I got Geek Backed, booyah!

Well, well, well, color me shocked. I never expected to see a special Geek Nights episode about my little e-mail. Here it is:

While I applaud the idea of not buying bootlegs and not pirating after something is licensed, the real thing hurting anime DVD sales is people not buying DVDs. The quote/unquote rule of fan-subs is, if you enjoyed watching a show you should buy it. Not if you LOVED it, not if it CHANGED your life, but if you just liked it and were entertained. No matter what, the U.S. anime industry is not like the Japanese industry. The U.S. doesn’t get to rely on advertisers for their revenue. For the most part, they have to rely on us, the fans. So while renting anime is all well and good to see if you like the show, shouldn’t the same rules apply? Because otherwise while it might not make people feel as bad, it is just as hurtful to the industry. And since most DVDs are well priced, even cheap, it’s not too hard. I also here complaints about the price of U.S. anime DVDs. But if you really think about it, $30 is a good price for 4 or 5 episodes. I remember paying $30 for two episodes of Cowboy Bebop on VHS. Now, I’m not saying that is right, but anime is a niche market so it seems ludicrous to expect the same price on the DVDs as the latest Spiderman movie on DVD. Anyway, what I’m getting at is we all need to buy more anime. Period.

Before anyone starts complaining, Narutaki was wrong in one regard. When you rent anime it does in fact give a small amount of revenue to the anime industry. It’s not the same amount of revenue as buying the DVD in the store, but there is some profit going to the anime company. I know all about this because I used to work at a video store. I told this to Narutaki after she already sent out the e-mail.

So I sent this to Rym and Scott as an idea to see what they had to say. Apparently, they had a lot to say. Their forums also came alive with the usual internet hate but also worthy discussion.

Some of the people on the the forum really make it seem like you wrote some sort of vicious attack letter which I clearly think is not the case. It’s not like you opened your letter with, “Hey dirty pirate scum! Why has the righteous fist of Saber not smited your unsightly putrescence from this earth we love so? You horrible doll touchers.” See that’s a vicious attack letter. I really saw nothing in your letter what warranted people telling you to go die or that you were stupid.

I have found that most of the time when people react that violently to something you say, it’s because there is some underlying issue. I have two theories on the subject. I think Scott in particular had such anger because he must feel some degree of guilt over not supporting the industry more or because he frequently argues with some one over a similar issues (like indie comics) and can’t win with them so he decided to take it out on you.

I definitely want to clarify that I don’t think people should buy things they don’t like just to support something. I love Geneon, and am sorry to see what is currently going on with them, but I wouldn’t buy Rozen Maiden ever. EVER. But if I like a show, I like to buy the DVDs when I can.

No one should ever buy Rozen Maiden or anything by Peach-Pit.

But I really felt like that was a straw man argument they were using. You never said to buy anything they did not like, but they very much made it seem like you were an advocate of buying garbage to support the industry.

They made some really interesting points that I had not thought about. I especially like the ideas about pushing anime out of niche, as Nintendo has pushed itself back into #1 by marketing to more than their general geeky market. However unlikely it seems to have anime on one of the big three TV networks, it is a grand idea.

I always felt that the general business plan of the anime industry was to buy several broad appeal titles to support the more niche titles in America. You buy and make money off shows like Hellsing and Bleach so you can take a risk on shows like Fighting Spirit and Master Keaton. You try to get both markets and hopefully do better with a diversified portfolio of titles. How well that works is currently up for debate, but the idea is you try to get both markets. The casual fans and the hardcore Otaku.

If the industry only bought titles that were easily marketable then we can say good-bye to anything that isn’t shonen fighting shows. I don’t think anyone would want to see that happen. Therefore, it seems to make sense that buying DVDs of shows that are small and niche is the only way to support them, it is not like there is any merchandise to buy.

The other problem I had with Geek Nights’ forum rant is it’s really easy to say, “You should get your anime on prime time NBC/HBO because then you would rake in millions of dollars.” But it’s not easy to do. Slots on primetime TV are outrageously valuable. From what I gathered Geek Nights want the industry to gamble on making a huge push to get their stuff on network TV. I have seen them try this to a less risky extent and it has failed. I remember a while back, ADV was going to a lot of the big TV licensing conventions trying to push their stuff, and I don’t think it has done that much for them. Almost no one is going to take that big a chance on anything that has not proven itself a million times over.

It would certainly be a false assumption to think just because you could get something on a big network that it would succeed. Doing so would be insanely costly, so much so that if the show didn’t succeed a small anime company would go under due to lost revenue. Also, almost everything on primetime is made in-house from their own studios. They want the creative control and power. So that also adds to the difficultly of getting something squeezed in there.

