Nine Inch Nails monopticon Trent Reznor recently posted a list of awesome ideas for artists to get super-successful using the Web, and it makes a hell of a lot of sense. Anyone with a blog, YouTube series, webcomic, band, photoblog, or anything remotely creative should print this out and paste it next to wherever they do their creative interwebs stuff.
His points make a lot of sense. This really is a weird new world and, so long as you can create a solid base, you’re probably going to make a lot more money from merchandising than you are off of your actual artwork. Amanda Palmer recently blogged about a spontaneous Twitter conversation that led to the spontaneous production of a spontaneous CafePress T-Shirt that netted her about $19,000 in one night, although to be fair, she (and Mr. Reznor) already have a pretty solid fanbase, and it’s unlikely you or I are going to score mad cash off of our sweet new T-shirt slogan (“What Do Fratboys Wash Their Hair With? Natural Bro-tanicals!”) until we, too, amass an army of screaming teenagers in black tights.
Anyway, Janko on GigaOM weeded through The Trent’s original post, and came up with Five Important Points that make as much sense for YouTubers or Flash artists as they do for bands. You’re not going to make any money off your content, you’re going to make your money off of a fanbase that likes your content enough to support it by buying t-shirts and things. The Brothers Chaps were able to quit their jobs and spend all day making Strong Bad and Homestar cartoons because people kept buying their schwag (I’m thinking of them because I’m wearing my old Strong Bad shirt today.) And you’re going to build a fanbase by giving your stuff away for free. Crazy, right?
Except… hasn’t public broadcasting essentially operated off of this principle for years? We’ll give you quality programming for free, and if you like it, you’ll support us with your donations, and you’ll “buy” our tote bags and This Old House mugs and DVD collections of Miss Marple. That’s right, fellow New Englanders – Fritz Wetherbee and Elaine Pasternack over at New Hampshire Public Television were doin’ the new media revenue thing twenty years before anyone. As Trent says, any song you could possibly want is only a click away, so music and media are now free no matter what we do. You want to make money as an artist? Embrace it.