Building An Audience Takes Time, But In The Long Run It Can Provide You More Time To Do What You Love

from the so-get-to-it dept

One of the regular complaints we hear when we talk about people like Amanda Palmer or Kevin Smith is that they have to spend so much time cultivating their "audience" that they don't have time to actually "work." Of course, that should be plainly ridiculous if you just look at those two. In the last year alone, Palmer has put out two full length albums and an EP (all excellent) while continuing to tour... and continuing to build her audience, brand and business (and now without any "help" from a label). Similarly, Smith has toured the country a few times, built a podcast network with a ton of shows (also excellent), released a movie he directed, and previewed a brand new movie at Sundance that he directed, edited, and cut. Oh yeah, and all the while continued to build an audience. Both seem a hell of a lot more productive than the vast majority of content creators I know who went "by the book."

However, there is another (important) angle to all of this. Which is that while building an audience and a fanbase takes time and effort -- which you might think takes away from doing the creative stuff -- in the long run, it can do the exact opposite. As we discussed about Smith's latest plan, the reason why it makes sense is because he's cultivated an audience all these years. Because of that he doesn't have to spend nearly as much time or money "marketing" the new film -- just as Palmer didn't have to do all the traditional "marketing" methods for her latest release, which quickly shot to the top of the Bandcamp charts.

This point was driven home in an even stronger way in looking at another content creator in a different arena. We've discussed novelist JA Konrath a few times in the past -- including his explanation for why authors shouldn't fear file sharing as well as his look at how much money could be made on ebooks. He's continued to discuss this, highlighting how he sold over 18,000 ebooks on the Kindle in January (and that was as of the 26th, so there were still five more days) and how his income for the month would end up being somewhere around $42,000. Yes, for the month.

All very interesting.

But the rest of that post is where things get even more interesting. Robert Niles does a fantastic job comparing Konrath's story to another author -- a freelance travel writer, who complains that there's no money to be made in writing. Specifically, that writer, Mark Hodson, complains that it's tougher to get paying gigs these days and that blogging is all about "working for free." Niles immediately notes the comparison, in which the freelance travel writer seems to be waiting for a paycheck, rather than building an audience who has a reason to buy something.

And here's the key part: while building a loyal audience and community may take time and effort, in the long run, they provide you with the ability to actually focus more on creativity. Niles highlights how Konrath's post talks about all of the sweat equity he put into book signings and blogging and building up his personal brand for a few years -- all of which he no longer needs to do with each new book, because he has an audience who seeks him out (similar to Palmer and Smith). Niles concludes:
The irony? Those who put in the work of building a business often end up with more time to do the writing that they love. As Konrath wrote, he doesn't have to press the flesh at bookstore any longer. He doesn't have to devote time to promotion. With his social media support having reached a tipping point, he can spend more hours writing.

I've found the same in talking with colleagues who are still pursuing freelance work. They spend hours of extra time for each piece they write networking with editors, writing pitch letters, reviewing contracts and filling out various publications' expense forms. I just write stories - what, when and how I want.

While some lament the loss of secure employment for a handful of writers, I'm thrilled to live in an era when anyone with the will to write and drive to connect with a community can earn a living, without having to wait for some editor's approval.
This is the whole point of making sure people understand both sides of the CwF+RtB equation. It's not just about giving people stuff to buy, it's about connecting with those fans, and really building a community. Yes, it takes work at first, but what new job doesn't take work? But the point is that if you've really connected and really built up a community it doesn't take you away from being able to do what you love, it enables you to do more of what you love and do it under your own terms. That's exactly what Konrath, Smith and Palmer have all done, and it's a point that many others strive for, but miss out on if they just think that doing that work isn't worthwhile because it somehow "takes away" from their creativity.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Thayer, Feb 4th, 2011 @ 7:52pm

    Mike,
    You must certainly not have listened in their entirety to Amanda's products which she has put out this year. If you do indeed deem Amanda's most recent product, a putrid affair in which she sounds and looks alarmingly like Jar Jar Binks, then it is entirely possible that you have traded all credibility and critical distance in exchange for your access to Gaiman.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Jay (profile), Feb 4th, 2011 @ 8:32pm

    Re:

    Wow, negative much?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Zacqary Adam Green (profile), Feb 4th, 2011 @ 10:24pm

    Smith has...previewed a brand new movie at Sundance that he directed, edited, and cut.
    I don't mean to be pedantic, but editing and cutting a film are the same thing.

