The Middle Aged White Men Give Way

Digital Book World (via ebookporn) published their eBook publisher rankings in 2013 a few days ago with the surprise to them that self-published books had made 22 appearances in the top seller list, 25% of the appearances of the leader Hatchette:

1. Hachette: 88 appearances
2. Random House: 87 appearances
3. Penguin: 42 appearances
4. Self-published: 22 appearances
5. Macmillan: 18 appearances

This is not really that much of a surprise to me. Putting aside that it is possible to fake your way on to some of these lists ( see: How Are Some Authors Landing On Best-Seller Lists? They’re Buying Their Way in the Wall Street Journal) we are seeing an ongoing and fundamental shift in power of the producer of content being able to connect and sell to the consumer.

Another example of this is shown in a recent New York Times article: Web Helps Musicians Sell Shares of Royalties :

“As a songwriter and producer for stars like Natalie Cole, Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston, Preston Glass receives a comfortable stream of music royalties. But when he needed to make a substantial investment to embark on the next phase of his career — as a performing artist in his own right — he had few options to raise the money, he said…….So Mr. Glass turned to the Royalty Exchange, a Web site where musicians can sell parts of their royalty income to investors. He put 15 of his songs on the block — including “Miss You Like Crazy,” a Top 10 hit for Ms. Cole in 1989, of which Mr. Glass was a co-writer — and raised $158,000. Mr. Glass retains most of his rights to those songs, but will now share part of the income with an investor whenever they are played on the radio or streamed online.”

Now not all of us have the reputation of Mr Glass or the cachet of an existing published book list but the new tools that the web provides for us are enabling more and more of us to avoid the gatekeeper in our industries.

I like to think of that gatekeeper as a group of middle aged overweight white men in suits deciding who will get access to what. More and more of these gatekeepers are being blown out of the water. Early shining examples have been in music sales and book sales but now it is moving into many other areas including the availability of capital through crowd funding sites and the aptly named Upstart which just received high profile backing of US$5.9 million. Upstart allows people to raise money by giving away a portion of their income for the next 10 years.

These are just the beginning of changes we are likely to see. Recently I have been giving presentation on the future of advisers in the agricultural and food supply chains, Tools that will be available to everyone in these fields mean that  these systems will change to an advisory role to the facilitation of self organising networks where the means to produce value will be distributed throughout the system rather than being held by a few.

It is a brave new world and I for one am loving it.

Paul Higgins

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