Creating vs. Running A Business

from the a-good-discussion dept

When we talk about business models here, we often use music as an example, since the music industry is facing many of these issues a bit ahead of the curve from many other industries. However, some other industries are actually facing many of the same issues, and it's good to see what they have to say as well. For example, one of the key complaints that many people have when we show and discuss models that involve connecting with fans, is this odd claim that doing so means that the "creators" have to spend all their time "connecting" or "selling" or "running a business," rather than doing more creating. However, I've never thought that to be the case. I've said from very early on that the real point is that an artist can do that if they want, but that partners can and have sprung up to fill those roles. This is why I still think there's a big role for a "record label" to play, in handling much of that for the artists, so they can continue to focus on creating.

JLJ points out that a similar debate appears to be happening in the webcomics community, with Scott Kurtz, the author of PvP discussing the swinging pendulum between handing over nearly all control to a syndicate or marketing partner to a completely DIY model, and then hopefully back to some happy medium.

I think that's definitely what's happening in the music space -- but the nice thing is that it's not just a pendulum, but a spectrum, so that different artists can pick and choose what makes the most sense for them. Sometimes you come across artists who really want to be involved in the marketing and connecting and the selling. And sometimes, they don't. But the point is now they have the choice. And, even beyond that choice, within each aspect of the spectrum, there are many more options in terms of who to partner with and how to structure the deal. In the old system, you had a very small number of record labels or comic syndicates -- and, as such, they held all the power and could structure deals that were bordering on indentured servitude. But, with so many more options these days, the creators are actually taking back control. There's competition in the marketplace, and even if a creator wants nothing to do with the business and marketing side at all, it doesn't mean they have to sign a life sentence over to a business manager. And that's a very good thing for content creators.


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  1.  
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    Richard, Aug 26th, 2009 @ 5:47am

    The fact that a few can do it all themselves means that those who don't want to will get a better deal.

     

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    harknell, Aug 26th, 2009 @ 5:56am

    Comics have less of a "spectrum" though

    As another webcomic creator I can tell you that the comics field has far less of a "spectrum" than music. Right now if you want to distribute your comic in retail stores you pretty much have one distributor you can contract with: Diamond. Almost all of the others have gone out of business or been absorbed. The regular comic book market imploded in the late 90's so it's pretty difficult now to get physical books out there. Of course most of the webcomic "market" is exactly what it sounds like--the web--but to get "connected" with people they really do want something physical of yours, which are usually books.

    Scott, as well as a few others, are in unique positions due to their high web traffic numbers, so they can get "irregular" deals with major labels, but most people are doing the DIY direct sales technique at cons or through their own online store to get their non-scarce goods out there. Scott is mostly concerned with the fact that many online comic creators are unaware of the nature of these contracted business deals that "rob" you (i.e. gain control of your copyrighted material) of your content--many people do not realize that comics and music are somewhat similar in concept. And in many cases these deals are being framed as "contests" or other "we'll host your comic" drapings.

     

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  3.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Aug 26th, 2009 @ 6:10am

    Print on Demand Graphic Novels?

    I'm curious... are there are any printers out there who structure reasonable print-on-demand agreements with independent artists?

    For artists who create serial or episodic content, It think it would be a great partner service to enable direct-marketed subscriptions.

    Some well-funded efforts are trying the print on demand model, like the ironic World of Warcraft Magazine (http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2009/08/world-of-warcraft-the-magazine-from-online-to-dead-tree. ars) upcoming.

    Are there any independent artists who have similar arrangments?

     

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  4.  
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    Paul Reinheimer, Aug 26th, 2009 @ 6:15am

    Now?

    Two comments.

    First: " But the point is now they have the choice" why is this a new choice for them? Why didn't they have the choice five, ten, twenty years ago?

    Second: If the partner is in charge of the CWF part of the equation, I'm not really seeing where the "Connecting" is coming from.

     

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  5.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Aug 26th, 2009 @ 6:38am

    Re: Now?

    First: " But the point is now they have the choice" why is this a new choice for them? Why didn't they have the choice five, ten, twenty years ago?


