Defeat chokepoint capitalism to get artists paid

a book about why creative labor markets are rigged – and how to unrig them

Competition is supposed to be fundamental to capitalism. Over the last four decades though, greedy robber barons have worked out how to lock in customers and suppliers, eliminate competitors, and shake down everyone for more than their fair share. This short animated explainer shows what’s going on:

join us on the road!

You can find Cory and/or Rebecca talking about Chokepoint Capitalism in:

Boston and online, December 5
Join Northeastern’s College of Arts, Media and Design for a panel discussion with Cory [free registration for the live stream via the link above]

New Orleans, January 27-30
Cory will be speaking at the American Library Association’s Library Learning Experience.

London (online), February 1

Cory will be speaking online with Amanda Harcourt, brought to you by the UCL Institute of Brand and Innovation Law

Canberra, February 17
Cory and Rebecca will be delivering the keynote address at the Australian Digital Alliance annual forum.

Brussels, March 2
Cory
will be speaking chokepoint capitalism at the Antitrust, Regulation and the Political Economy conference in Brussels.

Australia – we’ll be with you in February 2023! More dates coming soon..!

For other event possibilities get in touch with Beacon Press (North America), or Scribe (AU/NZ), (UK/rest of Commonwealth).

creative labor markets are borked

We had to write this book, because creative labor markets are borked.

Google rules search, Facebook rules social media, and together they control nearly all the internet advertising wrapped around online media – power they’ve used to extract megaprofits that explain why the number of journalists has plummeted. Via YouTube, Google has captured the video streaming market, and (with Apple) the market for cell phone software, including video games.

Spotify dominates music streaming. Three companies control music recordings and music publishing. The ‘Big 6’ trade publishers became the Big 5 when Penguin glommed together with Random House, and that behemoth is fighting to make it the Big 4 by swallowing Simon & Schuster as well. Amazon controls the online market for a growing number of consumer goods: starting with books, then taking over ebooks, and now, via Audible, audiobooks too.

We deconstruct their playbooks (and those for news, screenwriting, games, live music, radio and more) to show how Big Tech and Big Content erect chokepoints between creators and audiences, allowing them to lock in artists and producers, eliminate competition, and extract far more than their fair share of revenues from creative labor.

available in ebook, audiobook, and physical formats

The DRM-free ebook: buy direct from Cory’s own webstore, or any major ebook supplier. 

The independently, ethically produced and distributed audiobook: Due to its abusive practices, the only part of Chokepoint Capitalism you can find on Audible is the part detailing… Audible’s abusive practices. It’s not on Apple, either, which relies on the Audible catalog. But you can buy the full audiobook from Libro.fm (which supports local bookstores with a portion of each sale), Google Play, and other DRM-free suppliers. 

The physical version: support your local independent bookstore, all major online retailers, or follow the links below.

Rebecca & Cory on launch day in LA – photo credit Del @ Dark Delicacies

a Big Tech/Big Content Disassembly Manual

While our book starts by dissecting the ways monopolists from the tech and entertainment sectors have cornered their markets, explaining the historical and structural factors that gave rise to this distinctly terrible form of extractive capitalism, we don’t stop there. Our main focus is action.

Chokepoint Capitalism is built around shovel-ready ideas for shattering the chokepoints that squeeze creators and audiences – technical, commercial and legal blueprints for artists, fans, arts organizations, technologists, and governments to fundamentally restructure the broken markets for creative labor. 

how are chokepoints created?

In this 4 minute animated explainer, we show how Big Business creates anti-competitive flywheels that enable them to squeeze creators and creative partners, like independent publishers and record labels, to extract more than their fair share:

podcasts and recordings

  • This Machine Kills – Cultural Capture by Chokepoint Capitalism Soundcloud | Apple
  • Triangulation with Leo Laporte – How Big Tech and Big Content captured creative labor markets. Video | Soundcloud | Apple
  • Alta Live, in conversation with Adam Rogers. Video
  • Trashfuture, Amazon Billing Amazon for Amazon feat. Cory Doctorow and Rebecca Giblin. Web | Apple
  • Pitchfork Economics – Chokepoint Capitalism Web | Apple
  • Team Human with Douglas Rushkoff – Surviving Apocalyptic Economics w/ Cory Doctorow and Rebecca Giblin – Live from Ottawa International Writers Festival Web | Apple
  • Inside Politics with Hugh Linehan – Apple | Stitcher
  • Library Futures – Chokepoint Capitalism and Data Cartels – Video
  • Critical Theory – New Books in Critical Theory: Chokepoint Capitalism – Apple
  • New Books Network – conversation with Dr Miranda Melcher – Web.
  • If this goes on don’t panic – Web | Apple.

