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What is Entertainment?

October 3, 2011

My quest for “What is Entertainment”

Less than a year ago, a thought came to mind regarding the entertainment industry and the fair and frequent use of the word “entertainment” in this culture. I had to ask myself, “What is entertainment? Where did this ‘entertainment’ thing come from? Is it art? If it’s art, when did art become entertainment?” As these questions sprang up in my mind, I found myself not having answers for them. I even began questioning myself in thought, “Why do I even use the word “entertainment” in naming my newsletter—Transformational Entertainment News; my organization—Transformational Entertainment Network? I started to think about the whole concept and ideology I use around combining entertainment with spirituality and humanity, and at the same time, try to make it all look smooth and grandiloquent. It all sounded good. I’ve gotten many warm compliments and much positive feedback, but because of my lack of information and clarity about an industry and field I chose to become a part of, I was prompted to do some research, and sit down and write this article, which asks the following questions: (1)What is entertainment? (2)Where did it come from? (3) Is it art? If it’s art, when and how did art become entertainment?

Getting started on the fall 2011 issue of T E News—with a question on “What is Entertainment”—was not an easy thing to do. The labor was not the problem. The problem was in the willingness to do it; to tackle such a voluminous subject matter as that of entertainment, and the industry created from it to become a mega-financial empire. That was the challenge.

What is Entertainment Really?

Entertainment can be one of two things, or a combination of both. It can be an experience, or it can be a business. As an experience, one can become amused or diverted through performance, or by other means, e.g. a cross-word puzzle or some other game. As a business, one may become involved in an industry known as the entertainment industry.
The entertainment industry, along with media, is a multi-trillion dollar business that showcases the work, services, talent, and creativity of a humongous cross-spectrum of commerce. This industry, built on the strength of live performing arts and show business, is expanded into a convergence of three sub-industries, such as the traditional live entertainment industry, mass media industry, and electronic entertainment.

The entertainment industry is highly infused by the mass media companies that control the distribution and manufacturing of mass media entertainment. Mass media is often called entertainment media. It is comprised of the film industry, including film studios, movie theaters/cinemas, film scores; broadcasting systems, including television, radio, and podcast; the music industry, including record labels, music video. Then there are the theme parks; discotheques; new media, including web television and web radio; and the fashion industry.
There are at least six different types of traditional live entertainment industries including the circus, musical theatre, performance art, comedy, sports (Yes sports!), and concerts. There is also the music industry, which is comprised of composers and songwriters, orchestras, and concert halls. And lastly, within the traditional live entertainment, there’s exhibition entertainment including amusement parks, funfairs, themed retail, and trade shows.
The latest industry and fastest growing sector of entertainment to emerge is electronic entertainment, aka digital entertainment today. This industry includes video games, and SMS content, including music, books, movies, television, radio, internet, video games channeled through cell phones, smart phones, iPads, and other mobile communication systems. Its (electronic/digital entertainment) ties to social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin is transforming the behavior of consumers and society at large in how we communicate and spend our time in our business and our personal lives. The Google+ project, launched this summer, is now the fastest growing social network ever—even outpacing Facebook (now at 350 million members), Twitter and MySpace–with already more than 25 million members, according to a report from Web tracking firm comScore. (Read more in “Transformation of the Entertainment Industry.”)
With all this being said, entertainment has its good side and its bad side. Entertainment , as an experience, can be fun and satisfying to our souls, or our wellbeing. Entertainment can weigh high in emotions, taking us to a place of sadness or joy and happiness.

Entertainment as an industry has brought so much recreation and amusement to our lives through its many products and services, such as music, film television, etc. But it has also been highly criticized by its artists, its consumers, and the general public. Many artists, particularly music recording artists, have gotten shady deals on everything from record contracts to underpaid or no-paid gigs. Actors often feel burned from movies deals that are promised and parts that are never given to them. Vanity, greed and sin often come up regarding the wild lifestyle of so many successful stars. And the list goes on, with complaints and issues coming from artists, fans, and the general public. But all in all, complaints and issues are going to come up.
The model for any serious business is to serve a good purpose. What is the purpose of the business, and what is your purpose of being in it? When we deviate from the place of serving a good purpose, both for ourselves and for the business, things often fall apart.
I don’t believe vanity, greed, and sin was the sole purpose set forth for the entertainment industry, but sometimes good things end up serving a bad purpose. I do believe, for the most part, the intentions of this industry we call entertainment are good. Within the entertainment industry there have been numerous humanitarians for decades, and many cause issues addressed to congress, environmentalists, and other governmental and private agencies.

