The creative class
: I just bought — but have not yet cracked open — The Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida.
The title alone captivates me. In media, entertainment, technology, and education, creativity is now a key raw resource and finished product of American industry. Florida says 38 million American now make their living creating.
And technology and the connected Internet will have a huge impact on this class and their industry: People with talent can create — and now distribute — their products with less expense, less risk, greater speed, greater ease. (People without talent will still be able to make dreck and it will still fail no matter how much it cost to produce.)
There is a new day coming across all media. Consider:
– In movies — Gary Winick made the movie Tadpole for a few hundred thousand bucks because he used digital cameras and avoided the bloated ways of Hollywood. Directors and writers will be able to make new movies for far less and the truth is that the bloated bosses of Hollywood will welcome this — once they wake up to it — because it will save them money and they will be able to fill theaters and all their sales channels with new entertainment.
– In TV — There is a huge and growing demand for product as digital TV and satellite TV spread across the land. Cheap and tawdry reality TV will help sate this hunger for awhile — and we’ll enjoy the tacky fun of it — but that will not last. TV distributors will need new, good product they can sell to us and they will welcome new ways to produce this product. Have an idea for a TV show? Make it as Gary Winick made his movie. If HBO doesn’t buy it, FX might. Someday, you’ll be able to distribute it yourself.
– In journalism — See Doc’s note below. As I regularly remind us all, webloggers are not reporters; they are not out there getting real facts. But still, weblogs and the web now allow talented writers and commentators to share what they have to say with the world at next-to-no expense.
– In books — eBooks are taking off so slowly you can’t even see the climb. But the moral is the same: A writer can produce a book with no more investment than his time and intelligence and talent. Bill Quick has done it and will tell you how. A great marketing newsletter I get just produced an eBook of its best tips and it is selling. Imagine a world without agents, publishers, bookstores, and printers — imagine the savings! Imagine, too, a world in which authors and their audience actually have a relationship — something that cannot happen in today’s book industry, where no one — not the author, not the agent, not the editor, not the publisher — has any relationship with the reader. This, too, will come.
– In music — Despite the best efforts of the RIAA and the music distributors to stop it, Internet distribution of digital music will win out and this means that for the price of a microphone and an Internet connection, any musician will be able to distribute his or her music to the world. What they will miss is marketing. But that’s always easy to add; all you need is money. What you don’t need anymore is agents and managers and executives.
Now I’m not proposing or hoping for a world of creative anarchy, where all creators are equal. The truth is that the system we have now, albeit bloated, does perform an important function: It tries to find quality. Sure, it often fails. But it tries.
What’s new about this new world of the connected Internet is that the audience can start to take over that function. Look at weblogs: We link to the good ones. Cream rises. Quality will out. Why trust what an agent or editor or producer or executive thinks might be good or popular or profitable when you can go right to the end-consumer, the audience? Wise entertainment and media executives will find a way to enlist the audience in this; it will make them rich.
There also will be a role for marketing even in this new world. The reason people are discovering, say, Eva Cassidy now, after her death, is that a big company is spending big money to market her and those who are discovering her are grateful. That kind of investment and return on investment will continue to drive entertainment.
The bottom line is that entertainment and media can build a new, more profitable and efficient bottom line if only they let the audience help them. They can eliminate many of the middlemen. They can produce creative product for far less. They can know what the audience wants and likes far faster. They can foster a new relationship among creators and consumers.
This is all about a new efficiency. And along the way, some companies and thus their employees will suffer. Some will die. Some companies will wise up and prosper. And many new companies and relationships will grow; I see huge opportunity in creating new collections of talent, new ways to produce, and new ways to distribute.
First came the industrial revolution.
Next: The creative revolution.
No harumphing here
: Doc Searls watches the blogalogue [blog dialogue … think it’ll stick?] regarding copyright and notes this about the chorus:
Note the complete absence of that harrumphy editorial style we’ve been getting in newspapers for two centuries. Also of the back-and-forth yelling we get from Crossfire and its clones on the cable news channels.
That shits over. Yes, it’ll still be around for another decade or two, but the undermining has begun. People are informing themselves and each other. They aren’t just consuming other people’s final opinions.
This is unlike anything we’ve seen in journalism before. And there’s no going back. The big periodical publishers can’t do a damn thing about it. Unlike the Big Five record companies, with the RIAA as their enforcement arm, the publishers’ army of “content producers” never got into the business with the intent to become blockbuster stars. They’re journalists. Like teachers, they never expected to make a lot of money. Also like teachers, they’re in the knowledge-spreading business. As more of them get into the knowledge-growing and knowledge-exchanging business that blogging’s all about, the business itself will change completely.
It’ll happen in entertainment eventually too. But right now the old star-maker machinery has too much power, and too many of the artists it mills are still too attached to that system and the big-money pay that goes to its most fortunate products.
Maybe. Maybe indeed.
We are all grappling with what this thing — this weblog, this web, this Internet, this connectivity thing — really means for the fate of media and entertainment and the truth is, it’s still too early to know.
Doc’s onto an important element of the change: the sharing, the dialogue.
This new medium is different, as I often say, because the audience owns it, not the publishers.
It is also different because, for the first time in any medium, the audience has a voice. They are being heard — by each other. This usually leads to socialization — civilization — such that, as Doc says, we don’t hear the typical Crossfire bile-tossing (outside of the now-passe flame wars of forums of olde).
And weblogs are different because they are quality publications; their creators put effort into creating them and quality is recognized by those who link to them.
Add it together and you do see the glimmer of a new generation.
I will disagree with only two things Doc says: Journalists may not always get into the business to get rich but some do and everyone wants to. And big-time publishers do not need to see all this as a threat, only the deaf ones. Wise publishers will embrace their audience and join in.