Gin, Television & The Social Surplus

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Last year’s SF Music Tech Summit raised an interesting concept for me – Blogs, Social Media, Wikipedia etc. are nothing more than “The Tyranny of the Bored”.  The premise being that the new gatekeepers of music and media are those who sit around all day and do nothing but post blogs, review records and generally interact with the web.

The concept never really sat well with me – sure, it seems like just a lot of people with too much time on their hands, but IS it?  Is that what things like Wikipedia are primarily made up of?  Losers without a life?  Somehow, it didn’t add up.

Then I read this article, and the penny dropped.  The basic thesis here is that thoughout any technological or industrial upheaveal, there’s a period of brain-freeze in society at large – the changes are too vast to contemplate, too new to fully grasp, so we mask it.  During the industrial revolution, we used gin.  During the latter half of the 20th Century, it was TV (namely, the sitcom).  “Desperate Housewives essentially functions as a kind of cognitive heat sink, dissipating thinking that might otherwise have built up and caused society to overheat.”  Wild, I know.

But once we emerge from this binge, enormous technological leaps are ready to be made.

What struck me most is about how this relates to the emerging music economy:  “The way you explore complex ecosystems is you just try lots and lots and lots of things, and you hope that everybody who fails fails informatively so that you can at least find a skull on a pikestaff near where you’re going. That’s the phase we’re in now.”

And this was exactly my approach to the presentation I gave at Barcamp, it was exactly the approach Andrew Dubber thought was the right one (he called it “Ready-Fire-Aim”) and it’s exactly what Penny Distribution is shooting for.  With the goal of carving out 1/100th of the cognitive surplus that’s suddenly waking up from it’s stupor.

To me, the best thing you can do (if you’ve any interest at all) is read a lot, think a lot and then try something in the music industry ESPECIALLY if it’s technology related.  Look at the ingredients that will make up the New Music Economy, then fire up the stove and start cooking – a sprinkle of licensing, a dash of subscription, maybe a slice of Co-Marketing.  Someone’s going to make one HELL of a stew.

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