When Is It Time For the Next One?

Issue 44

The most famous line about making comedy gets quoted a lot. Lorne Michaels says, “Saturday Night Live doesn’t go on at 11:30 because it’s ready. It goes on at 11:30 because it’s 11:30.”

The lesson is supposed to be that you shouldn’t indulge your fear by insisting on perfect. Perfect is, of course, the enemy of the good, and shipping your work and keeping your promises are essential attributes for the professional.

But there’s a flipside.

The flipside is that sometimes, profit-hungry, growth-focused companies ship things merely because it’s 11:30.

That new and improved thing is new, but is it really improved?

The fact is that most audio companies have high overhead and most audiophiles are ungrateful curs, unwilling to actively support the very companies that they claim they want to support. We seek out B stock and used deals and better prices and cheaper stuff, or at the very least, the shiny stuff that is the flavor of the day and the cover of the month.

Without a cycle of new and improved, most companies we like and depend on would disappear. We’ve certainly seen what happens to the designer who says, “my work is a classic, we’re not going to make new stuff.” He fades away.

And this, of course, is our punishment for insisting on specs and features and hype. Mostly hype. I know that we insist on it because I see it working, again and again and again. I’m guilty too.

The relentless Schumpeteresque cycle of creative destruction brought us all of the wonderful, best-in-the-history-of-the-world-or-at-least-lately, that we enjoy today. But it also creates a regular cycle of dissatisfaction, demonically making our stereo suddenly sound worse, even though we didn’t touch it, merely because the next cycle is here.

Can we end the cycle? Not in my lifetime.

What we can do, though, is insist.

Hey, Mr. Stereo Maker–it’s almost 11:30, better make sure your stuff is worth shipping.

(Originally published in Copper #8)

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