Products that don't care if you buy them

I don't watch much telly, but I just spent a very enjoyable evening watching a cracking BBC documentary about Factory Records.

I love the Factory story. Not only did they produce some of my all-time favourite music, but I also find their anarchic approach really inspiring. It's a great example of a particular kind of story: the "we didn't care, and that's why it worked" story. There's something very empowering about people who don't have a clue, working exclusively to their own agenda, and mystifyingly making a success of it anyway. It gives hope to the rest of us, plodding around in the wings, wishing people would listen to us too.

Factory emerged (escaped?) from the punk era of the late seventies, when I was barely a foot long. Watching the old footage though reminded me just how reassuringly shoddy things were back then: bands lip-synching hopelessly on Top of the Pops, TV presenters with rubbish hair and cheap suits (gawd bless Tony Wilson). It's a long way away from the slick production values we're used to on TV today. But take a look through YouTube and you'll see the same DIY spirit poking through again. I suppose it was only a matter of time, writing about doing things badly, that I'd mention the famous Sniffin' Glue poster. But I think we should make modern equivalents for YouTube, hip hop, Scroobius Pip and reality TV. In fact, here's one I made earlier...

Factory graphic designer Peter Saville summed up the DIY approach for me when he said (and apologies if I'm misquoting): "No-one knew how to do things properly, so we'd find our own way of doing it." They ran a record label, managed bands, ran a nightclub, produced records, all without a proper template or roadmap for doing so. And so, they did it differently. Most people thought they were mad, and they probably were. But by doing things badly, they created something new.

After the Factory doc, Comics Britannia interviewed the creators of Viz, which emerged at a similar time. They said that they put things in Viz that no-one would ever have put in a mainstream comic, because they only wrote it for their mates. Peter Saville said that no-one in the early days of Factory talked about sales, because no-one ever thought anyone would buy the records. As a product, a Factory record "quite blatantly didn't care whether you bought it or not." And because they only made things for their own circle of friends, they made art that genuinely connected with the people who bought it.

Of course, punk and Viz aren't to everyone's taste, and anarchy isn't exactly popular in mainstream party politics. But Alan Moore said tonight that anarchy means taking complete responsibility for your political choices, rather than following the collective will. When looked at in this light, aren't punk, Viz, Factory, YouTube and the rest actually just about taking responsibility for our own entertainment?

Just because we're not as good at it as the professionals, that shouldn't rob us of the right to do it. After all, if we're rubbish, no-one's forcing people to watch. We can just make stuff for our mates. And shouldn't that be enough?