[Asymconf] What are the jobs that the entertainment industry is hired to do?

@mastermmik: love how @asymco thinks of everything and everyone as being “hired” to do something. lol

via Twitter.

Hiring products to do jobs for us is not a difficult cognitive leap to make. But can we extend the metaphor to “everything and everyone?” Aren’t there parts of the human experience that are outside the realm of the implied trade that hiring suggests?

Of course there are.

There is an implied rationality to the practice of hiring. Commerce itself is implicitly, at least partially if not totally, rational. Buying and selling depends on a mix of instinct and calculation. And yet much of what drives human activity is not motivated through the calculus of rational thought. It could even be argued that, as we are all gifted with emotions, instinct and passion, we are anything but rational beings.

The epitome of the triumph of the emotional over the rational is the practice of making art. Art is created to stimulate or cause appreciation. The appreciation is the reward. There is no calculation.

However, during the last century the arts have become industrialized. That is to say that works of art are produced for profit on a grand scale. The technologies of communication and media have meant that the appreciation of art has turned into the entertainment of the masses. And since these creations are made for commercial gain then it is not only fair but fitting that entertainment should be analyzed as product.

The industry resists analysis not just because it’s difficult to define the product but because it’s difficult to define why it’s consumed. The ‘job-to-be-done” framework that leads to insight about which products to build and how to design them seems to fail when we look at a product that seems to exist only to be appreciated.

To suggest that appreciation can be categorized sounds presumptuous. Human perception is infinitely nuanced and every person can perceive differently from another.

And yet, for resources to be allocated (aka. financing) or for development decisions (production) or promotion (marketing) a theory has to exist about who buys and why they do it.

The theory that seems to be in common use in the industry is that a few experts have the knack for knowing how to allocate the resources for what is created. These persons are entrusted with an increasingly large influence. There are only a few major studios for deciding what most of the world consumes in the form of either visual (cinematic) or audio (music) productions. The concentration of power is a result of the distribution model of physical media or broadcast networks. These are artifacts of a technological infrastructure that was built in the last century. An infrastructure whose replacement is unavoidable.

Its replacement will enable creation and distribuion of art to be democratized[1].

It’s important to understand the jobs entertainment is hired to do. Not because the creative process can be synthesized. It’s important because those creators need to learn how to allocate their own resources. A framework is needed to help dis-intermediate the resources allocators–the central planners, if you will.

In other words, learning how to create commercially valuable appreciable products should be a skill all creative people possess.

These are not complicated ideas. They don’t require powers of deduction beyond the reach of the average person. What they require is perspective.

The dialogue on this topic will begin in Amsterdam on April 13th 2012, at Asymconf. I look forward to seeing you there.


  1. The proof of this is left to the reader.
  2. This is the material accompanying the first case discussion at Asymconf. Participants are encouraged to read it before the show.