The Extra Dimension

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How Can You Support Yourself as a Creator?

Episode #8The Fringe #361

Ian R Buck, Ian Decker and Ryan Rampersad discuss goals to strive for in your creations, old trends and new trends, and some anecdotal notes.

Episode Summary

00:03:56 | The Technium: Better Than Free

  • Copies are abundant, free, and worthless. You have to find other things to sell.
  • Immediacy
    • Early access.
  • Personalization
    • Making the product unique for a customer.
  • Interpretation
    • The software is free, the manual is $10,000.
  • Authenticity
    • Knowing that the work came from the creator you think it came from.
  • Accessibility
    • Not having to keep track of your own copies of a thing.
    • Why would I want to download a video and keep track of where I put it if I can just search YouTube?
  • Embodiment
    • Digital works can take many forms, and depend heavily on the device they are consumed on.
    • Live music vs. recorded music.
  • Patronage
    • Paying to help ensure the creator you like will be able to make more stuff in the future.
    • Gives a sense of ownership.
  • Findability
    • This is why publishers won’t die out.
    • Distributors help audiences find stuff they will likely enjoy.

00:21:45 | The Technium: 1,000 True Fans

  • How to escape the long tail: either have a breakout hit OR
  • Get 1,000 “true fans.”
    • They will buy basically everything you make.
    • They will travel long distances to see you live.
    • They will talk about you with their friends and spread the fandom.

00:24:29 | The $1,000 CPM — Medium

00:26:21 | Traditional methods of making money:

  • Writing
    • Selling works
    • Selling subscriptions to magazines/newspapers
    • Advertising in magazines/newspapers
    • Merchandise
  • Radio
    • Advertising
    • Membership drives
    • Merchandise
  • Music
    • Licensing to radio stations
    • Selling albums/singles
    • Performing live
    • Merchandise
  • Movies
    • Ticket sales
    • Selling home video
    • Subscription services like Netflix
    • Merchandise
    • Pay-per-view
  • Television
    • Advertising
    • Membership drive (especially PBS)
    • Merchandise
    • Content as a Channel (HBO, Showtime)
  • Games
    • Selling the game
    • Subscriptions (especially MMOs)
    • In-app purchases (especially mobile)
    • Advertising (especially mobile)
    • Merchandise
  • Software
    • Selling the software
    • Selling updates and upgrades to software
    • Subscriptions (especially Adobe, Microsoft)
    • Free vs Pro features
    • Advertising (especially mobile)
    • Documentation and Support
  • Photography
    • Selling photography to magazines/companies/whatever
    • Professional photography for events like weddings
    • Portraits
    • Prints
  • Comics
    • Syndication in newspapers
    • Selling issues (graphic novel)
Notice that most of these involve the creator teaming up with some sort of business person to get their work published and distributed. Now that the internet exists, it is much easier to self-publish. Of course, discovery becomes a challenge when there are so many people self-publishing; your signal gets lost in the noise; catering to a specific but knowable niche, or pander to broader audiences. It is also still very difficult to sell things for money without going through traditional publishing channels. It is much better to release your main work for free so that it can be shared widely. Supporting your main work can be fan funding, merchandise, and advertising. It is popular, in the traditional model, to invert your customer. For example, rather than having the audience pay directly for your content, give your content away for free, but charge advertisers access to your content’s demographics. So the real customers are the advertisers, and the audience's attention is the product.

00:34:51 | Newer concepts:

  • Crowdfunding
    • One- time drive for money for a specific project
  • Tip jar
    • Button on the page where audience can give some money
  • Patronage
    • One-time OR ongoing financial support from the audience
All of these give the audience a sense of ownership over the concept (whether this sense is reasonable or not is beyond the scope of this discussion) and allows the creators to avoid selling the audience’s attention. It also allows the creators to avoid the overhead (both financial and creative) of having to team up with someone business-savvy in order to distribute their work. Important to note: audience-funded models work best if you can curate an audience that is engaged and loyal, which is something that I think we should be striving for anyway. They say that the best customers are the returning customers.

00:42:19 | Notes from Decker:

Things that I have found to be imperative as an artist:
  • Build up a portfolio- allows you to create a sampling of works for others to look at. This can also be similar to a repertoire list if you’re a performing musician.
  • NETWORK!!- I cannot stress this enough. People will only buy what they value, so people who can appreciate artistic value in things will generally be more willing to buy them. Also, they will introduce you to more opportunities to get your work out there. This leads to the next part...
  • Get your work out there! If you are a performing artist, find places to perform. If you’re a visual artist, find festivals and showrooms to put your art out at. This part also includes advertising- using those networks, you can establish partnerships that will help get the word of your event out. Go out and canvass for yourself as well! You’ll want to get people hooked on what you do, so find ways to distribute samples to large populations if you can! For the visual arts, photos in your portfolio are things that people can see, if it’s music, set up a youtube and/or a soundcloud and distribute links. Also, don’t be afraid to get stuff reviewed or appraised- if it’s a well-known reviewer, they’ll help you to get the word out and provide critical feedback. People won’t buy your stuff if they don’t know that it exists. Do this enough and you will eventually…
    • Please do not be afraid of critical feedback! Considering that the people who are observing your work may be potential patrons, conforming to their tastes is not a totally bad thing. It’s also important to maintain individuality, but find ways to stretch that individuality to appeal to your customer. Consider them challenges to overcome/different ways to think in order to create as opposed to just obstacles. It’s also important to be able to discern between critical feedback and people just being assholes (which is far easier said than done).
    • Please also remember as to why you make each of your pieces! On a sales note, if people know the reason why it exists, they’re able to sympathize and empathize and make the piece that much more valuable to them. However, if it’s just to make money, then you’ll need to find a way to conform to what the buyer wants, possibly squishing your own individuality in the process. Make sure that you know who you are creating for with each piece, whether that be yourself or for the buyer, and plan accordingly. The ideal, but rare, situation is that artists are able to create for themselves and that also conforms to what the buyers want. Just realize that that situation is rather difficult to achieve.
  • Establish a reputation! It’s also important for people to know what sort of stuff that they will get from you, especially if they commission a piece

00:55:24 | Buck’s Conclusions:

  • Release digital works for free
    • I personally release them under a Creative Commons Attribution license, because I want to help other creators and I hope that it helps get my name out there
  • Give your audience a way to contribute financially. Who knows, maybe they want to!
  • Sell non-digital goods to make some money
  • Be available on social media to interact with fans


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