In The Deep End With Kevin Kelly

You know how you sometime finds things right when you need them, or when they will make the most sense to you? I just bought a new MacBookPro this week and I can’t get thousands of songs I “own” to play in iTunes, thanks to a DRM glitch somewhere. It’s maddening, this denial of my rights of ownership.
As I wait for an Apple customer service rep to help me with this problem, Kevin Kelly offers some thinking that transcends my petty groveling.

Very likely, in the near future, I won’t “own” any music, or books, or movies. Instead I will have immediate access to all music, all books, all movies using an always-on service, via a subscription fee or tax. I won’t buy – as in make a decision to own — any individual music or books because I can simply request to see or hear them on demand from the stream of ALL. I may pay for them in bulk but I won’t own them. The request to enjoy a work is thus separated from the more complicated choice of whether I want to “own” it. I can consume a movie, music or book without having to decide or follow up on ownership.
Access is so superior to ownership, or possession, that it will drive the emerging intangible economy. The chief holdup to full-scale conversion from ownership to omni-access is the issue of modification and control. In traditional property regimes only owners have the right to modify or control the use of the property. The right of modification is not transferred in rental, leasing, or licensing agreements. But they are transferred in open source content and tools, which is part of their great attraction in this new realm. The ability and right to improve, personalize, or appropriate what is shared will be a key ingredient in the advance of omni-access.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Sadly, for most of the population that’s college-age and younger, this is the likely future of mass consumer consumption of pop culture (film, TV, music). You can see the “get everything for one, low monthly price…forever” evolution coming in ads for cable and Fios packages, cell phone plans, Napster mark II and Rhapsody.
    What does this mean for how we listen and watch? The local record store will probably cease to exist once there is no longer resale value in used CDs, and DVDs. Which means I’ll no longer have the pleasure of rifling through the bargain bin or talking with the clerk about undiscovered gems.
    Some app like Apple’s “Genius” will push an algorithm at me that can’t possibly process how I can enjoy Ella Fitzgerald, Rush, Bo Diddley, Eminem, Hank Williams, Sonic Youth, The Beatles and Hall & Oates.
    With the “Get It All” model, we’re more likely to continue consuming what we think we already enjoy. Will the owner of said music collection ever be told that Aaron Copland’s “Billy the Kid” is a million times better than Billy Joel’s? I really doubt it.
    It’s going to be harder than ever for that 16-year-old that grew up listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd to discover Husker Du and Black Flag (or The 400 Blows or Nathanael West) and thereby change the course of his life.
    Sure, access is great. But if you have unfettered access without the curiosity to seek out the new (and it takes work for even the most committed) or a variety of gatekeepers to push you in new directions, most people will never experience 25% of the fascinating works that are out there.
    I’m not sure I understand how the subscription model promotes open-source content, though. I don’t see Island Records ever giving Negativland permission to name a song or image “U2.” And even ownership of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” on CD (apparently) doesn’t give you the right to sample the entire song, even if it’s parody or satire, without permission.
    Perhaps a DJ-related conglomerate of Ninja Tune and Warp and other labels could specify that music there is sampleable, but the multinational media corporations will probably be the ones driving this model, and they want their piece of the pie. If not the whole pie. Of course, if these corporations can’t fiscally survive through the transition, then all bets are off, and we’ll have little Radioheads all over the world distributing music themselves.

  2. Access is so superior to ownership, or possession, that it will drive the emerging intangible economy. The chief holdup to full-scale conversion from ownership to omni-access is the issue of modification and control.
    I tried to change my way of thinking of this with living in a home. The “native” approach might seem right, but i don’t see ownership changing so radically. All these kinds of new ways are hampered by one thing: legalities and litigation. It used to be an honorable profession, judgement and negotiating. In a non ownership society within a free legal systems, a service that didn’t require high pay, where such was performed just like that, as a service more sacred in nature, things fail because of the clash with a high monetary legal system.
    I don’t see the lawyers and legal systems going away as a highly profitable component in out society, so this model of intangibility is hampered by the legal controls that will be put in place to put the use in place.

  3. i posted this on design observer, but why not here:
    Things that need to be redesigned:
    our legal system
    it should be based on council and not on con – sell.

  4. Nice one, Nancy.
    Let’s also redesign the nation’s power grid to efficiently receive and transmit wind and sun-generated power. We can turn Nevada and Utah’s BLM lands into solar fields and power the entire nation. Self-reliance is within sight.
    Other industries that badly need rehabilitation, or redesign as the case may be: insurance, medicine, education, politics and transportation.

  5. First off, David, thank you for acknowledging a comment from me directly and with spersonal salutation.
    Before we decide on how to redesign those things, we’ll probably have to check with the legal department.
    Warning: this comment contains words. It does not contain nuts.