Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Carting a Sick Stick: Sic a Tart Kiss on an Art Trick (Part 1)

The Spirit of Salt Former Media Empire


fairly secret: the tower of approach: each day a song is added to the stack of my persistent apporach
SICKTARTAR: creative meta-commentary on songs and a marketplace

defunct and/or static:

Phree as in Phreakshow: a defunct casualty of the Death of the Age of Blogging
nude al fresco and al dente: and another
It’s Rome, Baby!: now frozen in time: a 20 year retrospective exhibition of text


Searching for the exact phrase “1,000 True Fans” on Google nets about 327,000 results.  The first is Kevin Kelly’s like-named essay.  By his own reporting it looks to be his most popular essay on The Technium and has been translated into 9 other languages.  What’s interesting about this (to me) is that Kelly’s core assertion:

“...Anyone producing works of art - needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living”

is (quite clearly and straightforwardly, in the article) derived in its entirety from a couple of back-of-the-envelope equations (actually no envelope is required, the equations are 1,000 x $100 equals $100,000, more than enough for any creator to keep body and soul together and produce art at a near-enough-to professional level, right?... and one true fan added per day times 365 days per year times three years equals a thousand, more or less, right?).

I think this basic construction is fascinating - there’s plenty to question even if you don’t attack the basic premises (that $100 is a reasonable threshold of true fandom or that one day equals a reasonable amount of time to cultivate a true fan) - right off the bat I’d note that 1,000 divided by 3 is 333 and a third.... which happens to be about 91 and a third more days per year than a person with a very average decent day job - 5 days a week with two weeks off a year and 8 paid holidays - works.

There’s plenty of other critique - to his credit Kelly publishes some of it himself - particularly the balanced observations of composer Robert Rich - and calls for more data before apparently dropping the investigation - while letting the trope live on. Also noted Internet Guy John Scalzi’s response probably summed it up as good as any.

And still this thing, this idea, this Snappy Headline *1*0*0*0* *T*R*U*E* *F*A*N*S* lives on, is repeated, is translated into 9 other languages.  What’s to be gathered from this, I fear, is that there are far too many of us.  Making, making and wishing very much that we could not be doing it for free.  It’s a problem, I think, and probably a mistake for most.  I think most knew better once.  You played your fiddle when the work was done and didn’t expect anything from it but to pass a little sweetness in the night.  There was no recording, nothing to be saved.  Now there is far, far too much recording and Google is happy to put it online in its ongoing advertication of all human thought.

Reading my archives on It’s Rome, Baby! is often painful now because of the wild-eyed revolutionary fervor I had on about the digitalization of media... In some part at least I was purposely camping it up but still.  What kind of world is it where Rudy Rucker has to scrounge for a measly $7,000 advance on Kickstarter? I’m glad that he made it relatively quickly, and I hope come-lately’s don’t just call that good and forego pledging because of the early success.  But still.  Still!  5 bucks for the latest out of one of the wildest brains of modern SF, and a towering middle finger to the established literary order by the by.  How is that not a no-brainer?  How does that have 60 measly backers?  How is it that Rudy Rucker even needs to go out with his hat in hand to raise an advance to write a novel?  Rudy Rucker should have half a million in the bank on the strength of his collected short stories alone. It’s 6 dollars for nearly a thousand pages of stories!  DRM free, right from the source, everything anyone had to ask of digital publication.  Rucker garners 200K+ hits on Google, has nearly 5,000 Twitter followers, he’s a darling of the BoingBoing set and various related cyberpunk and transhumanist sets.  Five bucks.  What the hell is wrong with people?

This makes me understand what I actually find so disappointing about how media is shaping up so far in the digitalization age, and how it relates to my discontent with the 1,000 True Fans trope, even if it was a realistic equation:  it’s still such a consumer model.  Someone else makes, packages, hustles you up and you consume.  What is a true fan worth?  A hundred bucks.  It’s gloomy.  What I really anticipated of the revolution I sought was a new age of discovery.  Digging through the racks, turning up those gems, telling everyone you know.  I thought the age would bring a new era of “paperback original” quality fiction, and sure they’d be rough around the edges but weren’t a lot of Phil Dick’s now-revered novels?  Surely we’d see brilliant ad hoc syndicates forming around micropayment subscription schemes, beautiful bite-sized textual content for all these pocket computers of modern times, surely you’d see independent editor-artist duos wading into the arena of independent self-publishing, splitting the publishing-house and outmoded physical production cost cuts with the reader to produce fully professional fiction and non-fiction at a price to challenge the lumbering legacy model’s lurching shamble into the 21st Century.

Instead it seems to me the world of entertainment, art, media, whatever you want to call it, is still dominated by legacy “producers” (aggregators and packagers) at every turn, still screwing naive artists with crooked contracts and work-for-hire, and the “alternative,” internet-savvy world has its handful of darlings big enough to make the San Diego Comic-Con, its inside track who may occasionally promote a new author (who is almost certainly being published by a large house which may or may not be a subsidiary of some media conglomerate tentacle demon but which is certainly transacting it all on the same-old advance and royalty scheme).  And they tell us what is cool, and they tell us what to buy.

Tracking down and grooming a thousand “I’ll buy everything” superconsumers to provide a middle class income might be a decent trick for someone but I personally think it would be a whole lot cooler to be part of some million-strong global club who pools a hundred bucks a year each and goes out and finds artists and radically transforms their existence - here’s one and a half million dollars, spend the next decade just making your art.  Gosh maybe it would all just destroy people.  Oh well - I guess there are some interesting projects being made possible by Kickstarter.  Right?

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