The Sid & Nancy of artist marketing

by Mark on June 26, 2009

God may have saved the queen, but Amanda and Michael are saving artists from poverty

A Twitter essay on two artists who are hacking the system and redesigning the artist/fan relationship in real time.

When you mention the future of the music, publishing, and film industries, you’re talking about the future of artist marketing.

After all, these industries finance, produce, market, and distribute the work of artists. They only exist BECAUSE of artists.

So, if you remove the cost of marketing and distribution thanks to the internets and the cost of production because of cheap tools…

…what does a label, publisher, or studio offer an artist? More importantly, does the artist need what they’re offering?

The answer to the first part is being worked out. There is definitely a role for a scaled down, networked middleman…

…if not least of which is that some artists WANT to offload the business of marketing and distribution elsewhere.

But for artists who want control of marketing/distribution or simply want to experiment during these times of flux…

…then @amandapalmer and @michaelnobbs could teach us all some interesting tricks.

Experimental and restless, both of them are refashioning the artist/fan relationship in real time.

First, they seem to understand that their value is less WHAT people consume and more HOW they consume.

That’s the magic of shifting from product to process. From monologue to dialogue.

For @amandapalmer, this means relying less on her recorded music as revenue. Now, it’s used increasingly as marketing.

But free music won’t bring people out to concerts. So Palmer also engages with her fans and builds up loyalty.

Flash mobs in cities, constant Twitter parties, invitations to her play…all of these turn “me” & “them” into “us.”

She’s also playing with other (revenue) formats: a book with Neil Gaiman, a play with her high school drama teacher, a tshirt party with her fans.

British artist @michaelnobbs looks & sounds nothing like @amandapalmer. But in his quiet way he’s also mashing the system.

Nobbs published a few books that did well for him. But recently he’s noticed that engagement comes first.

So he released, free of charge, 75 Ways to Draw More which spawned a Flickr group.

On the success of 75 Ways, he’s now released “Start to draw your life.”

His peers thought he was mad to give his work away for free. Certainly Palmer’s peers think she’s a mad hatter.

But Nobbs explains: “people seeing my art is great. People USING it is better.” We think he’s onto something.

People “using” your stuff, people interacting with you…the relationship is the new single.

The relationship is what helps you go platinum since it means you have engagement. That gives you a chance to make money.

Without engagement, you can’t make money. Period. And while we appreciate starving artists in stories—less so in real life.

So hats off to @amandapalmer and @michaelnobbs, the punk rockers of #artistmarketing.

It's a line, silly.

We wrote about Amanda Palmer before.

If you like these Twitter essays/rants, you might like:

Publishers are the new Flickr Groups

We are the media

{ 1 trackback }

Twitted by lttlbgGrl
08.27.09 at 12:19 pm

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }


Mark 06.26.09 at 5:43 pm

We had a ton of @replies and DM’s on this, so we’ll leave the comments open for a while and see what’s on your mind. Know any artists who are rethinking how they engage? Success stories? Failures? What are your thoughts on Amanda and Michael? Are they going about things in the right way? Is there a right way?


Anne Collier 06.26.09 at 6:31 pm

A couple of observations from watching this fascinating evolution/experiment over the past 10 years:
1) Maybe tunes are “talking points” in an ongoing conversation between artist and fan.
2) Marketing 2.0 maybe does 2 things: a) brings more fans to the ongoing multi-party, multi-directional conversation or “salon” (the conversation among parties – in this case artists and fans – to an existing relationship), and b) shapes or adds value or significance to the parties to that relationship.

I think the marketing formula artists arrive at and its effectiveness are necessarily very individual – unique to each artist, band, author, painter, journalist…. Great stuff, Storybird!


Andy McNally 06.27.09 at 12:13 am

Thank you for another interesting post/twitter thread. Amanda Palmer and Michael Nobbs are both incredibly talented artists. It is one thing to be talented in your chosen art, but it is another thing entirely to have marketing/distribution skills. Both of these artist are successful because of the way they use their creativity to market their art, and engage their fans. Their distribution methods and use of technology fit who they are, and further their relationship with their community of friends and followers. They have built a reputation over time, which encompasses their art and who they are. Whether you are a fan, friend, or fellow artists you feel like you are a part of something and you want to take part and participate with them.

I’m new to trying to make a living from my art, and a very long way from being self sustaining. I rethink often, what works and does not work for me. I’m always taking notes and learning from my peers. Amanda and Michael have my undivided attention.

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