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Coulton and Scalzi: leveraging Internet fandom

The New York Times has an article, Sex, Drugs and Updating Your Blog, that focuses on Jonathan Coulton -- Hodgman compatriot and Internet geek music star -- to illustrate how a new generation of musicians are using Internet-based fan interaction to create a new business model for music. The model is fairly simple: give away your music and rely on your fans to pay you anyway. A famous example is Jane Siberry's pay-what-you-want model that has resulted in an average price of $1.30/track. This model has two main element of success: that your fans like your work and that your fans like you. The latter leads to e-mail, blogs, MySpace, and other sorts of fan-facing interactions.

We've seen this model evolve over the past several years and it's nothing new, but I find it fun to track it across multiple media. The New York Times article tries to force the implication that the fan interaction becomes a new burden for the artist, but can also provide relief. Sci-Fi writer John Scalzi recently gave a talk at Google in which he mentions that his laziness led him to put his manuscripts online for free. Instead of creating submission after submission, he has been able to draw the book companies to him and sell multiple books.

Scalzi and the NYTimes article do seem to agree that this business model requires a particular type of artist -- it is not a model for a J.D. Salinger, but it can assist the author pushing product on the book tour circuit. To bring back a lesson from the NYTimes article, Jonathan Coulton is able to sample his audience and target his concert performances to where he can sell 100+ tickets. Coulton's performance with John Hodgman also shows that a book reading can be as much a performance as any concert (see also: Lemony Snicket). The fact is that any interaction with your fans is a performance and, like any performance, we buy tickets.

Scalzi talk at Google:

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This page contains a single entry from kwc blog posted on May 13, 2007 5:06 PM.

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