The Entertainment Industry Foundation

In1942, The Entertainment Industry Foundation (formerly Permanent Charities Committee, founded by M. C. Levee) was founded by Hollywood heavyweights – Samuel Goldwyn, with friends Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and the Warner Brothers. The Entertainment Industry Foundation (aka EIF) was established on the belief that the entertainment industry was in a unique position to truly help others. Their vision was to unify Hollywood’s generous giving in order to maximize the amount of charitable dollars raised annually, and guarantee that worthy charities received these contributions. EIF has focused on some of the most pressing needs of our time, from the first grants directed to wartime agencies like the United States Organizations and American Red Cross, to providing funding and creating awareness to help eradicate childhood polio.

EIF is going stronger than ever. In 2008, EIF launched Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), an initiative designed to raise funds to accelerate ground-breaking cancer research and bring new therapies to patients more quickly. SU2C utilizes the entertainment industry to build broad public support for this effort, and to enhance awareness of the devastating impact cancer has in this country. Their goal is to bring together the best and brightest to the cancer community. They encourage collaboration over competition. SU2C, a program of EIF, was established by a group of executives from film, television, and philanthropy whose lives have all been affected by cancer in significant ways.

EIF has partnered with the American Association for Cancer Research and its leading scientists to get the initiative organized and underway. The SU2C model emphasizes collaboration among world-class scientists across institutions, which will accelerate the pace at which they can translate research breakthroughs into major advances against cancer.
EIF is just one of many groups, individuals and foundations in the arts and entertainment contributing to our societal needs.

Where Did the Word “Entertainment” Come From?

The Origin of the Word, “Entertainment”

The word “entertain” comes from the Medieval Latin intertenere, which means to “hold inside. “The prefix inter means “inside,” and the suffix tenere means to “hold.” The Indo-European root of tenere is ten, meaning to “stretch.” Ironically, TEN is also the abbreviation for Transformational Entertainment News. To transform the meaning of tenere, or its Indo-European root ten, from “stretch” to “hold,” implies one has to “hold” something in order to “stretch” it. By the time the word entered English from French in the late 15th century, it meant “to maintain or keep up with.” William Shakespeare used it in The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1598—”I thinke the best way were, to entertaine him with hope,” in which time it acquired a meaning of “engage or keep the attention of a person.” The most definitive use of the word entertain was demonstrated by Sir Francis Bacon in 1626 to mean “to amuse.” “All this to entertain the Imagination that it waiver less.” We also use the word in such phrases as “I will entertain the suggestion of…” etc. That usage arose in the early 17th century. To date, it is still a common phrase.

Is It Art? The Classification of the Entertainment Industry:

The strength and growth of the entertainment industry is built around the arts. The term is used sparingly in mass media advertisement, promotion and marketing, sales, and all performances categories; music, film, and television.

Many times over, the use of the word entertainment and art overlaps as meaning all in the same. When we think of the entertainment industry, what do we think of? How do we categorize it? The entertainment industry is usually classified in at least one of the following sub-industries: music (or records), film, television & radio, and newspapers & magazines, but is it art? Well, what is art?

Art can be an array of many, many things, from the art of painting and sculpturing, to the art of cooking and sewing. Art is The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination. But there is one art form that defines entertainment (as we know it) clearly, and that is “performing arts.” The performing arts differ from visual arts and some forms of fine arts that have a focus on aesthetic objects such as sketches, paintings and sculptures.

Although the performing arts as a practice dates back to ancient times, the term “performing arts” first appeared in the English language in the year 1711.

Performing arts include dance, music, opera, drama, magic, spoken word, circus arts and musicals. Performers and participants in the performing arts may include actors, comedians, dancers, magicians, musicians, and singers, songwriting and stagecraft.

So all and all, entertainment, for the most part, is art–performing art.
But the least performing arts population to classify themselves in the entertainment industry line-up are stage theaters, classical music, churches and sacred institutions. These mediums remain true to their standard representation as “the arts,” or sacred institutions, for their business model.

We now know, at least, a little bit more about the origin of the word entertainment, and its classification. But still, when did entertainment become an industry?

Entertainment As An Industry

Some experts say it all began with the circus. Before there was vaudeville, minstrel shows and burlesque, there was the circus. Dating as far back as ancient Rome, chariot racing and animal exhibition was a form of early stage circus entertainment.