     

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  4.  
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    The eejit (profile), Feb 5th, 2011 @ 12:19am

    Re:

    I think someone got rebuffed by Amanda Palmer. Not surprising, really, what with her being married and all.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 1:31am

    @eejit Not sure that "marriage" is legit. Gaiman's not wearing a ring, no public docs available, officiant's legitimacy questionable. Don't believe the hype kiddo.

     

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  6.  
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    Yogi, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 2:36am

    A Job!

    Yes, that it is the main point - being an artist is a job, or a business.

    1 - As technology changes so does the job and the business.
    2 - you are responsible for growing the business. The idea that the world owes you a living is simply disgusting, unless you are a nobleman living in the Medieval Age. I suggest you build a time machine and go back to the 1200s.
    3 - So artists - adapt or change jobs - just like the rest of us. Growing a business is tough - why should the business of art be different or privileged?

    You now know the basic tenets of Techdirt concerning art. The rest is details.

     

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  7.  
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    Carl, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 3:00am

    Another side to freelancing

    If a writer spends time building their audience, they may actually bring more to a pub than just a well written article. Imagine said writer has 10,000 readers per month on a blog. It's a fairly safe bet that many if then will reach out and read that pub. Just a post on that blog can open up a new wave of readers.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 3:15am

    Re:

    http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/01/03/neil-gaiman-and-amanda-palmers-wedding-in-twitpics/

    What? their Tweeter accounts were hacked or faked?, are those pics fake?

    Wow! somebody got really busy trying to do a stunt.

     

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  9.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Feb 5th, 2011 @ 6:25am

    "they have to spend so much time cultivating their "audience" that they don't have time to actually "work.""

    No one is stopping you from doing your art. Absolutely no one. The problem is that you want to be paid for your art. No one owes you a fricken living!!!!

    You can't go through living doing only what you want to do and expect society to give a rat's ass. Either face the fact that you'll almost certainly be a starving artist, or grow the frick up and get a fricking job.

     

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  10.  
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    bdhoro (profile), Feb 5th, 2011 @ 8:50am

    This reminds me...

    The basic idea of this article, to me, is that everybody - but content creators especially - strive to do, well, whatever it is they want to do. What prevents people from doing the things they want to is usually time and money, and often an industry in the way that makes people do what the industry wants.

    This really reminds me of some conversations I've had with people about charity (which is a form of doing what you want, if you want to help people). My argument is that being charitable is unsustainable. We all get a kick out of helping people, but you can only give away so much time and money before you have to go back to work.

    My point is that if you make a business out of doing what you want, weather it be charity, or making the type of art that you want to make regardless of what the industry wants, the best way to sustain that is to figure out how to do it while making a profit. Turn your desires into a business and it is no longer based on how much you can give away, but it can establish a lasting business that can continue carrying out the desires of its creator well after they're gone.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 9:35am

    Re: Re:

    I think they got rebuffed by Neil Gaiman.

     

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  12.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Feb 5th, 2011 @ 10:38am

    Re:

    You made me smile. The thought of you sitting there, angry, afraid, and striking out against the change that is happening. A change that is empowering anyone who wants to put a little effort into making connections. A change that removes the old gatekeepers and allows individuals to shine without selling their souls to heartless corporations. All in all a good thing.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 10:41am

    It's just like techdirt. It has taken Mike a few years, but he has finally found his audience, mostly freetards, hackers, and frustrated musicians who couldn't find the exit from the garage. It is funny as heck to see the traffic jump way up on certain topics, and then go dead when the more mundane and mainstream comes out.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 11:03am

    If building an audience takes time then why fault Crispin Glover for taking his own approach to building his audience?

    Sometimes I think techdirt is confused.

     

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  15.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Feb 5th, 2011 @ 11:28am

    Re:

    "mostly freetards, hackers, and frustrated musicians"

    Don't forget the balding homoerotic stalkers.

     

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  16.  
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    Chris Eastvedt (profile), Feb 5th, 2011 @ 11:34am

    #13

    No one's faulting Crispin Glover for what he's doing to build an audience, they're merely pointing out his flawed thinking where piracy is concerned. If Crispin wasn't as tight-fisted about controlling access to his film, he would have a better chance of expanding his audience in the long term. His fear of potential lost sales in the present is limiting his ability to grow his audience in the future- this was Mike's point.

