The barbarians have already demolished the gates.
Anyone who wants to make a movie can upload it to YouTube. You don’t need a movie studio.
Anyone who wants to record an album can get it in iTunes. You don’t need a record label.
Anyone who wants to be a journalist can start a blog. You don’t need a newspaper.
And, of course, anyone who wants to write a book can self-publish it. You don’t need a publisher.
We used to live in a world of funnels that were driven by physical constraints. There are only so many books that can physically fit in a bookstore, therefore it only made economic sense for a certain number of books to be published a year, therefore there was a winnowing process that involved a huge amount of hoop-jumping and elimination.
There is no limit to the number of books that can be for sale online. Now the only winnowing process happens when readers themselves decide what they’re going to read from almost infinite choice.
There are few gates left anymore, but there are still influencers, people who can persuade others to buy a book or consume a movie or listen to music.
On the big end of the scale you have people like Oprah and other celebrities, who can single-handedly turn a book into a bestseller. In the middle you have bloggers and reviewers, who can persuade hundreds or maybe even thousands of people to buy something.
And on the vast bottom of the scale you have individuals, who can maybe persuade a couple of their friends to buy something, but who collectively wield the greatest amount of power.
It’s not as important to scale the gates as it used to be. Popular books are coming out of nowhere like never before.
Still, just because an unknown book and Twilight are for sale in the same store doesn’t mean they have an equal shot. As I’ve written in the past, not all chances are created equal. There are still going to be people who wield outsized influence, and access to those influencers can help determine a work of art’s success.
Power is decentralized from a central institution to thousands and thousands of individual power centers.
Now instead of scaling the gates, will it help to get in with the influencers?
Art: The Siege of Malta by Matteo Perez d’Aleccio