shake a stick at. This paradox of choice is harming not only the viewers, but the artists who want their content to be seen. For artists, the answer to this streaming wasteland is fewer streaming options. Inevitably, they will need to ditch streaming services and do it all themselves. 

Legendary Hip-Hop group Blackstar released their new album “No Fear of Time” after a 24-year hiatus. Unfortunately, it is exclusively on a podcast streaming service called Luminary. I know I am not alone when I say I will never listen to it. Not out of any moral high ground or aversion to the group, but because I refuse to sign up for yet another new streaming service, and certainly not Luminary whose few other draws include original podcasts from Lena Dunham and Russell Brand. 

Blackstar did this for a reason and that is the low royalties’ artists receive from streams. What they miss though is that the streams aren’t the most important thing. What is most important, however, is the audience. If an album drops on Luminary and nobody hears it, was it any good? 

The audience may not care about artist and record company battles. They care about the music. If the album isn’t available, the audience will just find something else. 

What the artists fail to realize is what stand-up comedians have known the whole time – the content given to watch at home is not the end goal or money maker. What it allows is ticket sales. This is because of the way the streaming services are set up where the money goes to everyone but the artist

In the past year, a new wave has arrived of stand-up comedy specials released on YouTube for free. Comedians Stavros Halkias and Shane Gillis have racked up millions of views from self-released specials. These views won’t recoup the expenses of the self-funded specials, but it does allow them to play bigger shows and gain a wider audience. The profits from this will pay itself back many times over in the long run. 

These giant entertainment corporations are not necessary now more than ever. Streaming companies will not change the dividends they pay artists. It is up to the artists to create creator-owned content. YouTube is the perfect platform for this because uploaders own the rights to their videos. 

The difficulty in this comes when talking about TV and movies. Artists generally don’t have the money to fund entire feature-length films and series of television on their own. 

But if streaming continues to be spread out, then the services will cannibalize each other and the content will remain unseen. 

Quibi and CNN+ have shown the harsh reality for some of these expendable streaming services. The cancellation was surely devastating for fans of “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy.” More realistically though, the show had no fans because nobody subscribed to CNN+. 

There needs to be unity in the streaming services and certain ones should probably bow out. That means you, Tubi. At least if there were fewer streaming services, the shows on them would have a chance. Would you rather be a small fish in a big pond or on CBS All Access? 

While less streaming services are better than the countless options, it still does not solve the artists’ problems. The money given is not enough and even on these services there are too many options. Some of them don’t even seem real. I refuse to believe “The Joel McHale Show” is anything but a money laundering scheme. 

Artists need to work together to allow for a creator-owned content platform. People go where the good content is. Nobody has any affection for Netflix, but rather for “Stranger Things.” People don’t have affection for HBO MAX, but for “Game of Thrones.” People don’t love Amazon Prime but they love “Marvelous Ms. Maisel.” Well, actually nobody loves Marvelous Ms. Maisel but the point still stands. If streaming’s real money makers banded together, they could create a totally new entertainment industry where the creatives reap the benefits of their labor. 

This isn’t an easy task and requires real sacrifice from artists. They would have to put real money up, but it would be for the greater good. The internet makes a lot of the entertainment world obsolete. There is no need for a publicist when there is twitter and YouTube. 

The answer for artists requires a difficult path, but if created will make a new landscape for creators who wish to own the fruits of the labor without giving up so much profit for corporations. Until then, I’ll take anyone’s spare Disney+ password.

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Jon Sherfey

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