     

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  17.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Feb 5th, 2011 @ 12:34pm

    Re:

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_editing

    "Editor's cut

    There are several editing stages and the editor's cut is the first. An editor's cut (sometimes referred to as the "Assembly edit" or "Rough cut") is normally the first pass of what the final film will be when it reaches picture lock."

    "Director's cut

    When shooting is finished, the director can then turn his full attention to collaborating with the editor and further refining the cut of the film. This is the time that is set aside where the film editor's first cut is molded to fit the director's vision."

    There are many ways to refer to these processes. "Editing" can refer to the editor's cut, or "assembly edit", cut can also refer to the 2nd step "director's cut".

    Then there is the "final cut". Editing and cutting is definitely not the same thing: editing is the entire process of "cuts", while the first "cut" is also sometimes called an "edit".

     

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  18.  
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    abc gum, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 1:42pm

    Re:

    "Not sure that "marriage" is legit."

    Who cares?

     

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  19.  
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    abc gum, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 1:43pm

    Re:

    "mostly freetards, hackers, and frustrated musicians"

    And which of these categories do you fit it?

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 2:23pm

    Re: #13

    I don't think you understand Crispin Glover.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 3:02pm

    Re: Re:

    Answers like this make me laugh. You honestly think people are "angry and afraid"? I am not afraid, just disappointed in where things are heading. Worse, I can picture where a younger version of myself (back in high school) might have fallen for this stuff and been a strong supporter. But real life experience has long since proven to me that things don't work out that way.

    Amanda Palmer is talented. Not really so talented at music, as much as talented at manipulating the internet and covering up the people who don't like her. She manipulated Mike in the past, and has gladly accepted all the attention it brought her. She is to Australia what David Hasselhoff is to Germany. The rest of us just shake our heads and wonder why.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 3:10pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    See, this is why the rest of us look at the major industry players and puke.

    Your solution to every problem is "ridicule the people paying your bills" and "run to daddy Government to solve your problems". Then you start blaming everyone else when your cash flow starts slipping away.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 3:15pm

    Re:

    As opposed to major company CEO's, who have no idea how to build an audience, and do their utmost to make anyone watching hate their guts.

    It always amazes me when head-honchos can spew out crap like "free doesn't pay the bills" when they've spent their entire careers free-riding off of talented individuals, making every effort to HURT the business they supposedly run.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 5:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I am sorry, I just don't see that.

    The "run to daddy government" is total BS. They go to the authorities for help to enforce the laws of the land. They don't go for handouts (as many do), they don't expect a free lunch. They just expect the laws to be applied.

    I don't get the "ridicule the people paying your bills". I think that much more applies to the freetard mentality that hopes that one idiot will come along and overpay dramatically for something, so everyone else can have free music. $5000 for an Amanda Palmer picnic? Holy crap, talk about mocking your fans. That poor girl will one day realize what a sucker she was for paying that much for so little, all so others could enjoy something for nothing.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 5:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    CULTURE HARD!!!

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2011 @ 4:01am

    Of course! Palmer is Australia's Hasselhoff!

    @Anonymous @3:02pm You have nailed it on the head - of course that is the correct comparison - Palmer is Australia's Hasselhoff (with a hefty dose of scary Scientologist whitewashing of any dissent thrown in). Bravo!

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous a-hole, Feb 6th, 2011 @ 7:44am

    Imagine that...

    Building a brand takes time - and really, that's all band name recognition is.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2011 @ 8:42am

    Re: Re:

    It is just another indication of veneer rather than reality. I personally think that Amanda Palmer is a bit of a sham artist more than anything. There are plenty of loose ends out there, plenty of questionable tales, plenty of hype.

    She went down under. Maybe they can keep her so we don't have to bother anymore.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2011 @ 11:30am

    Re: Of course! Palmer is Australia's Hasselhoff!

    Masnick's Law Corrolary A: If it works for "everyone", start insulting "everyone".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2011 @ 11:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Know what's worse that freetards? Paytards. At least freetards get stuff for free. Paytards shell out big bucks for the same recycled garbage that they SHOULD be getting free.

    See James Cameron's Sanctum: Pure Paytard bait, just add big name!

     

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  31.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Feb 6th, 2011 @ 11:41am

    To add to the Kevin Smith discussion

    Kevin Smith’s unorthodox approach and social media celebrity drive initial interest in new movie Red State | Wave:: "Kevin Smith’s divisive 'DIY' approach to marketing new movie Red State shows how existing fame within the digital space can be leveraged to drive engagement with fans, but may alienate new audiences."