My analogy is become a rock star. You can try to be a rock star by playing it safe or by throwing caution to the wind. You can go to school and get a flexible job while still playing shows in the hopes that you get discovered. Or you can drop out of school and solely devote yourself to your music. You have a slightly better chance of making it big when you go all out this way but if you fail you have nothing to fall back on.

In my opinion, the anime industry is taking the safer route. They cater to a niche audience while very slowly trying to get their shows to have a broader fan base. They do this with the hopes that some of the bigger games in town will notice the growing popularity of anime and take a chance on them. It has taken several years, but anime is now on cable TV on a fairly regular basis and has gotten as far as the kiddy shows blocks on network TV. That is a pretty big accomplishment. It’s no where as big as being on after Heroes but that’s not going to happen any time so IMHO no matter how you try to market it.

They also mentioned that DVD sales numbers aren’t really what makes a company money. This is a pretty crucial point. While I don’t think that is 100% true, the fact that merchandising is a key element to making money cannot be overlooked. DVD sales numbers can affect what titles they pick up next or whether they pick up the next season of something. For example, buying the book of a new author doesn’t make the author more money on that one book. Authors have contracts and are paid a lump sum, so unless you are a big name you don’t get royalties for your books. So whether it sells 10,000 or 1,000,000 you get the same amount. But if your book happens to sell that 1,000,000…on your next contract you have more power about what is going on. You’ve proven people are interested so this time around maybe you can get royalties. So knowing book publishing rather better than the DVD market my thinking has been, if I buy the DVDs I am showing support for future titles I hope to see.

They also mention it does not matter when or how you buy a DVD, but it certainly does matter. If you notice, when ever a movie comes out they always care about its first few week earnings. The sales figures that matter most are almost always the initial sales figures. If you want to see titles succeed, your best bet is to buy them when they come out. Because if people don’t purchase niche titles then you will generally see a diminishing of what titles you see overall. So if you are a sienen or josei fan you can kiss your titles good-bye.

Does this mean your only a real fan if you buy something at full price when it comes out in the store? Hell no. Buy things when you want to buy them and for how much your willing to pay for them. But don’t lie to yourself, and don’t lie to me, saying that it is all the same.

Also, someone mentioned the anime industry wasn’t in trouble. It seems to be from my view. There are much fewer titles being licensed than 3 or 4 years ago, DVD sales are down, and Geneon has just about thrown in the towel. It isn’t the worst state but it is certainly not headed in a good direction. And I just can’t agree that consumers have zero to do with that. Yes, they aren’t completely at fault. There are problems on both sides of the fence. Ask John just addressed this a bit in his latest article, too.

I also have a nasty feeling that if things continue they way they are going, then it is going to push the anime industry into playing hardball with the fan-subbers. If people keep watching fan-subs but are unwilling to pay for the DVDs they like they are now, then I see a series of music industry style crackdowns coming up. It’s already happening overseas in places like Singapore. If you want to see them shutting down Anime Suki and sending out lawsuits to downloaders like they were candy on Halloween, then people just have to keep doing what they are doing. Will that stop fan-subs and bootlegs? No. Will it be very annoying and create bad blood on both sides of the issue? It sure will.

And I was kind of proud, not only did Scott call me an idiot, but people on the forums called me mentally challenged, and someone told me to die! I have never said anything to cause such a ruckus on the Internet before. Bully for me!

Narutaki Currently!
Watching Death Note movie 1
Reading Mushishi
Listening to FREENOTE

Brainwasher Detective (Hisui) Currently:
Watching Higurashi no Naku Koro ni
Reading MPD Psycho
Listening to Platinium

One thought on “I got Geek Backed, booyah!

  1. phatbhuda says:

    Whenever talk about the economic state of the anime industry in the United States comes up, people refer to shows being aired on mainstream television. Sure, that would help the industry, but not for the reasons that people think. And it’s the real reasons that would actually keep this from happening.

    Being on mainstream television would mean that a network has decided that they would be able to sell advertising during the show. And that means that they were able to convince marketing executives that the majority of Americans would enjoy watching the show.

    This won’t happen because I’m pretty sure we as a culture find animation an unsuitable medium for a majority of topics. And this is something that anime fans often don’t get. In that forum discussion people refer to Cowboy Bebop as tame. Right away, I can say that people would have problems with Faye’s character design. She’s just pure fan service. That would never fly in primetime TV.

    There’s a reason stuff gets cut from anime when it’s shown on American TV. Editors know what they can get away with.

    Although I might catch flak for saying this, I don’t consider myself an anime fan. I enjoy film and television no matter the medium. I also happen to be a science fiction fan. Discovering anime was awesome for me since there’s a whole section of scifi films and television that suddenly became available to me.

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