    I think the 'new' delivery and connection medium Mike is referring to is "The Internet".

    10 Years ago most people connected to the Internet with much slower dial-up connections, making rich media sites (e.g., full graphic novels made available online) less desirable.

    20 Years ago, the Internet (arpanet) was a playground for academics and developers. You could put information on the Internet, but normal people had no idea it existed.

    Without a widely available, common distribution platform, the effort required to directly market to and connect with fans on a global scale was somewhat... daunting.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 26th, 2009 @ 7:11am

    Re: Print on Demand Graphic Novels?

    "I'm curious... are there are any printers out there who structure reasonable print-on-demand agreements with independent artists?"

    Actually, depending on the run size, most digital printers that are working off of a professional, or what they refer to as "million dollar presses", actually would probaly suprise you with what they'd charge per peice for a well-done, binded printed book, graphic or otherwise.

    The real problem with trying to go the POD route, and my experience is only with novels not graphic novels so there might be some variance, is that it is EXTREMELY difficult for the independent artist/author to sell POD goods to brick and mortar stores. That is because the major book retailers have deals worked out with all the major publishers for the ability to return unbought books at a full refund. On any kind of significant scale, how is the independent author going to be able to do that without some serious financial backing (and then are they independent?)

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2009 @ 8:19am

    Re: Now?

    "Second: If the partner is in charge of the CWF part of the equation, I'm not really seeing where the "Connecting" is coming from."

    Err, well in most cases the RtB is the partner's job, not the creators. The creators CwF by making their product enjoyable and likeable, and the partners create the appropriate business model to monetize the fanbase.

    Secondly, in the this day and age where every company that you buy from is known or will be known, it's the partners job to connect with the fans just as much. If the partner has a built up a good reputation, then they can easily do something as simple as "Hey, we made a contract with this guy here, check him out" and show strong results.

    A good, solid connection with your consumers is worth a lot of money. Just ask any company that's well known for quality product (ones like Pixar, Blizzard and Valve come to mind). Not only are they given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to untested products, they get to spend far less money on advertising.

     

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    Free Capitalist (profile), Aug 26th, 2009 @ 8:50am

    Re: Re: Print on Demand Graphic Novels?

    http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2009/08/world-of-warcraft-the-magazine-from-online-to-dead-tree.a rs

    Sorry about the busted link in my first.

    Helmet,

    I agree breaking into the brick & mortar avenue is pretty much unachievable for most independents.

    I can really only see free artists selling their physical books through a direct-only Print on Demand facility, much like the WoW magazine plan in the article I linked.

    A direct-only print on demand model would eliminate the need to overprint in order to fill shelves.

    Granted, the artists would have to be visible with good work, and somewhat 'connected' to profitably direct market their work.

     

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    TheStupidOne, Aug 26th, 2009 @ 10:04am

    Re: Re: Re: Print on Demand Graphic Novels?

    http://www.gorhamprinting.com/2prices/pricelists.htm

    Those prices are for a color cover and black and white pages, but the prices top out at $19.83/book for 25 books with 496 pages at 8.5x10.75 inch pages. I imagine color printing would triple the price ... so lets just say $60 per color book to print ... not too bad I think

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 26th, 2009 @ 10:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Print on Demand Graphic Novels?

    "Those prices are for a color cover and black and white pages, but the prices top out at $19.83/book for 25 books with 496 pages at 8.5x10.75 inch pages. I imagine color printing would triple the price ... so lets just say $60 per color book to print ... not too bad I think"

    Maybe I'm not understanding you correctly, but 19.83/ea for COST? I can't click through to your link, so maybe I'm misunderstanding, but is this for a graphic novel quality production, softcover book, or hardcover?

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2009 @ 12:34pm

    Re: Now?

    Previously, musicians released an album, and met a few fans with backstage passes. Now those same musicians can twitter, facebook, host blogs, and all the other online connection tools to connect with their fans.

    That option wasn't available 20 years ago.

    But say a musician doesn't like twitter. They can (and many do) employ people to do the connecting for them. The connection isn't vibrant but those fans still get more information to sate their interests than they did 10 years back.

     

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