I live in the wilds of the Internet on a daily basis. Managing digital marketing strategies for my clients as well as my books and media projects means I’ve got a front row seat to one of the most exciting developments to happen to the Arts and Technology.
Here’s what I’m seeing;
The Great Leveling of the Playing Field
We’re in the midst of a monumental shift in the landscape of commercial power, accessibility, and distribution for all artistic mediums. Things like book publishing, music licensing, and media broadcasting were once the domains of large mega-corporations that served as Gatekeepers. If you wanted a career in the arts (you know, the kind where you actually make money), you had to hope one of these Gatekeepers would deign to bless you with his or her marketing and distribution power.
Often when you signed on with a publisher, label, or studio you were bound by pre-constructed norms in the contract like which rights you owned and what portion of the sales would actually make it to your bank account.
These days, those barriers are coming down and, as the walls crumble, individual artists themselves are better poised than ever to take advantage of the direct line to their potential audience. It’s something of a free-for-all in the Arts that means 2 important things;
- An explosion of titles, tracks, and creative content.
- An empowering of not only the artists but also of the fans.
The low barrier to entry means more art is being made and consumer, which is good for everyone. (It means you have to sort through more of it to find what you’re looking for, but options and variety have never been a bad thing, have they?) It also means that the producers and consumers of creative media have direct access to one another, cutting out the middleman. This axing of the middle man means lower costs for consumers and higher profits for artists.
Just take a look around the web to see how artists in every field have unprecedented opportunities for producing, distributing, and monetizing their work!
Authors and writers of all kinds are now writing their manuscripts on home computers, along with designs for their book covers, and then using a whole new generation of cloud-based digital tools to package and distribute their books to a global audience of voracious readers. Amazon changed the game with the Kindle, allowing you to buy and read a book without having to wait for the printing and shipping. Authors get a decent royalty on each digital sale and can manage their income from a dashboard on the Amazon marketplace.
Print books aren’t getting left behind any time soon, either. With CreateSpace, you can format your book for paperback or hardcover and offer it up with no overhead investment. Rather than buying a thousand copies and hoping to sell them, Amazon’s CreateSpace prints on-demand when someone purchases the book. The distribution landscape is populated by a number of other options, including Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords.
Authors are putting out record numbers of original books, series, and franchises all on their own and, despite the whining of big publishers who are losing their over-sized slice of the pie, book sales overall have never been higher.
Not only are people writing in record numbers, but they’re reading in record numbers!
RadioHead shocked the world and changed the face of music back in 2010 when they urged up-and-coming musicians not to sign with a label. There’s no reason to anymore. Traditionally, music labels took care of the recording costs, tour management, marketing, and other general business while the artist went about making music and getting trashed. But thanks to the iTunes revolution, and now with Pandora, Spotify, and others, musicians can be their own business.
After publishing your own music to these platforms, there are a whole suite of digital tools you can use to manage your sales, promote your music, interact with fans, and book live events. Of course, the major labels still have more money and therefore access to the big leagues, but that will change over time as a variety of labels and artists rise and fall. MySpace was probably as influential in the music revolution as iTunes, giving bands and musicians a platform of their own for promotions and samples.
As recording technology gets cheaper and easier to come by, the gates are wide open for anyone to contribute to the ocean of music available worldwide.
Movies & Television
The barriers to entry for video production has always been the expensive equipment and processes for handling the digital files (even after we crossed the bridge from the world of film processing). However this tech continues to get more affordable with HD cameras and editing software easier to come by for the small production team.
With platforms like YouTube, which gets more viewership than all broadcast and cable channels combined, along with Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, RedBox, and a host of other digital media streaming services offering a place for independently produced projects to find an audience, we’ve entered whole New Golden Age of Television. There is still a lag in this field for quality as the indies get their artform worked out, but the proliferation of indie movies and broadcast channels indicates that people are just as happy to indulge in the indies as they are the blockbusters.
More stories getting told means people can find something that suits their tastes, rather than simply relying on whatever mainstream regurgitation Hollywood is serving up this year. There’s still a long road to hoe in this medium because the web tech is still evolving, but I look for bloody distribution battles in the near future that will put the Amazon vs. Hachette controversy to shame.
Visual Arts & Photography
It was tough for photographers when smartphones first hit the scene. No one likes being told that their craft and skillset can be easily replicated by a free app. But the visual artists and still frame aficionados among us have bouncedback with excellent website portfolios, followings on Flickr and DeviantArt, and the option to ply their trade by getting royalties for their work through stock photo sites like PhotoBucket and Shutterstock.
While everyone is an amateur photographer these days, the good ones can develop a sterling reputation by showcasing their portfolios to the world.
I would be remiss if I left out my actor and comedian friends who have not been forgotten by this digital media revolution. The ability to build a brand for yourself has never been easier with today’s web and social media tools, allowing entertainers to earn their own following all around the world. YouTube channels can reach the millions, making overnight celebrities out of the most compelling web personalities around the world.
Broadcasters can cheaply produce their own podcast, talk show, or reality series for a global audience and compete directly with the professionally produced shows in Los Angeles and New York City.
We can only hope that the global audience will continue to embrace quality indie media so actors can get the parts that will not only showcase their talents and communicate a message, but contribute quality work to the web.
Join In the Fun
If you’re in any way inclined toward an artistic expression, be it writing, drawing, or making media, now is the time to hone your skills and join in the game. It’s easier and ever to enter the ring and offer what you’ve got. You’re up against everyone else for an audience but despite the competition and the sea of options out there, there are more success stories in the arts than ever before.
More of us participating as producers and consumers means more of us doing what we love for a living.
Here’s to the new creative marketplace.