About 1 million design students in China, compared to about 40,000 in the U.S. Implication: your competition for jobs is about to expand exponentially. Welcome to the flat world. ...And also this:
The supply is currently outstripping demand, so compensation for things like logo design is going to be low. "Crowdsourcing & Disruption Event at Pratt: Realities & Denial," eyecube, 3/11/10.
There are too many films out there, there are too many filmmakers. "SxSW: Nobody Wants to Watch Your Film: Realities of Online Film Distribution," Magnet Media, 3/14/10.Because of the Internet and global competition, we're seeing declining income in a number of creative fields (e.g., design, writing, music, video). People are competing for these jobs even when there is little or no payment.
RU Sirius, former editor of Mondo 2000 summed up the problem at a recent Net 2.0 conference in Amsterdam: “Get people to work for free.” That has essentially become the motto of the post-scarcity economy. "NET 2.0: Post-Scarcity Economics and the problem with Google," Medialternatives, 2/2/08.One line of thinking is that if you give away your digital content, you'll gain exposure, build an audience, and then sell "scarce" goods and services. Here are two posts on the subject:
While I am not going to argue the rightness or wrongness of "free" (it's already a reality, so I don't think there is much to be gained by exploring the concept here), I am skeptical that there are a lot scarcities to sell. At least not in the areas related to creative content and to human labor. Pretty much anything you offer as "scarce" in these areas can and will be duplicated. Once people see there is money to be made, they will begin offering their own versions until the price is driven down. This is what is now commonly referred to as hypercompetition.
You may think your business offers rare and valuable goods and services. But the chances are that, somewhere, a recent entrant or potential competitor is preparing to do something similar, for a lower price. As the author says: "Everything becomes a commodity eventually." "A more virulent form of hypercompetition," FT.com, 12/16/09.Here's a definition:
Hypercompetition:And two more explorations on the subject:
A situation in which there is a lot of very strong competition between companies, markets are changing very quickly, and it is easy to enter a new market, so that it is not possible for one company to keep a competitive advantage for a long time.
From our financial models, such as using net present value analysis to value projects, to our investment models, which presume more or less predictable and long life-spans for given business activities, we have built a lot of operating frameworks on the idea that our lines of business will be around for a while. And not only around, but profitable.
All this began to change in the early 1990's, when a number of scholars, such as my colleague Ian MacMillan and his co-author Rich D'Aveni, started talking about a phenomenon they called "Hypercompetition." In hyper-competitive environments, to paraphrase Hobbes, the life of a competitive advantage is nasty, brutish and short. In other words, advantages don't last for very long before competitive entry, imitation and matching erode their edge, or customers move on, or the environment changes in such a way that the advantage becomes irrelevant. "Competitive Advantage Is Fleeting (And It's Okay to Admit It)," Harvard Business Review, June 2009.
The tools of factory production, from electronics assembly to 3-D printing, are now available to individuals, in batches as small as a single unit. Anybody with an idea and a little expertise can set assembly lines in China into motion with nothing more than some keystrokes on their laptop. A few days later, a prototype will be at their door, and once it all checks out, they can push a few more buttons and be in full production, making hundreds, thousands, or more. They can become a virtual micro-factory, able to design and sell goods without any infrastructure or even inventory; products can be assembled and drop-shipped by contractors who serve hundreds of such customers simultaneously. "In the Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms Are the New Bits," Wired, January 2010.
The revolution that is brewing now will get us much closer to another seemingly impossible Star Trek technology: the Replicator. You won't be able (for some time) to press a button and get a whole meal synthesized on the fly, but we are at the stage where a short time after pressing the button you can have a wide variety of objects appear magically. These range from tiny, fully functional gears to large, colorful pieces of art and cover materials as broad as glass, ceramics, metal and plastic. Yes, glass, ceramics and metal! "Communicator: Done. Replicator: Next. The Future of Making Stuff," usv.com, 3/22/10.
However, I'm saying that just about everything an artist or band can offer can be duplicated:
Representatives for the jam-band Phish are due in federal court this afternoon to argue that it should be allowed to stop bootleggers from selling T-shirts, jackets, bumper stickers and other merchandise bearing its trademarked name during its upcoming reunion tour. ...
The issue isn't necessarily about money, the lawsuit says. The band says the unauthorized merchandise sales "threaten" the band's reputation because it relinquishes control over the quality and appearance of the merchandise, according to the suit. "Phish in court this afternoon to block bootleg merchandise," The Virginian-Pilot, 3/5/09.
... the sheer number and variety of tribute bands has exploded, branching out to modern-era acts such as Pearl Jam, the Dave Matthews Band, and even the Arctic Monkeys. "Tribute bands are music to fans’ ears, wallets," The Boston Globe, 3/6/10.
Given all of the above, I question the usefulness in talking about scarcities as a music business strategy. In addition, much of what we buy has little to do with scarcity anyway. Sometimes it just comes down to being in the right place at the right time. For example, if we want a cup of coffee, and we see coffee vendors on all four sides of the street, the reason we pick one over the other isn't a scarcity issue. Similarly, if every girl on our block is selling Girl Scout cookies, we may end up buying from whomever comes to our door first. Or maybe we'll buy a box from each one of them.
Buying behavior is much more complicated than saying people will pay a premium for scarcity. Here are a few resources that outline the many factors which determine why we buy what we buy:
So I think talking about "selling scarcity" can be the wrong strategy. As I have already mentioned, hypercompetition suggests that as soon as you have an idea, someone else will copy it and drive down the price. For musicians, that means being on an endless treadmill trying to find scarcities to sell. As soon as you come up with something fans will pay for, many other bands and artists will try it too. There will be a glut.
