The story the recording industry used to tell us went something like this: “Hey kids, Alanis Morisette just recorded three kickin’ songs! You can have them, so long as you pay for the ten mediocrities she recorded at the same time.” Napster told us a different story. Napster said “You want just the three songs? Fine. Just ‘You Oughta Know’? No problem. Every cover of ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ ever made? Help yourself. You’re in charge.”
The people in the music industry weren’t stupid, of course. They had access to the same internet the rest of us did. They just couldn’t imagine—and I mean this in the most ordinarily descriptive way possible—could not imagine that the old way of doing things might fail. Yet things did fail... Once you see this pattern—a new story rearranging people’s sense of the possible, with the incumbents the last to know—you see it everywhere.
The way Clay wrote that prompts good thinking. A thing that has become a quest is to seek and destroy waste, wherever it appears. His post goes on to talk about education and why massive open online courses are a way forward.
If someone wanted to become a futurist all you have to do is find waste, apply the web, and give it ten years.
Everyone who spent decades buying albums and listening to only a few songs lived with waste and didn't even think about it. We see this everywhere now. Like trying to use a calculator to do math with fractions... There was the arduous process of pecking the work-around into the keys of a standard calculator until a 12-year-old built a Fraction Calculator App that, of course, was downloaded one million times.
So now we're getting quite good at waste elimination and only buying the Jagged Little Pill songs we want. Yes, to "Hand In My Pocket," no to "Forgiven." And sometimes we still want the album.
A year before Jagged Little Pill was released I recall buying a little album called Under the Table and Dreaming. I liked the song "What Would You Say" on the radio so I bought the CD that featured the track and shoved it into my CD player for the drive home from the store. I couldn't skip forward fast enough to the song I wanted so track number one began with "The Best of What's Around" which, upon discovery, would become my favorite DMB song throughout college.
Efficiency is a wonderful thing, but by definition it prescribes the ending at the very beginning of a journey. In our quest for efficiency we must remain careful not to squander all moments of discovery, that fun and valuable by-product that waste so often creates.