barberThree months ago I wrote: “People will eventually have to adapt to the fact that in order to make a living, they have to be willing to serve.”

Not the government. A company. Or a church. But other people. Directly.

Now, when I think of the “service industry” I always think of a barber. You go there, he gives you a nice cut. And you carry it home. But you didn’t pay for the hair-cut itself. You actually paid for his service.

Service means attending another person’s needs and being compensated for your time and efforts.

If you think this thought to the end it has some interesting implications for artists, the creation of artifacts and the copyright industry.

Matt Sherman put it in such simple and clear words yesterday that I have to reprint his 140 char wisdom here:

twitter.com/clipperhouse

I like the way he uses the word “value” here. And I totally agree. The days where musicians made money by selling records are pretty much gone. Nowadays, if you want to survive as a musician you have to rely on giving concerts, selling merchandise and the generosity of your fans.This is why many musicians are also giving away their music for free. Because people are going to download it, anyway.

Another thing about this quote is that when I saw this, I immediately asked myself:”What If I replace the word music with books?”

Does it still hold true?

I teach languages and write for a living. The former is very clearly a service and not unlike being a barber: It is time-based. It is about attending a person’s need and being compensated for your time and efforts.

But even writing books and selling them, to me, is a service.

The time-factor is “out of phase” – meaning it’s not a real-time interactive engagement (like live teaching) but nevertheless it means attending to a person’s needs directly.

Some will say this is just floozy woozy splitting of hairs. A product is a product, no matter what you call it.

This is probably true. But I think it does matter how you relate to the things you put into the world.

Apart from the fact that I just love Bruce Sterling’s idea of looking at objects as “frozen relationships” it also makes the whole creation and selling of artefacts more fun.

Let’s face it:

We are living in a world that is over-saturated with products and useless clutter.

Products that cater to the market’s need instead of people’s needs. (big difference!)

We don’t want another “product X that will make our life better.” And how many products that promise this are really worth buying, anyways?

Have you ever noticed by the way that millions of people use Google and Facebook everyday and yet – if you got a problem there’s no customer service? – At all?

They make billions. But if you need to talk a person, there’s nobody there.

That’s pretty weird if you ask me.

Anyways. I hope the case is somewhat clear.

If you are a Wallstreet wiz and think you can just live off the vapor of the “market” by selling and buying money you might have to re-think what you do. Because you aren’t serving anybody. You aren’t creating any value. So what are you doing?

Value cannot be owned. It can only be created and shared.

Put more positively:

Even if you’re selling stuff, it’s still a service.

This is why I give away a lot of the hard work I do for free.

Because relationships are not based on ownership and money.

They are based on value. What that means and how to generate more of it is another question I discussed in the chapter “Copyrights & Dead Patent Dreams” in my recent ebook “A Mindful Guide to Social Media”, which (of course) is available as a free download. :)

Having said that, I hope that what I do is helpful to you. Because, no matter what I think, in the end it’s you who decides.

Now, let’s have a nice virtual hair-cut!