The tempo of production

Patterns of production and consumption have evolved because of our transition into an increasingly networked world. In The Long Tail, Chris Anderson describes how they’ve changed and posits three forces that are driving the shift:

  1. The democratisation of the tools of production.
  2. The democratisation of the tools of distribution.
  3. The connection of supply and demand.

Writers don’t need publishers. Musicians don’t need industry execs or record labels. Filmmakers don’t need studios and their bottomless reserves of cash. Photographers can take thousands of photos and modify them in an endless array of ways. Gatekeepers are losing their relevancy, and their resources matter less than they used to, because everyone has the ability to build a platform and find their audience-slash-market.

This is often touted as the primary virtue of the developments that have come over the last decade. I won’t argue that, but I do think there’s an under-appreciated element that never gets mentioned: the democratisation of the tools of production and distribution means that we can determine our own tempo.

I like writing and publishing daily, and I’m able to do so without anyone’s permission. A photographer can upload hundreds of photos a day if he feels inclined, or he can release a set a week. A filmmaker can work on four films at a time, or he can work on one. If the tools of production and distribution are freely available, then so is the ability to work as fast or as slow as we feel necessary.

Previously, when gatekeepers controlled the game, they set the pace. They’d tell a musician that because they’re putting an album out, they have to go on tour. They’d tell them that in the lead-up to the album release they have to drop three or four singles. Not anymore. If an artist wants to release an album and hit the studio to work on the next one immediately after, he can. Increasingly, the creator calls the shots. If he feels inspired, he can go to work without the nod of a higher-up. If he feels blocked, he can stay blocked, or switch gears and work on an alternative or novel project until he gets his energy back. 

The game has and continues to change. It’s easier than ever to create what we want and get it to the people who’d like to see it. But of equal significance is the ability to create at our own preferred tempo.