Thursday, October 8, 2009

More on Sharing the Artistic Process

Amanda Palmer has tossed out another interesting blog post.
i am shameless, and fearless, when it comes to money and art.

i can’t help it: i come from a street performance background....

if you think i’m going to pass up a chance to put my hat back down in front of the collected audience on my virtual sidewalk and ask them to give their hard-earned money directly to me instead of to roadrunner records, warner music group, ticketmaster, and everyone else out there who’s been shamelessly raping both fan and artist for years, you’re crazy. "Why I am not afraid to take your money," Amanda Palmer blog, 9/29/09.
I've written about Palmer a lot. I particularly like to reference her as someone who is raising issues about the artist and her community. Here's my most recent blog post about the subject: "The Artist and Her Fans." You can also click on the "Amanda Palmer" tag to see other posts where I have used her as an example.

Zoe Keating, another musician using the Internet to increase her visibility, is also contributing to the discussion.
What is great about Twitter is that, like I said in the interview, it allows me to be myself to as many people as possible. Me and my music are the same thing and I've always had this stubborn, egotistical belief that if I just had a chance to get the real me across....people would be interested. The belief that what I'm doing is worthwhile, even if no one hears it, has sustained me through a lot of rejections and hard times. ...

Because there aren't very many mouths to feed, I don't feel any pressure to continually be selling more, more, more. I have never done an ounce of official marketing or publicity. I make enough to pay the mortgage, the bills, go out to dinner and a movie every now and then, go on vacation and save money for the future. I'm not rich, my car is old, but I have enough to live well and not be continually worried about money. That's really all I want. I want to exist and keep making more music. I'm in this for the long haul. Slow and steady is fine by me. "Deep thoughts on my music career," Zoe's Incredibly Interesting Blog, 9/27/09.
Keating has talked how Twitter has increased sales for her.
Keating says that the long-term effects of this rapid ascent in the Twitter-verse are yet to be determined, she did see an immediate jump in business. "Around the time that I went on the [Twitter] Suggested User list, my CD ['One Cello x 16: Natoma'] went to No. 1 on the iTunes classical chart, and it's stayed in the top 20 ever since," she says. "I've also gotten a lot more sales from my Web site, and I get lots of fan mail that says, 'I found out about you from Twitter.'" "TWEET CHILD O' MINE,", 5/30/09.
And I have also cited Imogen Heap using the Internet to connect with fans. "Fan Interaction the Imogen Heap Way." Here's additional info from her about the process.
"We live in this instant world. It feels wrong to not play anything and keep it all secret," Heap states between sips of water at Toronto's Intercontinental Hotel. "I wanted to share the process in the same way I would with a friend who drops in at the end of a work day; I'd want to play them what I'd been up to." ...

"That turned out to be brilliant for me to look back on and feel my process," remembers Heap, "otherwise one day to the next just feels like you haven't done anything, so it's great to look back at blog No. 1 and see the state of my studio and then see blog 19 when it's finished. The Twitter thing was just my way of filling in the gaps." "Imogen Heap Twitters her way to world dominance," MSN Canada, 9/8/09.
With so many people now attempting to sell themselves and their music via Twitter, I'm not sure there will be enough money to go around. But I do like exploring how all these communication tools might be changing our perception of what it means to be an artist and to create. Here's a relevant quote from an author who interviewed thirty "visual artists, comedians, animators, documentary filmmakers, musicians, writers, and others who’ve pioneered new ways to build a creative career online (and off.)"
[Q] New media is a constantly evolving landscape from trends to platforms, do you expect a few standards to come out of this or are artists forced to constantly change their game plan? And is it important for them to?

[Answer from Kirsner] I think there are some things that are constants, like making people feel like they’re part of your process, involved, and are in some way supporting what you’re doing. But I do agree that there’s a constantly-evolving landscape out there. MySpace was once much more powerful than it is today. E-mail newsletters were once more effective than they are today. And you always have new things, whether it’s Twitter or live video Webcasting from mobile phones with services like Qik, that can be effective ways of communicating with your fan base. "Interview with Scott Kirsner on Fans, Friends & Followers," CineVegas Blog, 3/31/09.
Some people are pointing to interactivity as a way to evolve the art itself, not just as a way for artists to talk to fans.
Media used to be made at what could be described as the “front end” of the process. I produce a song or book and release it to the market where it is consumed and talked about.

A product leads to a conversation…

But now that my cost of experimentation is zilch—and networks enable me to be in constant communication with people who share my interests—the diagram can just as easily be flipped and start at the “back end.” I can talk about and share my ideas with you, and once we have a collective vision of the “thing,” I can produce it (to then have you consume it).

A conversation leads to a product…

Furthermore, if the thing I produce (or we produce) is dispensable (like songs or stories), you might consume more of it and the process can stop being linear altogether… "From product to process," The Storybird blog, 5/28/09.
Looking for more discussion about how the artistic process might be changing, I found this from Scott Adams, creator of the comic strip Dilbert. It doesn't directly address fan input, but it brings up the idea that the creator may put forth a starting point which can then be refined over time.
If you are planning to create some business or other form of entertainment, you will need quality at some point to succeed. But what is more important than quality in the beginning is some intangible element that makes your project inherently interesting before anyone has even sampled it. That initial audience will give you the luxury of time to create quality. "Quality Follows Popularity," Scott Adams Blog, 2/13/2009.
He's essentially reversing the artistic process. Rather than coming up with a wonderful creation first, he's saying, "Come up with an idea, build an audience around it, get their input, and THEN make it better."

As I find more discussions about interactivity and the artistic process, I will add them here or do additional blog entries. I'll close with an excerpt from an interesting article exploring the history of Western art and its relationship to money.
In Arts & Consciousness we have always taught our students that art is intrinsically valuable. We haven’t emphasized the commercial aspects of art, but have instead focused on art’s connection to self-affirmation, health, cultural identity and spiritual truth. We have proceeded from the assertion that if these things are adequately achieved, then money will be received by the artist as a natural and inevitable result of having created new value in the world....

When the recovery from the current crisis occurs, it seems possible that the world will re-discover the value of art as an essential part of culture – not as a coveted object but as living and breathing part of everyday life. "Post-Modernism, Economic Collapse and the Search for Value in Art." Arts and Consciousness, 2/4/09.
If this becomes the case, we may end up not valuing the art as an object or even as an experience, but for its contribution or effectiveness.

And here's a good resource. This paper was published in 2001 to foster a discussion of Silicon Valley as a creative community, but it covers creative communities throughout history. Some of the same concepts can be applied to creativity and the online community.

Suzanne Lainson
@slainson on Twitter


  1. thnx for the info and perspective; u have a good grasp on the new music biz (rarely seen, these days).... plz keep writing these posts!

  2. Thank you so much. I do plan to cover more along these lines.

  3. Great post can't wait to hear more!


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