Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Traditional rock breaking vs. indie rock breaking in prehistoric times
The year is 20,000 BCE.
Ug breaks rocks into pebbles. The other cave men and women like to look at Ug’s pebbles, so they trade him scraps of meat and berries for those pebbles. Ug has grown nice and plump from the spoils of his rock breaking business. He is so successful that he hires ten people to break the rocks for him.
Other people bring rocks they have found to Ug for his team to break. He breaks their rocks and sells them, then shares a few of his berries with the rock bringers, but not too many.
Some pebbles sell far more than others. Soon, Ug finds he can move a lot more pebbles if he only takes the roundest and smoothest rocks, and only those that are different shades of brown. He hires more people whose sole job is to screen for rocks that he can break into pebbles that will trade for the most meat and berries.
Ug has hired more people who haul the pebbles from village to village by dragging them on a big bear hide. Everyone knows Ug’s distributors and is used to the pebbles. They sometimes wish for a little more variety, but Ug’s pebbles are all they can get.
The rock bringers work hard, polishing their rocks and rubbing the right kind of dirt on them to make them the shade Ug’s screeners look for. There are now so many rock bringers that Ug’s screeners can be even more selective in the rocks they take. Many good rocks are screened out that even the screeners agree are good but for one reason or another they just wouldn’t bring in as much meat and berries as another rock.
Ug is now getting so much meat and berries in trade that some of it begins to rot because he can’t eat it fast enough. Life is good.
One day a rock bringer takes one of his rejected rocks and hits it with his club. Much to his surprise, the rock shatters into a thousand tiny pebbles very similar to those sold by Ug.
Ug sees this and laughs. “Moron. Those pebbles are crap because my people didn’t approve them. Nobody will want those. Just stop.”
The rock bringer pays Ug no mind. He gathers his pebbles and sells them to a few people in the village.
Ug sees this and laughs harder. “Moron. Nobody will want those gray pebbles when they are used to our brown pebbles. Besides, my people drag pebbles to every village and they know me. Just stop.”
Another rock bringer sees the first rock bringer’s small success. She smashes a rock of her own, but hits it many more times than the norm. The resulting pebbles are much smaller but similarly round and shiny. They are also much easier to carry. She sells a handful in the village, then carries them to the next village in a bag and sells them at a lower cost than Ug’s larger pebbles.
Ug sees this and laughs even harder. “Morons. Maybe you will sell a few of those tiny pebbles, but people will never prefer them to my larger pebbles. Just stop.”
Several others see the small successes of the new tiny pebbles and begin breaking their own rocks into tiny pebbles.
The rock bringers who still supply rocks to Ug see this and get angry. “Morons. Those pebbles weren’t approved by Ug’s screeners. You should keep taking them to Ug, like we do. You aren’t real rock bringers.”
Someone in another village trains a dog to carry a piece of wood with a pebble order carved into it and a sack full of berries tied to his neck to the town. Another entrepreneur builds a large slingshot and starts filling the orders by shooting bags full of the tiny pebbles to the other villages.
One of Ug’s managers sees this and begins to worry. “Hey, boss, should we do that, too?”
Ug groans. He complains about the new technology diluting the quality of pebbles, but eventually relents.
“Do it, but charge a lot more for the tiny pebbles so they keep buying the regular pebbles we haul in. People like bigger pebbles. That won’t change. Those morons are starting to annoy me.”
More people begin breaking and selling their own pebbles. Here and there a few of the better tiny pebble makers start to build their own piles of meat and berries. A few more of Ug’s rock bringers start breaking their own rejected rocks and have decent success selling them as tiny pebbles.
Suddenly, Ug’s sales aren’t quite as high as they used to be. His pile of meat and berries is getting smaller and smaller.
Both Ug and his rock bringers cry out, “All those tiny self-crushed pebbles are crap! They aren’t as polished or brown as our pebbles! This is bad for pebble buyers!”
A passing pebble buyer hears them and stops. He looks at the huge pile of tiny self-crushed pebbles next to Ug’s pebbles. “You know, a lot of these tiny pebbles are pretty bad. They are jagged and moldy.”
“Yes!” Ug exclaims. “You need me and my screeners to give you only the pebbles we think are quality so you don’t have to waste your time on all that crap!”
The pebble buyer digs a little deeper into the pile. “Wait a minute. Here’s a good one. It’s tiny, but I like it.”
Ug scratches his head as confusion sets in. "What are you talking about?"
“Here’s another. And another.” The buyer keeps digging and removes several more tiny self-crushed pebbles from the pile.
“You know, Ug, I really don’t mind digging through the pile. It’s actually kind of fun to look for the good ones. They are totally different from yours,” says the pebble buyer.
“What do you know?” grumbles Ug. “I’ve been selling pebbles longer than you have been alive.”
Suddenly, a very hungry dire wolf appears behind Ug.
Chomp. Chomp. Chomp. Chomp. Chomp. Chomp. Chomp.
Ug is no longer the pebble making king but he did make a tasty snack.
What is the moral of the story?
Don’t get too comfortable on your pile of rocks because you never know when a big friggin wolf might come along and eat you.