One…Meellion…Flowers…

Let A Million Flowers Bloom: It is absolutely fascinating to watch the dinosaurs of old media, the weasel-quick proto-mammals of the new Net media, and their Frankenstein zombie children cavort about. I love it. This is such an interesting and exciting time to be involved in watching or creating media. Movies, music, books, new formats; doesn’t matter. Information technology really truly has changed things.

There are many, many…MANY websites, pundits, and academics discussing this; I’m aware of that. I can’t (and won’t try) to match the intellectual sweep of Yochai Benkler’s book, The Wealth of Networks, or the “come-to-Jesus” bitchslap of Ryan Sholin or Bob Lefsetz . But I’m still interested in putting my thoughts down, and putting my own spin on things, and giving everyone a look at the places and people that I think really show what’s happening here. A personal touch, as it were. And that is, after all, what we’re really talking about.

Zero Cost Creation and Distribution

I think 2007 was finally the year that this started to sink in most everywhere (F/OSS bloomed some time ago via this model, of course). Screw patronage, screw industrialists…today, we don’t need these guys to bankroll our creativity. We can just do it, ala Wealth of Networks. Creation and distribution costs are low enough that the initial outlay of capital is minuscule. So even if your “success” is 1/10,000th of one of today’s hits, the resulting attention can, if properly channeled, allow a creator to actually make it on their own. The network effect makes true independent media work. It’s early days still, but interesting stuff is happening.

The Long Tail, aggregation, and the editor

Much of this “Long Tail” sort of indymedia actually moves through the Network via word-of-mouth and personal recommendations through friends and social netoworks…but there are other methods. Meme aggregators like TechMeme and recommendation engines like Pandora provide mechanical means by which people can find additional media once they know something they like. But I also agree with those making the point that a new resurgence for real-life editors is in the offing. Often, a person with the just the right tastes is what I want giving me recommendations. A mechanical algorithm struggles to take choices out of the “if you liked this, you’ll like this” model, whereas a veteran critic understands taste, and can pick something out of a completely different genre, with a dissimilar style, that Still Just Works.

The fortunate thing is that we can have our cake and eat it too! *grin* So find people whose links you trust, and sum them with a good recommendation tool. All the sugar, and twice the caffeine.

Example: Amie Street

A great example of both influences is Amie Street. I’ve dug Amie Street for a long time now, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth mentioning again! The funny thing is that in some senses it’s a fairly “vanilla” version of the things to come…it works off of an established model, with a twist. Quite a twist, of course…all music on Amie Street starts out free, and the price increases (to $0.98) as it is purchased and it’s popularity increases. Because of the fact that the cost of digital music creation is now very nearly zero, this model works.

Amie Street showcases the role of the editor/critic through it’s recommendation model…you have a finite number of “RECs” in your account, and you can use them to recommend an song (along with an optional description). Doing so allows you to earn free music as the song gains in price…and the earlier you get in, the more it’s potentially worth (note: only up to 0.98 here…you’re not going to retire on song RECs. But the renumeration does reward careful evaluation, and it will earn you more music!) It doesn’t take much to make a difference in your account when songs cost 30 cents.

So not only do you have a chance you try a great deal free and extremely cheap music (many songs are available from $0.10-0.30), but discovering another user with similar tastes and high “street cred” (a measure of how well songs they’ve REC’d have improved in price) gives you custom music suggestions to boot. Vive la web!

If you like music, give Amie Street a try. My username there is kkennedy: unless you like 80s-style pop or electronica, I’m probably not your new music critic…but you never know! More examples to come. And feel free to comment with suggestions of your own, folks…