Stream of Consciousness Flow

Day 236 Week 35 Q3  Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Creativity does not care that much about time. Anyone who has ever been in flow knows the notion that time simply evaporates. And it may be that the suspension of the rational conscious mind to the creative process is a big part of the effortlessness of flow. We are no longer thinking, or if we are then, we do not necessarily know about it. Perhaps we are thinking too quickly to consciously track or perhaps we simply transcend thinking it is too hard for me or anyone I know to tell, but it does appear that creative outliers often attribute their creative output not to entirely rational processes. And that this feels great. It feels liberating. You seem to vanish in the process, and that is a good thing.

The act of performing music or anything else is so much easier than the act of recording, videotaping or capturing in some way who you are doing. It is very hard to be an artist and an engineer at the same time.  This creates a disconnect when one’s creative process requires too much technology unless there are ways to hide it and permit your unconscious creative mind to be more in charge than your technical evaluating rational mind.

Live concerts are, to me, far more appealing than what comes out of a recording studio. It is true the recording studio is also an instrument of expression, and many things can be accomplished there which there is not much hope of approximating live. And the reverse is also true. Each has unique strengths and weaknesses, but I can tell you which is more fun for me.  Being an artist is much more fun than being an engineer.

And this is why I am so excited about technologies that make complex processes simple enough to be invisible. And due to the democratization of technology made increasingly possible by economies of scale, the previously enormous gap between professional and consumer products has not only vanished but, in some cases, reversed.

And yes, I am saying that sometimes the consumer tools are better than the professional tools. 

If the population of professionals is far smaller than the population of consumers, then the cost of development can not be amortized over the number of units sold. For example, the smartphone has far greater horsepower than the minicomputers of the last generation. No one expected movie cameras with zoom lenses, recording studios, and multimedia editing capabilities that could fit in your pocket, but they are now a fact of life.

So, where does this leave record companies and publishers and recording studios when they can not really outperform consumer gear? The skills of the professionals still are vastly superior to the skills of the amateurs due to experience, but they are increasingly using the same tools. 

There used to be three levels of quality in the tech world. The consumer was the lowest, then professional was higher, and finally, there was mil-spec for the military government designed and specially manufactured tech which was far more robust and expected to operate in harsher conditions.

In the world of audio, which is the one I am most familiar with, the quality and reliability gap has mostly vanished and to drill down even more deeply, let me describe a use case that was impossible not only ten, twenty or thirty years ago but even last year.

A singer-songwriter used to have three different modes of operation – when they are composing at home, recording in a studio, or performing live in front of an audience. There were different tools and skills required. Also, different physical spaces and different frames of mind. The stream of conspicuousness achieved while performing was rarely found in the recording studio, and composing was another matter altogether.

No longer. They are all rapidly coming together into a converged tool kit that will dramatically change the business models of the arts. It is not clear to me why a musical would ever need a record company or why a writer would ever need a publisher, especially as these external services are decreasingly investing in unknown artists. Instead, they are now large companies unable and unwilling to take chances. It is less risky for them to only support stars. So now the unknowns are about to Crete their own brands, their own recordings and their own movies and are already doing so with no need for investment which is a good thing because they are not login to get much anyway.

Where does this leave the art business models? Ripe for change. Tickets for a big-name concert can cost far more than it cost to acquire the gear for a musical to record an album at home themselves. Why would any musician ever spend several hundred dollars for a three-hour experience when they could, for the same amount of money, invest in themselves by acquiring the equipment to have their own recording studio?

And what is going to happen to classical music where the pyramid is so steep that only a handful of composers and musicians can make a living? Time for some new business models created by a new group of entrepreneurial artists.  Stay tuned; it is already happening.