The digital revolution came seemingly overnight. It crept into our living rooms, bedrooms, and court rooms. The moment that Metallica sued Napster, the point-of-no-return hit. We’re on a crash course with a digital destiny, and there are many artists who are adapting beautifully.
Take Louis C.K. for example. He revolutionized the standup comedy business with his tech savvy tour. He still made millions, and he got lower ticket prices for his fans. All he had to do was a little bit of extra work by calling each of the venues and setting up contracts with them individually. Not too much to ask for $4.5 million.
Musician Amanda “Fucking” Palmer takes the fan-centered approach to a whole new level. She spends hours every day on Tumblr, Twitter, etc. interacting with and reacting to her fans, and this enabled her to raise over $1 million on Kickstarter (the first music project on Kickstarter to do so). The two people who donated $10,000 to her campaign get to have dinner with her and a portrait-sitting. Yes, a fucking portrait-sitting with Amanda “Fucking” Palmer.
Radiohead released In Rainbows on their website and allowed fans to pay whatever they wanted to for the digital download, and prerelease sales were higher than total sales of their previous recording. Seth Godin gave digital downloads of his book away for free on his blog, and made more money on physical copies than his previous releases with a publisher. Theater companies are even beginning to stream their performances live.
These artists all made their name via traditional outlets (record labels, marketing teams, publishers, etc.) and then adopted brilliant practices to take advantage of the digital revolution. But we have a new breed of artist on the horizon.
Of course, we all know about Justin Bieber’s rise to fame as a result of his YouTube videos being discovered by a major talent manager. Then, there’s E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey being publicized largely by book blogs, other social media, and her own website. We also have Kelly Oxford, who’s caught the attention of several famous people and landed a gig writing a pilot for NBC just because she’s funny on Twitter.
However, these artists used the tools of the digital revolution in order to gain entrance into a more traditional career in the arts. The type of artists that we will see in the future will continue to use new technology to further their own careers and not rely on old models for success in the arts.
Author Matt Stewart didn’t gain notoriety because of a publisher. In fact, had he been successful in enlisting the aid of a publisher, he might never have appeared on the New York Times website. Stewart’s debut novel “The French Revolution” is the first to be released entirely on Twitter. Thanks to this, he’s now a regular blogger on Huffington Post and holds down a solid day job at a communications firm.
Flutist Greg Pattillo became popular through YouTube videos back in 2007. He video recorded himself playing various themes (Super Mario Bros., Inspector Gadget, Peter and the Wolf) on flute while simultaneously beatboxing. Some of the videos have over 20 million views. As a result, the New York Times said that he “may be the best person in the world at what he does.”
I’m sure hundreds of other examples exist that illustrate this shift. This is the artist of the future that we’re looking at here. They have all the tools necessary to develop their career in the arts, and they completely control their own fate.