Geek Ink Thinks: Stick it to the (middle)man!

In the past, if you were a film maker, musician, writer or game programmer, you needed someone with lots of money to help you get your product to the market. You needed expensive equipment to produce your content, and a large amount of money to advertise your product in the right channels. The old guard, book and game publishers, record labels, or movie studios, were the only ones who had the money, so if you wanted to get your product out, you had to play by their rules.

But things are changing, and it’s happening so fast that the old guard are running scared.

It all boils down to how drastically the production and distribution of products has changed with the shift to digital. Now you only need to produce a single digital copy, and you can reproduce it millions of times at little to no cost. Before the days of high speed internet, you still needed a suitable media to distribute these files, such as a CD or DVD, but you no longer need that. Even African countries are getting connected at decent speeds where it takes no longer than a few minutes to download an album.

Which leads me to ask: why do we need the middleman?

The short answer is we don’t. While we aren’t quite yet at the perfect place where artists directly receive all the money they make for their music, at least they have channels like i-Tunes where the odds are far more in their favour. Writers have Amazon and the Kindle. Film makers and game programmers are getting support through Kickstarter.

The middlemen across these various industries have realised they are running on borrowed time, but will not go down without a fight. They are using their hard exploited dollars to fund various acts that preserve the status quo. They claim that ACTA, SOPA, and PIPA are about piracy and preserving the rights of artists. They aren’t. The only thing that piracy has done is reminded them that they are no longer needed in a world where digital production allows anyone off the street to create and release a digital product. They know that since the costs of production make it feasible for anyone to create a digital product, the only thing that they can still control are the distribution channels. Do you think the obsolete dinosaurs are willing to adapt and hand over control of these channels to the artists who fuel them? No, they want to retain control so they can create the rules and keep most of the profit.

But people aren’t blind. They can see that this is what the middlemen are trying to do. More and more people are embracing alternative options, and making them the standard, instead of the alternative. It won’t be much longer till the middlemen find themselves as the last option, instead of the only option.

So to the middlemen who have long lived off the profits of other people’s work, I say this:

Adapt, or die.


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