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Saturday, 07 March 2009


Artists are owed a living doing what they love no more than anyone else.

If you are good at it, money will come. If you aren't, too bad. Welcome to life.

Off the top of my head I think you may be heading in the wrong direction. I would have thought 100,000 @ $1 more easily achievable than 1000 @ $100. (I'm not suggesting this as a model but trying to illustrate my point. The secret may lie in the total number of "true " fans. Manys a mickle makes a muckle ). Generally if something is pitched at the right price people are more inclined to give it a go. I might gamble $5 on something whereas $50 makes me stop and think

And, it's likely most people know, but John Scalzi is one hell of a SciFi writer, very much in the tradition of Larry Niven and a few other old school SciFi writers.

Having read the arguments, I'm more inclined to side against the 1000 fans idea esp as Kelly invokes the "Long tail" which as an argument doesn't hold water.

There's also a whole host of other issues raised including ownership and rights to the created works and who has the final say in what's produced; you are after all selling your self to 1000 different people who may like only one particular genre of your work, and wouldn't expect you to produce anything but.


Not to cast a vote yea or nay on the question, but thought i would point out an area where this concept does work, but in a very non-virtual world.

This is one of the basic models in CSA, community supported agriculture. The customer subscribes for a periodic delivery of food (normally veggies, sometimes also fruit) and gets them fresh as harvested.
Usually it is organic produce.

This can be very successful. I have been a subscriber on occasion when living where this is available, and lifestyle allowed the cooking time.

Would be interesting to see how this would work in the virtual realm and for a luxury good.

Also reminds me a little of the artist/patron relationship of "days of old".

Claimer: I read all that stuff, and some of the side links.

The big thing that most miss (and that Scalzi points out) is the profit part. If a fan is willing to part with $100, the artist only gets a fraction. That and the difficulty of getting fans who will part with cash (kind of like a blogger getting readers to post comments - only a fraction of a percent commit that far).

I think there needs to be slightly different models per media which take account of effort to produce, cost to produce, price to sell and likely size of audience.

On to photography specific - I think Ctein has hit on something here. Photography has 2 attributes that are fairly unique: low cost of production and difficulty of copying (i.e. I can churn out loads of good prints at reasonable cost with limited fear that someone can copy them).

Thinking as a producer, I can't see a reasonable way for any of this to financially support me alone. As a useful income supplement it has promise - either as a part-timer as I am or for a full-time artist. It would also be a good way to monetise output that might not otherwise generate income. The "not quite made it" for other outlets - maybe a great shot that didn't make it to a book, or a good one, not quite in line with a gallery show. Still supplemental.

Thinking as a buyer, I would expect to see reasonable return on the money I pay. And in the time-frame of paying. A once a year payment for a once a year output seems better than monthly payment for same. But then again, I don't want so much stuff that I don't have time to enjoy it - this is one problem I have with magazines, I run out of time to read them.

The best example I can give,from my own personal commitment to artists are Joni Mitchell and Van Morrison. In 1967, I was completely captivated by both musicians, and aside from multiple copies of early albums like Astral Weeks I have purchased EVERY album produced by both artists, simply because they earned my support for the emotional benefit they provided. I do not particularly enjoy or listen to much of what either have done in the last 30 years or so, but I still buy them because they earned my support as artists.
The relationship of records and prints is appropriate, because neither are limited in supply and both can be priced affordably.


'Something you create might not appeal to them, and they choose not to renew their “true fandom.”'

Artists, as I understand the word, have an annoying habit of doing just this. Rather than finding and sticking with a successful formula, they tend to go off and do something different. It's not exactly like buying a subscription to a brand-name product.

Make sure you factor in your cost of living, including rent, overhead, insurance, retirement, vacation, groceries, recreation, etc. etc. etc. Maybe go 150 or 200 fans. :)

It's interesting that in these discussions, the presence of talent is simply assumed, and behind that assumption there's an another, implicit, assumption that talent tends to be equal. But it's not. Serious talent is rare, and serious talent usually makes a living.

People who are "True Fans" of anything are usually connoisseurs
at some level, and distinguish between minor and major talents. Major talents almost always make a living at what they do (unless they are mentally disabled in some way, which happens with some frequency.)

I know a woman who likes a certain kind of rock music, but is a True Fan of only one singer: Bruce Springsteen. Guess what? He doesn't really need to sell his work on a subscription basis. I have a pretty serious interest in painting, and when I did my first rapid walk-through of LA Art this spring, my eye was caught immediately by perhaps a half-dozen works by people I didn't know. When I inquired about prices, they were generally in the realm of $100,000-$250,000 for a single painting. These people were serious talents, and serious talent shows. *I* didn't know them, but they were already well-known somewhere else, like Mexico, or South America, so they could ask those prices.

