Every day hundreds of news items, blog posts, and links infiltrate my screen. The challenge used to be determining the difference between which bits and bytes need to be paid attention to and those that can be safely ignored. Then, I'd be charged with the task of choosing which of these stories merit getting an item or essay written about them and those that can be simply linked to in the more news section. Sometimes, inferring the variation between the three is obvious. Other days it isn't so clear.
Up until a few days ago, I would've considered myself to be a type of journalist or writer. At least that's what I'll call myself when asked or in the situation of contacting potential interview subjects. Those are terms that everyone understands. Yet, everyone knows is changing. In the bigger picture of things, the roles that I play relate more closely to that of a curator and mapmaker.
The seven to ten posts that get published on the blog each day, Mon. – Fri., aren't representative of all the important music industry news items that broke that day; they're merely a curation of it. Each of those posts is either written about as concisely as possible, extended into an essay, or blended into a piece of news and opinion. Taken as a whole, what these items and essays represent is a cognitive roadmap to the new music industry. Hypebot is just a guide.
Bruce and I help readers navigate all the information and relieve the mental taxation they'd experience in trying to manage this excess by themselves.
At its core, Hypebot is an anchored community of music industry professionals and artists. We're global. That's still something that I'm wrapping my head around. Our core objective—I'd argue, as a community—is to nurture the emerging social ecology of music culture online and to create a more sustainable and healthy middle class of musicians that the listening public can support.
So too, we're challenged with the mission of deconstructing the obfuscation surrounding the various technological, societal, and cultural shifts that are underpinning the long-term profitability of the record and music industries.
While each of us comes to the table with varying degrees of experience and perspectives, we all strive for and believe in most of the same things.
Music is important, as are the artists who create it. While they aren't entitled to monetary gains, there does need to be some financial incentive to back the production of art. Not solely because intrinsic motivators don't pay the bills, but because those who are adapting to the evolving marketplace and are creating meaning in the lives of others; they need to eat too. It could be argued that those whom are truly taking that entrepreneurial spirit upon themselves will find ways to be compensated for their work. Though to do that requires a skill-set that exists outside our traditional understanding of what it means to be a professional artist.
Adapt or die. That's the message that's being sent everyone—not only artists.
I too face an uncertain future. But I don't believe in propping up traditional social institutions in the advent of disruptive technologies. The day could come when the music industry doesn't require the services of curation and map making.
When that time comes I will have to find new ways of sustaining the production of work that I believe matters deeply—not only to me—but to those whom are also ever-curious about the digital age and the future of the cultural industries.
I am not a musician. Nor am I journalist. I do, however, understand that it will take new ways of working and living to thrive in the post-crash music industry economy; just as it has taken a mindset shift to for me to embrace my new role.
My job is undefined by office walls, set punch-in times, or even a true hierarchical structure. Work can now happen from any location—at any time of day.
To me, I've been blessed with the opportunity to do something that I don't consider work. Monitoring hundreds of streams of information and writing thousand word essays along with daily news items—that sure sounds like work to most people, but not to me. All the things artists are challenged to do may not sound like art; their mindsets will need to shift too. Initially, I was solely a long form essayist. I’ve had to adjust the way I present ideas. As the needs of my audience differ from my true passion. Artists must adjust to the needs of their fans. Even if social media and marketing don't align with their true passion.
Most of readers already have their own filters and anchored communities that help them reduce the torrent of news they face each morning they wake up.
They come to Hypebot not because they need more information, but because they've come to trust our curation methods. That means readers aren't necessary in need of more journalism and writing. Instead, they seek a collection of carefully selected stories and essays. Above all, our readers require better roadmaps.
It's up to Bruce and I, and you, to build them. To do so, requires a bit of rethinking of how we approach the day to day news. Being curators and map makers asks more of us. In the poetry collection Dreams of a Common Language, Adrienne Rich wrote "We are out in a country that has no language, no laws. Whatever we do together is pure invention. The maps they gave us are out of date by years."
This is the situation that music industry professionals and artists find themselves in today. We're in desperate need of cognitive roadmaps that reflect the realities of our time. Together we must work towards creating a new and ever-evolving atlas and leverage the collective power of our anchored industry communities to help each other find our way. Otherwise, we'll all just lost out here, maybe forever.
Many thanks goes out to New York Times technology writer Nick Bilton, author of I Live in the Future & Here's How It Works. His new book inspired this piece. Anchored communities and cognitive roadmaps are his words, not mine.