Technology enables personal creativity


Creative people now have far more choices about how to market what they produce. The New York Times yesterday reported about authors who have successfully self-published. One author, for just $99, had her book laid-out in a print-on-demand format, and on the basis of its succes shortly after got a large advance from a publisher. Another established author chose to self-publish a book that subsequently reached #1 on As the article goes to pains to point out, these are the exceptions. Very few self-published books are more than moderately successful. However these new channels for distributing intellectual property (with parallels in music, art, design etc.) open up possibilities. In the chapter in Living Networks titled “Liberating Individuals” I described the generic model for distributing personal creative content.

In the first stage, people use digital distribution to attract attention and demonstrate to publishers (labels, distributors etc.) that they can generate an audience. They then achieve the peak of their career with major publishers, but subsequently go back to self-publishing in order to take a larger part of the rewards. The authors above are respectively at the early and late stages of this cycle. Many aging rock stars, like David Bowie and Todd Rundgren, are distributing direct to take more of the rewards than music labels would usually give them. One of the most important dynamics of this emerging model is simply how much content becomes available as everyone can market themselves directly. The publishers and labels do play a role of filtering that is useful, but they overplay their importance. Collaborative filtering, which helps us collectively to sort through what is out there and identify the best, will be at the heart of information flow moving forward. More anon