All content that can be digitized, will be digitized and distributed over the web; books, magazines, newspapers, research, photos, music, and videos. For many years writers, artists and musicians have resisted the move online because of their fear of copyright theft, plagiarism and the perceived devaluing of their content.
And on the face of it, if you have watched the demise of the record companies, you can understand these concerns.
But the Internet is not going to go away.
Content creators need to embrace it or they will struggle to survive. As the old saying goes, there are those that watch things happen, those that make things happen and those that wonder what happened.
If you are prepared to make things happen there is some really good news.
The Internet is fantastic opportunity for individual content creators who want to take control of their lives and interact directly with their audience without agents, publishers and retailers filling their boots from your hard work.
If content creators do embrace the web with an open mind and determination they can make a much better living than they could ever hope to make working for someone else, using an agent or distributing their content via traditional channels.
Kevin Kelly at The Technium blog wrote a very good article called 1,000 True Fans in which he suggests that any individual content creator – photographer, musician, author, artist - can make an excellent living if they have just 1,000 true fans.
Kevin defines a True Fan “as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can't wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans”.
He further suggests that all a content creator needs to do is get one day’s wages from each of their fans every year to make a good income. If the average daily wage is $150, the target revenue is 1,000 fans x $150 = $150,000 per year. Subtract your costs and that’s your income.
Once a business has been simplified like this into basic formula it is much easier to focus your time, effort and creativity.
Here are a few examples of people who have successfully embraced this idea . . .
One Photographers Solution
The key to success is understanding your fans and being creative about how you deliver value to them. Here is how one photographer, Ctein, is using this formula to secure his income:
Here's what I'm offering:
1) You, the subscriber, agree to give me $9.50 a month for a year, to support my art. This is a donation that supports my work, not the purchase of a particular piece of art.
2) At the end of that year, I'll put up a webpage with a selection of digital prints (at least 6 pieces, maybe a lot more). You can choose any two prints. There are no additional costs, not even shipping. Effectively, two prints cost you less than half what you would normally pay for one ($125+shipping). That's your reward for investing in me.
A Similar Story From An Author
In 1999 John Kelsey and Bruce Schneier published a model for this in First Monday, an online journal:
“Using the logic of a street performer, the author goes directly to the readers before the book is published; perhaps even before the book is written. The author bypasses the publisher and makes a public statement on the order of: "When I get $100,000 in donations, I will release the next novel in this series."
Readers can go to the author's Web site, see how much money has already been donated, and donate money to the cause of getting his novel out. Note that the author doesn't care who pays to get the next chapter out; nor does he care how many people read the book that didn't pay for it. He just cares that his $100,000 pot gets filled. When it does, he publishes the next book. In this case "publish" simply means "make available," not "bind and distribute through bookstores." The book is made available, free of charge, to everyone: those who paid for it and those who did not”.
Websites like Fundable are being launched to make collecting these kinds of funds easy and cheap.
A Musician’s Story
Jonathon Coulton was software programmer who dreamed of being a rock star. At the age of 36 he realised he was running out of time, so with some trepidation he left his job in 2005. He pledged to write and release one song every week, which he would publish for free on his website.
Within six months he was getting 3,000 visitors per day to his site and had built a loyal core fan base without doing any marketing; his fans did it for him.
One fan, who is a graphic artist, created an image for every song, over 50 fans created music videos which they posted on YouTube, whilst another fan converted all the songs into a format suitable for karaoke machines.
Despite the songs being free, by the end of the first year Coulton was making $3,000 - $5,000 a month selling downloadable singles and albums through iTunes. In addition he would arrange live concerts through his site. He needed the commitment of 100 fans in each venue to make it worth his while (and give him a profit of over $1,000 per gig).
Coulton has gone from strength to strength from building a very strong core fan base who support him in everything he does.
The 5 Rules Of Building 1000 True Fans Online Business
Any content creator pursuing this strategy needs to understand a few important ground rules:
1) You have to work on building your community – share, communicate, interact via FaceBook, Twitter and sector specific sites
2) You need your own website to build your brand
3) You need to reward your fans with free stuff and your time
4) You need to understand this is a marathon, not a sprint. Only those who persevere succeed
5) You need to make money from multiple income streams e.g. a musician can make money from selling songs, concert tickets, merchandise, donations, promoting other bands, sponsorship, auctioning personal items, etc. It is difficult to get a days wages from a single transaction
One days wages from 1,000 true fans is the starting point for a business plan for thousands or even millions of individual content creators around the world. With determination, persistence and the willingness to engage with your audience there is no reason why any artist shouldn’t make a great living from their passion using this strategy.