The great circus landed in the U.S. in the 1790’s, and by the 1870s the circus became a building block for what would later become the entertainment industry. P. T. Barnum and William Cameron Coup, who launched P. T. Barnum’s Museum, Menagerie, & Circus, a travelling combination of animal and human oddities. The exhibition of humans as a freak show or sideshow was thus an American invention. Coup was also the first circus entrepreneur to use circus trains to transport the circus from town to town; and introduced the first multiple-ring circuses. In 1919, a circus team known as the five Ringling Brother merged with P.T. Barnum and James Anthony Bailey to form And to this day, The Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus is still known as “The Greatest Show On Earth.”

With the rapid growth of the circus came the growth of live entertainment. And entertainment became more and more of a business, and less of an art. In the early twentieth century, entertainment business was called show business. Promoters like P.T. Barnum and many others discovered that they could make a deal of money producing inexpensive, crowd-pleasing entertainment that the average American household could enjoy, show business became big business. The invention of radio and phonograph propelled the growth of the record industry; motion picture became sound and motion; television was invented. Somewhere over time show business became an entertainment industry.

Industries are not usually named, they become. For example–the health industry, who named it the “health industry?” Or who named the automobile industry, “automobile industry?” An industry is nothing more than a term used to describe a precise business activity or where most of its revenues are derived. But where did entertainment as an industry derive from? Maybe from the song “That’s Entertainment!”, by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz, which was introduced in the 1953 MGM musical, The Band Wagon. So, was the term “entertainment industry” used before then? You tell me.

Transformation of the Entertainment Industry

We’re at an important moment in the history of the entertainment industry. Social media, digital distribution, and the future of film and recorded music are causing a major shift in how we entertain ourselves, as well as how we create and provide entertainment.

Many may argue that entertainment today is taking us farther and farther away from its value and roots in the arts. The entertainment industry as we knew it in the good old days of factory-sized recording studios, film studios, and their distribution houses, and broadcasting networks for television and radio, where you had no, or very little, say-so on what was aired, has been transformed into a downloadable format through the Internet, smart phones, and other mobile devices.
Entertainment and social media are in a marriage that’s bringing them together as one in the same. And because of that, social media is rapidly becoming the 21st century record industry. The greed and creative control of yesterday is slowly dying, due to the sudden boom in technology in the “age of information.” As a result, major and independent companies have been suffocating from it over the past ten years. Consumers and artists are finding shortcuts and cost effective ways to get all their spending needs met through downloadable software and special offers on the internet. Record companies are now forced to use the downloadable format in order to stay afloat in their business. But still, business is down in record and film industry, particularly in the record industry. Consumers are bargain hunting, browsing through sites such as eBay, Craigslist and finding the music they need. Consumers are loading up their iPods with all the latest tunes through music exchange with friends. Independent recording artists, producers and filmmakers are utilizing software to create and market their own work. Many of them have thriving businesses. So how did such a major turn around in the world of entertainment happen?
It all began around 2000 with Napster, an online music store created by Shaun Fanning and Sean Parker as an Internet service that emphasized sharing audio files that were typically digitally encoded music, as MP3 format files. The goal at Napster was to be the online distribution channel for the record labels, much like iTunes. The original company ran into legal difficulties over copyright infringement, and ceased operations, but for the betterment of the situation, Parker made a great comeback as President of Facebook, and Fanning has continued a successful journey in creating new companies such as Plaxo. Fanning and Parker changed the music world at 19, and continue to change the online web world today.
However, the downside to all this free information and unearthing all secrets, is conflicts and issues surrounding intellectual property laws and copyright infringements that are starting to crop up between users and the original creators and owners of a product or service. Napster, in the early 2000s, was an early example of such conflict, but there have been several other cases over the past few years. This is a whole different subject, that I prefer not to go into in this issue.
Another downside to entertainment in the digital age is that, because entertainment and social media merged as one in such a profound way, social media are rapidly creating controversy and complexity regarding social networking for business or personal use. “Social networking sites, such as Facebook, are putting attention span in jeopardy,” says Baroness Greenfield. She warns us that social networking sites are changing children’s brains, resulting in selfish and attention-deficient young people” [The Guardian: Patrick Wintour, political leader EM: Tuesday 24 Feb 2009.05 EST Article history].
Social network sites risk infantilizing the mid-21st century mind, leaving it characterized by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathize, and a shaky sense of identity, according to experts.

What You Got Ta Say ‘bout That?