IMHO, one serious question the "1000 True Fans" concept has to deal with is, will somebody pay $100 a year for a talent that he or she recognizes as minor? Because that's the *real* question here.

"Artists are owed a living doing what they love no more than anyone else.

"If you are good at it, money will come. If you aren't, too bad. Welcome to life."

No offense to you Ryan, but I am really tired of this hackneyed old argument. It's the pure-meritocratic justification: that anyone who can make money deserves exactly as much money as they make, and anyone who doesn't make money doesn't deserve to. AT LEAST, anyone who has been keeping up with the financial news over the last 16 months or so should see the enormous holes in the idea--are there not counterarguments strewn everywhere, thick on the ground, of people who made money who didn't deserve it and people who deserved to who didn't?

Recompense is just a game, subject to intense and unending manipulation. It's never been remotely fair or just and it never will be. There *certainly* is no justification whatsoever for the belief that "if you are good at it, money will come." The only possible way such a statement has any truth-value is if you replace "it" with "making money."

In any event, it doesn't bear on what Ctein's saying at all. He's proposing a business model as a way to make money with the product he has to sell. Presumably he would make the same work in the coming year whether his subscription plan works or fails.


I just started a "Print of the Month" club on my website that works on this very principle. It has been doing surprisingly well. Not that I'm quitting my job any time soon, but all of the sudden my costs for film and processing are covered, and Ive got a little gas in my tank. It's a good feeling, and it seems like, with enough commitment and word of mouth, I could at least turn it into a part time job.

The downside is that people are buying a product that doesn't exist yet. Suddenly the stakes are higher to create good work, because people have already paid for it. And there's a liklihood that you can't please all of the people all of the time. But, so far, results have been very positive.


John Camp,
Aren't you conflating talent with popularity?

And I, for one, think accomplishment is a lot more important than talent. The people who make careers of any kind of art are people who a) take themselves seriously, b) persist, c) practice/produce, and d) work at their careers. There are plenty of cases in the history of all the arts of big talent never amounting to much, and plenty of cases of artists who make the most out of smaller talents because they have energy and drive and an ability to market/promote themselves.

To both you and Ryan, let me cite a real case. A book author writes five books, all of which are published to critical notice but none of which do well. For his sixth book, the publisher decides to take a chance, and devotes a large amount of money to a big publicity push. It pays off in spades and the book is a huge success, big bestseller. At that point, to capitalize on the author's newfound popularity, the first five books are all rushed back into print, and all five of them sell very well, many times their original numbers.

Question: what did "talent" or "being good" have to do with the success of the first five books?


Forgive me because in my haste, I have not read either reference text, only Ctein's introduction.
It is an interesting concept, I am certainly average or below in my income and I find it important to buy prints that I enjoy for "reasonable" amounts. You know, the $50-$100 unframed ones pak of note cards at art fairs, on line etc.(Just bought one last week from. Giuseppe Pasquali,http://photo.net/photodb/member-photos?user_id=768363)
I would consider the $100/year for a few artists and in return perhaps expect some 4x6 prints in a sampling of sorts in return, or even note cards. Nothing expensive, but something to both showcase the recent work and something tangible beyond "pure" Medici support.

(Did you know that Andrew Wyeth would hand paint 100 Christmas cards each year to send to friends?


I don't know the history of photography too well, but one of the most famous European composers died quite poor (W.A. Mozart).

So, while I agree that in general a competent craftsperson should (and certainly will) be able to live from their work, it might make sense to think about mechanisms to support exceptional (art or other) talents, who are for whatever reasons not capable to take sufficient care of their careers.

However, an aspect of core importance (and probably THE difficult aspect which will make this whole idea basically impossible) is that such a system needs to take great care that it does not end up to offer free money for everybody who considers themselves an artist.

Last word: Mike, I think John Camp and Ryan have one point: Those artists, who would be capable to 'manage' their fanbase well enough to live on the '1000 true fans' idea, are probably able to take good care of themselves in any case. Maybe that's the take-home-point: The '1000 true fans' idea might be not more than one of many items from the toolbox of independent artists who successfully live from a more or less self-acquired fanbase.

My own reactions to this topic lie mostly with John Camp's remarks.

Connoisseurship is a very different behavior than subscription. I know quite a few collectors of photography, some who have been doing so for decades and have specialized in particular photographers. I don't think any of them would "subscribe" to future production of any photographer. John's remark, "... will somebody pay $100 a year for a talent that he or she recognizes as minor?" is pretty much on the mark.

The American economy lost 651,000 jobs just in February. Our official unemployment rate is now over 8%, with the broader, more realistic rate closer to 11%. By all estimates I've read we're just getting warmed-up (or cooled-down). By year-end we could very conceivably be looking at double those unemployment rates with an eventual "recovery" returning us back to 8%. For the first time in decades anyone ...ANYONE... who relies on a paycheck has plenty of reasons to be fearful of the future...or even just next week. Financial obligations of any kind are just plain creepy to most people right now. I certainly wouldn't want to be peddling something as petty as a subscription TO ANYTHING right now.