You may make money in music, but I doubt that offering scarce goods and services will be the key. For virtually every option that an artist/band offers, there already is or will be someone else offering something similar. And it won't take much effort for fans and potential fans to find it. All anyone has to say is, "I want ... " and the marketplace will provide it, often in multiple ways. Think of the various "saleables" that artists/bands currently offer (e.g., entertainment, merchandise, community, engagement, celebrity access) and there are equivalents both within and outside of music.
We're running out of scarcity. ...And even the fallback argument, that talent is scarce and people will pay for access to it, doesn't really hold water because making money in music and having the most talent do not necessarily go together.
It seems as though once a category becomes successful, the headlong rush to knock it off is stronger (and quicker) than it ever was before. ...
While there are almost half a million lawyers practicing in the United States today, there are (gasp!) more than 125,000 in school right now. ...
The same thing is true for doctors, Web sites, T-shirt shops, sushi restaurants, thumbtack manufacturers, and brands of blank CD-ROM disks. ...
If it's remotely digital (like music), then it's easy to mimic. And if it's easy to mimic, someone wins if they can knock off the original--the sooner the better. When someone starts to sell exactly what you sell but for half the price, how long does your good-service, first-mover, nice-person advantage last? "The Scarcity Shortage," Seth Godin's Blog, 8/27/07.
SUCCESS = SOME TALENT + LUCKGodin acknowledges there might be a few scarcities, but even those may not confer a lasting advantage.
GREAT SUCCESS = SOME TALENT + A LOT OF LUCK
Nobel prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman quoted in "FORMULAE FOR THE 21ST CENTURY," Edge.org, 10/13/07.
So what's scarce now? Respect. Honesty. Good judgment. Long-term relationships that lead to trust. None of these things guarantee loyalty in the face of cut-rate competition, though.Some people are even suggesting that we're surrounded by so much abundance that now we want less. J. Walker Smith, president of Yankelovich Inc., lays it out in an article, and then Mike Heronime, Partner/Strategic Services Director, Numantra, expands upon the idea in a presentation.
However, these models tend to benefit people and companies that provide filters rather than artists trying to sell their music and music-related products. It would be a bit like having a musician say, "Pay me to go away."
So let's jump ahead and envision a world where there's more stuff than any of us can consume. Imagine a scenario where people are making a ton of music and art, but there are few economic transactions. So how do artists (or anyone for that matter) make a living in the post-scarcity society?
In the post-scarcity world, technological advances will facilitate decreasing costs until conceivably almost everything is “free” to the consumer. Scarcity will no longer exist in this world, and, without scarcity, the concept of charging a price to consumers as a means of generating revenue will be unworkable. The post-scarcity world will put tremendous pressure on current business models, potentially rendering them irrelevant and obsolete in the future. If traditional businesses do not adapt to this emerging “free” world, many of the strong, traditional organizations of the early twenty-first century will cease to exist over the next 50 years. "The Post-Scarcity World of 2050-2075"
If products are no longer scarce, does this mean that the only jobs left will be service positions? Are there enough service positions for everyone? Or do people do the services that they find fulfilling, leaving others to lounge around and/or be non-productively creative?
I'm not a regular Burning Man attendee -- the schedule rarely works out -- but I have gone. My first time wandering the playa, visiting the various camps offering gifts of art, services and/or more physical forms of entertainment, I was struck with a realization: this is one model of what a post-nanotech world might look like. Assume your material needs for food, water, shelter and toys were met, and that you no longer needed to work; what might result is a world where creativity, mutuality, and the gift economy ruled... or a world where sex, drugs and sleeping until 2pm ruled. Or, as with Burning Man, both. "Abundance, Scarcity and Beta-Testing Tomorrow," Open the Future, 9/12/06.
How are we to survive as producers and creators in an age, in which value is no longer determined by scarcity, but rather the accumulation of bits and bytes, the 1s and Os that describe information?
... We figure out a system of revenue sharing, in which the exchange of information is granted value. ...
One day we will awake to find the proverbial Google cheque in the mail. It will be a dividend in which all the clicks on the internet have been divided by the total population of the world and squared with the amount of money earned by the earth’s service providers. The legend will say: You are user # 51 298 123 187 here is you ten-cents (US$) for the 8kb of data we actually siphoned off your site. We know its yours, because the IP number says it’s yours.
The result, I predict, will be a practical and infinitely rewarding utopia in which everybody would have a guaranteed income, courtesy of Google Corporation. This is the kind of error, which could make life worth living. "NET 2.0: Post-Scarcity Economics and the problem with Google," Medialternatives, 2/2/08.
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This article says that there are now so many photos online available for licensing that the price paid per photo has gone down significantly.
For Photographers, the Image of a Shrinking Path
This article talks about how museums sometimes pay a great deal of money for something that turns out to be fake. The value isn't in the object itself, but in the perceived artist. Therefore, if you can produce a copy and convince someone it is real, they may pay you the same amount as if it is real.
Testing Art for Authenticity at London’s National Gallery
I mentioned in the post that as a society we will even replace personal relationships if someone better comes along. Here's a recent article on the same subject.
[Writes sociologist Eva Illouz in Cold Intimacies,] "Romantic relations are not only organized within the market, but have themselves become commodities produced on an assembly line, to be consumed fast, efficiently, cheaply, and in great abundance.” In other words, as dating (or ersatz love) has migrated to the internet, it has undergone the same changes as everything else that has moved online: it has been remade by the ethic of convenience into something more solipsistic and disposable. "Love Worth Fighting For," The New Inquiry, 9/30/10.