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Artists & 'true fans'

Kevin Kelly recently posited that a core group of "true fans" in today's day and age could keep an artist afloat outside the world of mass market promotions and contracts. Ambient artist Robert Rich is living that life, and produced a wonderful response to Kelly's assertions. If you merely skimmed the Boing Boing post today on this topic, allow me to persuade you to read the entire article.

His thoughts on how the digitalization of music in particular are eroding the perceived value of the product are a kind of heart-breaking counterpoint to Kelly's optimistic outlook. Moreover, Rich is not a true example of the phenomenon, as he points out himself; he was on a label at one time that did spend enough marketing dollars to get him to a point where he was able to reach those crucial first "true fans".

Still, his observations are quite illuminating for those who've grown weary of hearing the drumbeat of "the internet changes everything!" as it relates to media distribution and artists' livelihoods. It's always seemed hollow to me, or at least, much more complicated than the early cheerleaders seemed to acknowledge. We're in a day and age where your YouTube video can be viewed literally millions of times by millions of people and the only direct financial benefit of that event is derived by YouTube - the distributor. Oh sure, your video might connect you with future "true fans" - except that this is the internet age, where by definition the lasting impact of your exposure to a novel piece of digital entertainment has a built in expiration of the time it takes you to switch to a different browser window.

At any rate, good food for thought. 2008

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