media & reviews

Image of Spanish language article about Chokepoint Capitalism

extracts

See also Wired, ‘Streamers Use Playlists to Control the Music Industry’ 

praise for Chokepoint Capitalism

“This book gets it.”
—Stephen Fry, actor, broadcaster, comedian, director, and writer

“[Giblin and Doctorow] deliver a lucid and damning exposé of how big business captured the culture markets.”
Publishers Weekly Starred Review

“This book is an absolute must-read for anyone who senses that the predominant economic mythology is a lie…and who is ready to finally start fixing the problem.”
—David Sirota, writer of Don’t Look Up and founder of The Lever

“Giblin and Doctorow persuasively argue that copyright can’t unrig a rigged market—for that you need worker power, antitrust, and solidarity.”
—Jimmy Wales, cofounder of Wikipedia

“Are you a writer, a musician, an artist? Is Big Tech eating your brain and sucking your financial blood?…Chokepoint Capitalism tells us how the vampires crashed the party and provides protective garlic.”
—Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale

“I loved this book…It helps us all see the locks and chains, and the ways to chisel through them.”
—Zephyr Teachout, law professor and author of Corruption in America and Break ‘Em Up

“Creators are being ground up by the modern culture industries, with little choice but to participate in markets…Giblin and Doctorow show why, and offer a range of powerful strategies for fighting back.”
—Lawrence Lessig, Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership, Harvard Law School

“Capitalism doesn’t work without competition. Giblin and Doctorow impressively show the extent to which that’s been lost throughout the creative industries, and how this pattern threatens every other worker.”
—Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist

“A tome for the times…The revolution will not be spotified!”
—Christopher Coe, artist and cofounder of Awesome Soundwave

Chokepoint Capitalism couples its legal-economic critique with provocative, sometimes utopian, prescriptions for fairly remunerating authors and performers.”
—Jane C. Ginsburg, Morton L. Janklow Professor of Literary and Artistic Property Law, Columbia University School of Law

“Searing, essential, and incredibly readable.”
—Adam Conover, comedian and host of The G-Word

“An urgent, profound, and approachable take on what it’s going to take to save our culture. If you care about books, movies, or music, read this book right now. And share a copy with a friend.”
—Seth Godin, author of The Practice

“If you have ever wondered why the web feels increasingly stale, Chokepoint Capitalism outlines in great detail how it is being denied fresh air.”
—Mat Dryhurst, artist and researcher, NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music

Chokepoint Capitalism is more than a clarion call for a new, necessary form of trustbusting. It’s a grand unified theory of a decades-long, corporate-led hollowing out of creative culture.”
—Andy Greenberg, writer for WIRED and author of Sandworm and Tracers in the Dark

“Not just a fascinating tour of the hidden mechanics of the platform era, from Spotify playlists to Prince’s name change, but a compelling agenda to break Big Tech’s hold.”
—Eli Pariser, author of The Filter Bubble and cofounder of Avaaz

“Rebecca Giblin and Cory Doctorow lay out their case in plain and powerful prose, offering a grand tour of the blighted cultural landscape and how our arts and artists have been chickenized, choked, and cheated.”
—Kaiser Kuo, host and cofounder of The Sinica Podcast

“Every creator will find inspiration here.”
—Anil Dash, CEO of Glitch

“A masterwork…It’s a necessary read for any artist in the entertainment industry.”
—David A. Goodman, writer, executive producer of The Orville, and former president of the WGA West

“An infuriating yet inspiring call to collective action.”
—Douglas Rushkoff, author of Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus and Survival of the Richest