People often say that the world gets better as technology progresses; they preach about Moore’s Law, how things keep getting smaller and better and faster and more complex and cheaper, as if the fact that my current computer has something like 200 Gigabytes of disk space within it and my computer ten years ago had a single 40 Megabyte drive means anything. Because everything that becomes exponentially better means something else becomes exponentially worse, and even though people throw out purposely ironic and therefore cliche examples like “why don’t I have a jetpack yet?”, I think that people don’t understand this, and simply think if we throw enough money and enough computers at any problem, that it will be solved. And if there is one thing I learned working at Juno, is that it takes so much money and momentum to put a good solution in place, EVEN if it is cheap and EVEN if it is easy and EVEN if it will make money, that most of the time, it won’t happen.
Case in point: Domino’s does not deliver in 30 minutes anymore. It’s ingrained in our culture that they do, and horrible hacks that were once comedians that many people consider comedians even though they are nothing but shills that make corporations money (i.e. Jay Leno) still do jokes about Domino’s delivering in 30 minutes or less, they haven’t done this in years, maybe in over a decade (although I can’t find a good source on when they stopped doing this, since google searches on “Dominos”+”30 minutes” brings up more search results than putting in “amateur sluts”.) Anyway, it seems like Domino’s could do pizzas faster; they could move to vans, or use computer-controlled mobile ovens, or robotic pizza construction machines, or high-end GPS-based roadmap solutions or something to keep the system going. But really, when they got a few bad lawsuits due to driver accidents, they threw the whole thing away, while keeping the price the same. We still pay for the image of a quickly distributed pizza, although it now takes me anywhere from 45 to 768 minutes to get a fucking pie from the place just down the road.
My friend Ray is the master of not understanding the basic fundamentals of how business works and why someone would cease to offer a service to the public, which is ironic because he technically owns a business and as the only employee, should be a master at this stuff. One in six phone conversations I have with Ray involves him saying something like “I don’t see why somebody doesn’t release that Venom live concert on DVD. It would be so cheap for them to just press like 5,000 of them for like $4,000 and they would totally sell them for $15 apiece and make like $75,000.” (Replace the Venom live concert with whatever arcane metal concert or obscure movie you want.) This is, of course, completely asinine, and the reason they don’t do it is because companies see better things to do with their cash then light two or three piles big enough to buy new cars on fire. I’ll break it down for you based on the stuff I vaguely know about working for big companies.
First, someone would have to get together and decide to do it. That team is going to consist of a project manager, a writer, an artist, a marketing manager, and anywhere from two to twenty other people. (I don’t know the exact numbers for marketing a DVD – I only deal with software people, and I’m just guessing.) Anyway, all of these people make semi-okay money – maybe thirty grand a year for peons, maybe a hundred grand for a hot-shit VP of marketing or whatever. This isnt’ their only project of the year, but you’re going to add up all of those salaries and divide by the number of projects they do a year, and that’s a number bigger than zero. In fact, if a half-dozen people work on this project, and they do a dozen releases a year, and they make about fifty grand a year, that’s $25K.
Next, they have to get the rights to sell the thing. I don’t know how much that will cost, and maybe you can get the guys in Venom to settle for a percentage of the profits with a chunk up front. Or maybe Venom signed some deal in 1988 when they were totally high and gave some division of Time-Warner exclusive rights to every video they ever did, and TW, even though they don’t even remember who Venom is, won’t break out the masters unless you put six figures on the table. All of this will once again cost you some amount of money, and even to be conservative and everything else, if you press 5,000 of these things and sell them for $15 each, it’s fair to say the band might want something like a buck a DVD up front.
Then you actually make the DVD. There comes that $4,000, which better also cover the packaging, and probably doesn’t cover shipping or a bar code or DVD authoring or remastering. Then you have to get the thing out to every Venom fan with $15 to spend. I don’t think they have chips implanted to tell them to come to your house with the cash, so you’re going to have to get a distributor, and they’re going to have to deal with product returns if you want this thing to go to any record store, and that plus the distributor’s cut is going to take away at least half of each $15. Some kind of ad campaign is going to have to be done, and you’ll have to pay a publicist to send out copies to zines and write up press releases and crap. Ray likes to conveniently overlook all of this by saying something like, “well, they could just put it on their web site and say it’s an internet-only thing and send out an email.” But that involves having a web site, and paying someone to set up the pages for you, and having a fulfillment system so it can take credit cards and so someone can staff the mailroom and send out orders when they come in. Plus, those internet-only releases suck, and all of the zines (like Ray) will be bitching that the band is too cheap to give them a copy. And are there even enough people out there that give a fuck about Venom to buy this? I mean, Google Directory shows only six Venom fan sites, and the official Venom fan club site is on geocities, which is pretty much the mark of shit. I’m guessing you’d end up paying warehousing costs on 3,476 copies of the DVD until you finally dumped them in a landfill and cut your losses.
On top of all of that, add shipping, taxes, the cost of keeping a roof over your head, workman’s comp, parking, janitorial services, phone lines, and whatever overhead, and I don’t even see how you could break even on something like this, let alone handle it while trying to keep a bunch of other projects afloat. And no matter how much I explain this, I will probably have a conversation with Ray a week from now about why nobody hasn’t released some obscure Japanese robot cartoon on DVD.
I was going to make some greater point about all of this aside from just making fun of Ray. And I’m not making fun of Ray as much as I am wishing that he would see all of this and think of scams that take all of this into consideration so he can legitimately make some money. Anyway, this was all precipitated by an order to Domino’s, and the bastards actually showed up in less than thirty minutes, so now I must go eat.