I confess to have got a kick, at a presentation I gave in Berlin in November, out of the impromptu one-man re-enactment of the scene from Jerry McGuire, yes that scene, where Tom Cruise has to shout down the phone to Cuba Gooding Jr. (quick presenter tip, if you are going to pull a stunt like this, probably best not to tell the client first). It certainly livened up what might otherwise have been a quite dry topic around IT procurement.
Truth is, however, that pretty much everything is about money these days. We dress it up in terms of “business value”, “stakeholder outcomes” and so on, but to the extent that we can start to feel positively altruistic about our innovations, but no money, no point in staying in business. I draw the line at the frankly horrible word ‘monetisation’, which (among other crimes against vocabulary) takes a pretty bleak view of what data is for.
I also don’t necessarily agree with the view, as proffered by value management guru (and old friend and colleague) Roger Davies, that everything can be presented in financial terms (please do tell if this has changed, Rog!). Perhaps this perspective is true in principle, but (a) cf my previous points about the nature of terminology, and indeed (b) if we do so we end up in a place where everything does, indeed, become all about the money.
Don’t get me wrong, money is clearly important. Its invention (somewhere in what is now Turkey, an awfully long time ago) was to solve the many problems of not having it — interestingly, it almost immediately spawned the notion of currency exchange, with people taking a bit off the spread for kindly switching one for of value for another. The very word entrepreneurship suggests somebody positioning themselves as an in-betweener, taking what they see as their due for managing whatever hand-off they undertake.
It’s also important, frankly, because we all have to eat. And the fact you can play a mean guitar won’t sit well with the person on the checkout, as justification for your purchases.
But this very confusion around the nature of money, or value, or whatever you want to call it, is fundamental to the changing dynamics of business today, underpinning concepts such as ‘disintermediation’. It’s also unsurprising that anybody who creates something of value, essentially mining their own heads and hands for IP, art or craft, risks being ripped off. Indeed, the whole “Don’t work for free” movement for creative professionals has emerged, rightly, from the difficulty we have disentangling notions of monetary value from value’s more absolute form.
Technology could hold the answer, indeed it may already do so, but the past ten thousand years of progress have also created a deep-seated attachment to both money and the need for intermediaries. The debates around self publishing offer an illustration of how hard it is to separate our (real) need for collaborative endeavour, from the fact we’d be better off doing some jobs ourselves. The fact you can now set up as a self-publishing consultant is both as ironic as it is illustrative.
With this in mind, here’s some articles.
Why can’t we work out a technological solution for music distribution?
Choon is the latest new service to attempt to bring music directly to the masses — this time based on the Ethereum cryptocurrency. In this article I (try to) take things back to first principles of why we make, and listen to music in the first place. And indeed, will continue to do so.
What does “sustainable income” mean for authors?
I wrote this a while back out of pure self interest. A standard phrase from the more successful authors I’ve come across is “then, I became a full-time author…” It’s worth unpicking this as it suggests that the main route to success involves sustaining one’s inherent desire to write with other distractions, such as paying the bills. There aren’t any author practices in which older partners support younger trainees, perhaps we are better for it but it does make me wonder if we have the balance right.
Extra-curricular: Epilogue to Suburbia
Confession: I wrote this as a consequence of a minor fantasy about… what would happen if a small nuclear device was set off over Camberley? I was working there at the time and, frankly, sitting in queues of cars in the driving rain with nothing of note but a concrete elephant and the sad faces of other commuters was starting to get to me. This is actually a prologue, as researchers unpick the remains and try to work out what happened. Perhaps it will turn into a book one day, meanwhile you can read it. For nothing. Indeed.
Finally, thank you to all my subscribers. I said I’d share some stats: this newsletter is now being sent to 510 people, all of whom I have had dealings with in the past, 297 of whom have now actively opted in. It’s being read by at least 130 fine and worthy people each week, which is more than enough to make it worth writing, thank you. The plan is now to let things grow organically, do feel free to share. I’m having a ball writing it, I hope (if you have read this far) you are enjoying reading it!
Any questions or feedback, let me know.
Until next time, Jon