So, how do we handle the problems of entertainment in the digital age of information? How can we make what is good of it better?

TENews is all about discussions around finding spirituality and healing in the arts and in entertainment, and bringing forth humanity in the business of entertainment. I don’t have all the answers. So I reach out to my friends and readers. So what is entertainment to you?

The following is the voice of friends and readers in their response to the main topic, “What is Entertainment?”

Genji Siraisi •
Composer, Producer at Expansion Team Records – New York, NY.
“This is a subject I continue to struggle with. The line has been blurred many times, and some of my great inspirations, like James Brown, I believe, consider themselves entertainers. When pop art came on the scene, it seemed to indicate that entertainment of sorts could be art. The main difference is that art should be funded, or not rely on monetary support or popularity, so it can be insulated from public opinion, allowing it to be truly creative and cross new barriers, whereas entertainment must bring revenue from people wanting it. This is also difficult because it seems to mean that entertainment ends up being lowest common denominator, and that art becomes so esoteric that in many cases it’s just incomprehensible as a thing of beauty to most who experience it. Then again, I guess art doesn’t have to be beautiful, but entertainment, I think, does have to be entertaining to somebody.
Of course there is art that is entertaining, and entertainment that is true art, which is what makes it all the harder to strictly classify. That, along with the fact that of course beauty is in the of the beholder.”

Judith Dornstein •

Entertainment Attorney at the Law Offices of Judith Dornstein – Los Angeles, CA.

“Why does there have to be a difference? And why does it even matter? Art and/or entertainment is whatever one perceives it to be, and can sometimes be both.”

Marcus Shelby
Composer, Arranger
Marcus Shelby Orchestra – San Francisco, CA.

“The first thing I must refer to is the definition of both terms (entertainment and art). “Entertainment” seems to imply diversion and amusement provided through a performance, and every definition of “art” contains the word skill or experience. Personally, I find the words art (or artist) and entertainment inadequate in describing a more complete creative power; “craftsmanship,” which absorbs both worlds with equal zeal. Good examples in music are Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie. They were all artists in the truest sense, but their lifeblood was entertaining the people. They were populists who crafted the experiences of their people into creative and soulful music. From the beginning, “industry” has always tried to dictate what is art and what is entertainment, such as the “Race” records in the early 20’s that gave rise to early Blues singers Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, and then later, in the early 40s with Bebop, an industry term that none of the creators of that music (Monk, Bird, Diz, Bud Powell) used. Furthermore, none of our early creators of jazz music considered what they were doing “art.” They did put enormous emphasis on quality, skill, character (a reflection of experience), and collective self-awareness (improvisation). My guess is most craftsmen (and women) don’t follow the trends of the industry, but spend a great deal of their time illuminating the human conditions that drive inspiration.”

Glen Pearson
Pianist, Music Educator – Bay Area.

” As far as the model we now have as far as art becoming entertainment, I would have to say, it emerged with the rise of the “Middle Class” in Europe during the late 18th and into the 19th centuries. Prior to this time, organized art, most notably music, was relegated to the domain of the aristocracy who, as a show of their wealth and influence, hired musicians and private orchestras to provide music, both incidental and in concert, to enhance daily life in the European counts.

As skilled tradesmen, merchants, and others began to acquire greater incomes and influence, they desired to have access to those luxuries, organized concerts being one, that had previously only been available to the upper rungs of society. This led to publicly-funded concerts, which in turn caused artists and composers to steer their work more in the direction of the “Joe Blow” commoner, rather than the aristocrats. As time progressed, others began to see public concerts as profitable ventures, and thus was born the Concert Promoter!”

Billy Mitchell
Pianist, Producer – Los Angeles, CA.

“I think it is difficult to separate art from entertainment. From the beginning, art was used to evoke some type of human response. The industry is an attempt to organize art into a money-making proposition, much like schools organize education or government organizes people. The terrible culture of the entertainment industry simply means that it is a reflection of society.”

Gift Harris
Actor – Oakland, CA.
“I think what happened was that as soon as people who were about the business of making money saw that a profit could be made off of the talent of others, art became a commodity to be sold.

Take for example my field of acting, and even music, once people went beyond sharing these art forms and business people realized that the public would pay to see and hear them, people like agents and managers took advantage of the skills of the talented people. So that sacred form of creating art turned into entertainment.

That’s my take on this subject.”

“What You Got Ta Say ‘Bout That?”

Transformational Entertainment News

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