Douglas McLennan: April 2010 Archives

How do you make a living as an artist? In the old mass-culture model you needed a distribution and marketing engine that could fire up on your behalf to reach as many people as possible. Sell a million albums and if your take after the record company, agents and managers get their share is a buck or two, you're doing pretty well.

In the new economy, how many fans do you need to make a living? If you can produce and distribute your own work, Kevin Kelly suggests, all you need is 1000 true fans.

Instead of trying to reach the narrow and unlikely peaks of platinum hits, bestseller blockbusters, and celebrity status, they can aim for direct connection with 1,000 True Fans. It's a much saner destination to hope for. You make a living instead of a fortune. You are surrounded not by fad and fashionable infatuation, but by True Fans. And you are much more likely to actually arrive there.

Assume conservatively that your True Fans will each spend one day's wages per year in support of what you do. That "one-day-wage" is an average, because of course your truest fans will spend a lot more than that.  Let's peg that per diem each True Fan spends at $100 per year. If you have 1,000 fans that sums up to $100,000 per year, which minus some modest expenses, is a living for most folks.

One thousand is a feasible number. You could count to 1,000. If you added one fan a day, it would take only three years. True Fanship is doable. Pleasing a True Fan is pleasurable, and invigorating. It rewards the artist to remain true, to focus on the unique aspects of their work, the qualities that True Fans appreciate.
April 18, 2010 7:15 AM | | Comments (1) |
The NYT's Charles Isherwood writes about what he calls the "odd-man-out" syndrome:

This can roughly be described as the experience of attending an event at which much of the audience appears to be having a rollicking good time, while you sit in stony silence, either bored to stupefaction or itchy with irritation, miserably replaying the confluence of life circumstances that have brought you here. ("Curse that Isherwood!")

mush.jpgI'd like to offer a related disorder, one that particularly affects critics. Go to a lot of dance or music or theatre and you might find yourself suffering from mushy-middle-itis. Really good performances are easy to write about. Ditto for horrible art. The easiest art to write about is art to which you have a strong reaction - good or bad. Death is having to manufacture a reaction to something that left you with no reaction at all.

I'm talking about the vast mushy middling center that clogs our stages and galleries. Dance that is merely adequate. Theatre that is competent but neither very good or really bad. Art that is thoughtlessly routine or formulaic. Performances that are indifferently staged. Music that mimics what's already been done over and over again. It is this kind of art that sludges the ears, glazes over the eyes and dulls our audiences.

Two things:

                          1. Why are we so afraid to call out the mushy middle when
                              we see/hear it?
                          2. Why must we set up expectations that performances are
                             going to be  "performance of a lifetime" when we know they
                             probably won't be?

Not every performance can be transcendent. But doesn't there have to be room for the nobility of the routinely good as distinct from the merely indifferently routine?

April 16, 2010 5:26 AM | | Comments (3) |
Nick Carr has a great post about the course of technology development. Progress doesn't always go the way we think it ought to (even if we're right).

Progress may, for a time, intersect with one's own personal ideology, and during that period one will become a gung-ho technological progressivist. But that's just coincidence. In the end, progress doesn't care about ideology. Those who think of themselves as great fans of progress, of technology's inexorable march forward, will change their tune as soon as progress destroys something they care deeply about. "We love the things we love for what they are," wrote Robert Frost. And when those things change we rage against the changes. Passion turns us all into primitivists.
April 15, 2010 10:38 AM | | Comments (0) |



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