Me and my friends often sit around and talk about how to make money. All of our ideas suck. One constant refrain is that this a new economy (especially for media). We just don’t know what that new economy is, or if it makes money at all. There is more opportunity, but seemingly less reward. I personally don’t hold out hope for publishing that one book or making that one entree into the giant media machine. I think the media machine is running on fumes. However, I don’t know exactly what replaces that, pay-per-click? advertising? speaking/events? How does a creative/media person make money nowadays?
The New York Times has an interesting editorial on the new media economy:
online, when creative affirmation finally arrives, it takes a very different form than it has in New York. In the offline world, getting a “big break” is a matter of impressing a subjective intelligence, one person or a few people who look at work with an experienced eye and declare there’s something to it. Up until now, it has been intimate encouragement that has literally set the course of whole careers: a gallery offers a show, a record label dangles a contract, a prospective boss plucks one résumé from a sheaf, and a path forward is set.
On the Internet, however, it’s not one single subjectivity but a popular hive-mind that decides. The “big break” arrives when, with lightning speed and often to one’s own surprise, the inscrutable pack decides to start forwarding one’s content around.
Online, though, the audience can be yours right away, direct and unmediated — if you can figure out how to find it and, what’s harder, to keep it.
Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails also has an interesting take on making it as a modern musician.
If you are an unknown / lesser-known artist trying to get noticed / established:
* Establish your goals. What are you trying to do / accomplish? If you are looking for mainstream super-success (think Lady GaGa, Coldplay, U2, Justin Timberlake) – your best bet in my opinion is to look at major labels and prepare to share all revenue streams / creative control / music ownership. To reach that kind of critical mass these days your need old-school marketing muscle and that only comes from major labels. Good luck with that one.
If you’re forging your own path, read on.
* Forget thinking you are going to make any real money from record sales. Make your record cheaply (but great) and GIVE IT AWAY. As an artist you want as many people as possible to hear your work. Word of mouth is the only true marketing that matters.
These ideas, of course, raise as many questions as they settle. Personally, I think we’re in a brave new world full of opportunity and short on capitalization. Media is divorced from physical products that people know how to market. A whole range of middlemen are finding themselves out of work and superstars are seeing blips from microcelebrities that threaten to upend the whole thing. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and still haven’t figured it out, specifically how it can benefit me. Still thinking.