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2011 @ 12:19pm

    Do you have examples of artists or content creators that have completely avoided the typical mainstream methods of making money from the getgo and stayed financially successful?

    These two artists seem to be experimenting, but they already have success through traditional means, so experimenting isn't exactly a risk for them, it seems more "fun."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    vivaelamor (profile), Feb 6th, 2011 @ 3:58pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "She went down under. Maybe they can keep her so we don't have to bother anymore."

    No, England will have her. Please. I'll beg.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
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    vivaelamor (profile), Feb 6th, 2011 @ 4:18pm

    Re: This reminds me...

    "My argument is that being charitable is unsustainable. We all get a kick out of helping people, but you can only give away so much time and money before you have to go back to work. "

    You have a bizarre notion of what charities are. You must imagine them as some sort of black hole. People give to charities, sometimes by donation and sometimes by volunteering. Sometimes those donations pay other people's wages. The only people who tend to work for charities full time are either those who have income from elsewhere or those who are employed by the charity.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2011 @ 8:37pm

    You've just illustrated the point that content creators are expected to be promotors, marketers, businessmen. These skills rarely exist together well, someone who is a creator, and someone who is a practical businessman. That is the problem. It is the idea that someone is expected to do everything. Most people can't. Most people can be very good at only some specific things. Please stop perpetuating your ignorance stating how great everything is without publishers and companies who would otherwise do legwork for content creators. Who knows of all the great content we've missed out on from eclectic creative types who failed to be masterful promoters and business tycoons.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Feb 6th, 2011 @ 11:22pm

    Re:

    Do you have examples of artists or content creators that have completely avoided the typical mainstream methods of making money from the getgo and stayed financially successful?

    What's funny, of course, is that early on, we ONLY had examples of people who had been successful totally foregoing the traditional method. But now there are examples all up and down the chain.

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20091119/1634117011.shtml

    These two artists seem to be experimenting, but they already have success through traditional means, so experimenting isn't exactly a risk for them, it seems more "fun."

    As for Amanda, there are serious questions about how much of her success was via "traditional means." She had a big following before she signed a label deal, and her following has mostly grown now that she's independent of that label deal.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Feb 6th, 2011 @ 11:37pm

    Re:

    You've just illustrated the point that content creators are expected to be promotors, marketers, businessmen.

    Never said anything of the sort. I've said that they can team up with folks who can help them on that front.

    In the past, though, they really couldn't. Their *ONLY* options were to sign a deal with a huge label/studio/publisher which basically gave up all creative control along with everything else.

    Please stop perpetuating your ignorance stating how great everything is without publishers and companies who would otherwise do legwork for content creators.

    Again, I've never said such a thing. I've just said that people should team up with *enablers* rather than *gatekeepers*

    Who knows of all the great content we've missed out on from eclectic creative types who failed to be masterful promoters and business tycoons.

    Wait, seriously? Let's face facts: under the old system, the "eclectic creative types" all gave up and got other jobs, because no publisher/label/studio cared about them. Now they have a chance to work with smarter partners and actually succeed, and you're complaining?

     

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  38.  
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    balding homoerotic stalker, Feb 7th, 2011 @ 2:02am

    Re: Re:

    Thank you!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 7th, 2011 @ 7:05am

    Re:

    What, traffic increases when it's more interesting/important/relevant and drops off when it's less interesting/important/relevant?

    GOOD GOD I THINK HE'S ONTO SOMETHING!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 7th, 2011 @ 7:19am

    Re:

    "Who knows of all the great content we've missed out on from eclectic creative types who failed to be masterful promoters and business tycoons."

    Current Independant estimates are that it is no more than a tiny fraction of the content dekiberately withheld and purposefully killed off by the major labels. Only a fraction.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 7th, 2011 @ 12:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    For $5000, she might even come over and do your houseworks.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 7th, 2011 @ 9:44pm

    I hope the IRS is keeping tabs on Palmer's fundraising. $5000 per gig (who are the poor saps paying for this) at about 50 annually is a whole lot of money. I'd love to see how Palmer explains her huge new living space in Brooklyn to her cash-strapped young fans and employees.
    I hope everyone read Lawrence Wright's Scientology expose in the New Yorker. At some point Palmer is going to have to come clean about the extent of her involvement with the cult.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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