Creative Business in the Digital Era
Seminar by Open Rights Group
(Written offline: 2008-03-17-19:30)
I went to this seminar today. On the whole, I really enjoyed it.
I think for me the most useful part was the section on community-building, and the general emphasis on that aspect of building up a fan base. Maybe that's because nurturing and gradually building up a community is something that I can do now, whereas the nitty-gritty "Which license should I use?" stuff is further into the future (perhaps when I have an actual product to license, for example).
I met some interesting people, as well. I will, of course, have forgotten all of their names by the time I get to FaceBook. Oops.
I'm not going to give an in-depth analysis and summary of the seminar, because Open Rights Group will put that on their wiki anyway. Instead you get a sort of thought soup of things that I managed to jot down or remember, in no particular order:
-the idea of applying a co-operative business model to producing a major work, for example a feature film. The way it would work in film would be to send out trailers, ads, viral marketing etc. and get people to bid for shares in the film based on the trailers. The highest however-many bidders would each own shares in the film; it would then be in their best interest to promote the film, as they'd profit from box office takings, DVD sales and so on. The work itself would be CC licensed in some way, and shareholders would be able to contribute ideas for business models (for merchandising etc) and possible sequel films.
-SO MANY MACBOOKS. I don't think I saw a PC there. I left mine at home, which was silly in some ways as I could have done a touch of live-blogging but good in other ways as it forced me to talk to people instead of hiding behind my computer.
-Beware the T&C for websites with user-generated content. Some of them are quite mercenary in their claiming of your copyright.
-It's very difficult to tell in any individual case whether pay-what-you-will models work 'better' than ordinary ones. Taking Radiohead's recent release, In Rainbows, how can one tell whether the album would have sold as much had it not been available online for free? Comparing to past albums doesn't work, because no two albums are going to be alike.
-technobrava, I've just jotted this down on the corner of a page. I think it's a group or movement in Brasil where the musicians basically encourage the street-corner pirate CD sellers to burn and sell their CDs. I need to look this up.
-James Lyndsay seems an interesting character. He's busy compiling a manual of skills over at http://www.the-manual.org. On the back of his business card are Seven Principles (Completeness, Community, Resilience, Quality, Diversity not Dogma, Ideas not Instructions, Values not Morals) and Eight classes (Health, Technology, Sustenance, Organisation, The World, Man, Art, Moving on). I'm not entirely sure what to make of that.
-Building community is about tapping into communication between people who are passionate about a subject or project. To do that you need to give them a way to talk to one another, and you have to present yourself with passion, authenticity and transparency. Talking about yourself is as a human being is the most powerful way to communicate with people. Talking about the creative process will fascinate those not in your industry. Talk to people as peers and equals. Who is your community? Who are the people who are your target audience, which social tools/networks are they in? Twitter and other microblogging = "ambient intimacy", can be good for building a sort of light-touch presence, giving people a feel for what's going on without them having to read 39 pages. Insight and presence lead to loyal communities. Loyal communities eventually lead to sales but are rewarding in and of themselves. Balance is important; too much blogging becomes spam, too little leaves you forgotten or irrelevant. Concept of 'attention economy'; competition is for attention (vs. attention going to other activities), not against similar artists in same genre. Community nurture and flaming: author involvement in comments sets tone for discussion. The more care you take the better people will behave.
-Podcasting? I know what this is but still not really much of how to do it. I should look into it; not everyone relates to words on a screen the way I do. There's no reason I couldn't do a tune a day/week/whatever.
-Magnatune: Successful musicians on Magnatune are self-marketing and unusual. It is not going to be enough to sign up/send in work/whatever and then just forget about it.
-small businesses do business with other small businesses.
-Where Are The Joneses? Used existing media services as much as possible: Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, Wikidot, Wordpress and so on. Made 5 minutes of video per day for 90 days. 5 minutes isn't actually all that much. I could do something similar with sound recordings... this project was very much about trying to spread a message rather than trying to make profit, as it was sponsored already, so it was Creative Commons with commercial copying allowed.
-5 next steps. Useful prompt to get us thinking about what to do while it's still in our heads! I've decided I'd like to become more involved with Open Rights Group, though I'm not sure in what capacity. I also really ought to be updating this blog at least twice a week, so I'm going to start aiming for that. There's plenty for me to say, I just don't always take the time to say it.
Other things to look into:
-is there some website a bit like a cross between pledgebank.com and eBay? What I'm thinking of is something where you could say, "When X number of people have contributed funds/When funds reach Y amount, I will do thing foo," where foo could be making some sort of creative work and releasing it to the public under CC license. The money thing would be along the lines of "it costs this much to produce an album and I want to get paid this amount for my labour"; when the total is reached the sponsoree gets a first bit of the money, and when the work is complete and released the sponsoree gets the rest. People could pay more into the fund such that if you asked for, say, £400 up front and £200 on completion and that was reached, people could keep putting money into the fund until it reached quite a bit more than that amount, so that as you get more popular your financial pay-off for completion gets higher. The site would make money by basically taking a cut of the interest while the money piles up. I guess you could also use it for personal goals like quitting smoking or whatever. It would probably work best with some sort of community or ratings system, because you need to verify that a) the sponsoree is not just a crook and b) the work is finished (or the quitting smoking has happened, or whatever), but a certain amount of that will happen fairly naturally; people are more likely to give money to someone with a credible and well-known blog than to someone who just walked in out of the blue, so we're back to community-building by artists again. But, yeah. If this website doesn't exist, someone should write it, because I want one.