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for June 18, 2004

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An Industry Explains Itself
by Mike Sauter

[The following originally appeared at Mike's Minutiae, which is Mike Sauter's little corner of cyberspace. Mike has graciously permitted its appearance here at Altrok.]
We've got a hot exclusive here at Mike's Minutiae--what they call a "get" in the field of Hot Journalism--and it's exclusively for the exclusive readers of Mike's Minutiae. [At least, it was for a few days. -Ed.]

We were able to grab the Copyright Industries' elbow recently at a cocktail party, and threatened to not let go until an interview was scheduled. Here's what we got out of our whining and cajoling:

Me: Hey, thanks for agreeing to an interview!

Copyright Industry: (rubbing elbow) Uh, sure. Do you have an icepack?

Me: Yeah, in a minute. Anyway, can you explain to my readers why you won't offer la carte pricing on your products?

Copyright Industry: Sure, it's really very simple. A lot of what we produce is uninteresting at best and godawful at worst, so we have to bundle about 80% garbage with the 20% consumers actually want. Otherwise, we wouldn't make our quarterly numbers to placate the shareholders who own the conglomerate that owns a holding entity which owns our parent company.

Me: I see.

Copyright Industry: (getting defensive) Hey, I didn't know this was going to be one of those "ambush" interviews!

Me: Uhh...

Copyright Industry: (relaxing a little) Oh, I'm sorry. I haven't been sleeping well lately.

Me: No problem. Could you explain why it wouldn't be better for your customers, and therefore ultimately better for you, if you didn't just sell 100% desirable material and 0% garbage.

Copyright Industry: (sighing) We've tried--oh, lord, how we've tried--to reduce the garbage quotient. We've done lengthy quality control studies, hired outside consultants--we even talked to a tarot card reader after a recommendation by one of our recording artists. But, see, the funny thing is, you just can't reliably commodify the product stream on the creative side.

Me: Really?

Copyright Industry: Startling, isn't it? But it's true. I mean, you'd think they would have told us that back in M.B.A. school! As it turns out, all works of art and art-type products are predicated upon risk, and sometimes end up in failure. Our people have been working on a formula for years to calculate the precise risk quotient--you should see the spreadsheet!--but it's always eluded our Quantification Initiative.

Me: Wow.

Copyright Industry: Yeah, and on top of the risk factor, we've learned that people can't be forced to like something they don't. (sighs) We had really high-hopes for Project ThroatCram back in the '70s, but all it successfully produced was Charlie's Angels and K.C. and the Sunshine Band.

Me: (coughs)

Copyright Industry: After a four-year market research study, we uncovered some strong insights about consumer taste. Different people like different things. One size does not fit all with creative products--there's just no such "killer app" like an elastic waistband for music or TV shows or movies.

Me: (nodding sympathetically)

Copyright Industry: So, voila! We developed the Bundled Garbage Model that's served us so well for so long now.

Me: Hm.

Copyright Industry: And you know what, we're looking to export this fantastically successful model to other industries as well. (confidentially) That will probably help us on the P.R. front a little bit.

Me: What do you mean?

Copyright Industry: Well, we've been sharing details about this model to help the ailing U.S. auto industry. Why make sure that all of the car works perfectly, when you can do, say, the drive train and air conditioning well and cut costs on the rest? Customers have to buy the whole car, right?

Me: (alarmed) Uh, interesting...

Copyright Industry: Very interesting! A number of CEOs from different industries are looking very seriously in our research: airlines, food service, marbles.

Me: Marbles?

Copyright Industry: Hell, yeah! As long as you make good peawees and alleys, why spend as much time on the glimmers and gooseberry swirls? Kids have to buy the whole bag!

Me: I see. Well, I think we'd better wrap up. I must admit, it's been stomach-churning.

Copyright Industry: (grinning widely) After ringing registers, that's our favorite reaction!

Me: Thanks anyway.

Copyright Industry: And while we're on the subject, can I interest you in the latest Owen Wilson DVD?

Me: This interview is over!

[the tape recorder goes dead]


©2004 Mike Sauter

All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.


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