Just before Christmas, a few friends and I launched a new company, Analog. Writing this, I’m still a little surprised at the praise from all those generous people about the holding page. After all, to me, analog.coop is just that: a little holding page. We did work hard on it and laughed a lot after the easter eggs started to appear. (Have you found all three, yet?) Then, we kept on laughing every time we saw them — a good sign. However, we never felt like the copy was quite right, and know we have more to do. Maybe that illustrates why I’m still chuffed a couple of weeks later.
We stand on the shoulders of those who’ve come before, but we also lean on the shoulders of those around us. That simple truth is why I believe in collaboration, and co-ops in particular, and why Analog exists. It’s a company of friends.
Analog is a change of tempo in a co-operative playlist that started a long time ago for me. I’m not sure where it began but I’m pretty sure it was way before I actually knew what a co-op was. (That is, apart from the Co-op supermarket near my Nan’s house.) Back in the early ’90s, running club nights and working behind the plates, I always ended up doing stuff with other people. I’d invite veteran jazz musicians to jam over the beats, with a mic plugged into the mixer. I almost always worked with other DJs. It was always so much more fun to have other people around. A friend who worked in a print shop was indispensable when I was designing flyers back in 1992. I remember designing a comp on a piece of paper. It was a logomark with a bit of copy. In the print shop we printed lines of text at different weights in different fonts, cut out the bits we liked, and stuck them into place with spray mount. We photographed the layout, and made a plate to print from. We chose the card together, and the dark silver ink. I would never have used either without my friend’s knowledge and help.
Fast forward a bit to the early part of the ‘noughties’, and realising how working collaboratively across disciplines was so critical for web sites, I founded Grow Collective. I think of it as a test run for Analog. What it proved to me is that the co-operative principles made sense, and turned me into something of an evangelist. I believe that everyone working on a project should profit equitably from it according to the scope of their participation. I believe we should have the right to claim our own work irrevocably, without suffering the indignity of being white-labelled. (It still happens.) I believe that working for nothing in order to secure clients is daft, and reject the notion that designing ‘on spec’ has any benefit whatsoever for anyone involved. I believe that there are other choices than working either for an agency, or freelance. I believe that if democracy and freedom are important to us, then they shouldn’t be signed away when we take a job.
It seems that everyone reaches a certain stage (or is that age) when the security of being an employee compares badly with the quality of life that independence can bring. I attach great value to being able to decide where the lines are drawn between profitability and quality; between when to rest and when to work; between what to do, how to do it, and who with. It’s a question of happiness. If independence is directly linked to happiness, but collaboration is the catalyst that makes good ideas work, a co-operative is an obvious choice, and Analog is my answer. I think it has all of the benefits of independence but a structure that could compete with the brand equity of agencies. It’s an hypothesis that is still unproven, but I believe in it. It feels right.
Of course, the members of a co-op are all-important. If I may, I’d like to introduce you to my colleagues:
After a brief excursion to wrestle a three-year-old (involuntarily), I guess I should wrap this up. I don’t know how this Analog gig will play out. Sometimes, back in the early 90s, I would often start with familiar tracks that I and the audience knew and loved. After a while, I always had an urge to try and play something different. Maybe an accapella over an ancient break-beat, or the intense Pao De Acucar from Pacific Jam. Analog is one of those gigs.
If you fancy keeping up with how we do, follow analogcoop. If you’d like to work with us, please get in touch. If anyone has questions about co-operatives, feel free to ask, or keep an eye out for follow-up entries. One of them is sure to be about how to form an international co-op, as well a bits about the brand, the site, and things I’ve learnt so far.
Here’s wishing all of you a happy, healthy 2010!