Thank you Mike, for your very lucid comments as to great talent always succeeding. I look forward to the next installment.


Money CERTAINLY has little to do with merit in the arts and elsewhere, and I'm a prime example of elsewhere. I made a ton of cash last year selling naked calls and puts in the stock market, with a handful of mouse clicks, while my neighbor labored sixty hours a week doing essential real work for a fraction. It's nothing for me to be proud of, it just is what it is.

The art is the art, and no one could rationally question Ctein's dedication and commitment to his art. If he makes money, and I hope he does, all it says is that he figured-out how to make money. Everyone's trying to do that, artist or not.

"Our production and distribution costs aren't zero, but they are such a small fraction of the selling price that for all practical purposes the model works."

For someone shipping simply prints, great. For institutional buyers (viz the current PDN), they may want to pay $50 per pic. Framed. Need a pretty high volume to make THAT work....

There is no single system. If people see value they will part with their $$. But it's all nonsense, there are lots of people who claim to love art who wouldn't pay more than $40 for an original drawing but will happily part with $30-50 for lunch or dinner. Daily.

Sorry, I haven't read the articles yet but...

Historically, hasn't the majority of all art work/music prior to this century been subsidized by governments or the ultra wealthy?

Isn't the past century (where the arts were driven by "the masses" - a large upper middle class) the exception in human history?

Dear Paul,

You're right; price points are always a tricky thing about marketing. For example, single digits still matter. There's a huge drop in participation if a subscription to something is priced at $10 instead of $9. Regardless of inflation or what the dollar is worth; it's what Granny Weatherwax would call "headology."

Micro-payments (anything a dollar or less) have been discussed for a long time as a potentially useful price point. The big problem is an institutional one: unless you build a large and efficient organization, the overhead eats up the profits. Case in point, iTunes cuts. They can make it work. Most individual artists can't.

There's a profitable business out there for anybody who can figure out how to do this as a general service (i.e., "PayPal for Pennies") that the small folks could sign up for.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

If you're a starving artist, you want two things: one is to continue making art, the other is to make enough money to eat.

If the easiest way to eat is by selling art, or if its incidental benefits (such as keeping your hand in, or introducing you to potential big patrons) make it worthwhile, then fine.

But if not, there's no shame in making a living doing something completely different. Your priorities in life don't have to line up with your income tax returns. (Few people make any money off their children, after all!)

I think there's a danger of pouring too much effort into trying to make a little money doing something only marginally related to the art you're trying to produce. If you're going to sell stationary, or run a low-volume mail-order business, the skills which will be earning you money won't be your photography, they'll be self-promotion and small-business admin and networking. There may be more profitable places to sell these skills, or you may possess other more valuable skills.

To those who are approaching this more as a question of how should society fund artists, rather than how to fund their own art-making, I would first ask: is the world under-producing art? I don't think so, if anything the problem is too much.

Dear Martin,

You're a better man than I am; *I* didn't read all the comments!

I don't think you and Scalzi have it quite right about the profits. This is a scheme that ONLY makes sense when production/distribution costs are extremely low. That's what it was proposed for, and anything else is really outside the boundary conditions on the problem. When Scalzi talks about the relatively high cost of printing out and distributing a copy of the book, he's entirely correct. But that's not the business this kind of model would be intended for. Now if he were trying to sell e-books, that would be a different matter.

This is only one of many possible business models. It may not even be a good business model. But if you don't fit the boundary conditions for it you definitely should not be considering it!

Good guideline for would-be marketeers: if your production plus distribution costs are more than 10% of the gross income, you need to think very, very carefully about whether this will work for you. If they are more than 20%, it won't.

That's based on years and years of experience; not just mine, but lots of professional artists and craftspeople that I know.

There are many other business models for other situations. As Bjork points out, institutional buys are high volume, and low profit margin. For those you need to take an entirely different approach. I have a photographer friend who sells large digital and dye transfer prints, as expensive fine art. His art consultant scored an institutional buy: something like 1000 prints. He didn't even try doing those prints himself; he handed the job off to a really good outside digital printing lab. His profit margin on the job was maybe 20%. He still cleared $10,000 for a single transaction that did not take an unreasonable amount of his time.

If an institutional buyer came to me and wanted 1000 framed prints for $50 apiece (NOT dye transfer!), I could make good money (and an incredible hourly wage) on that. I'd only clear between 10 and 20%, but (to coin a phrase) I'd make it up in volume!

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

I think Nine Inch Nails' experience with "pay what you want" is instructive. If Trent can't make a buck, what makes us think the rest of us can? (Well, never say never...)


Dear Studio,

My experience in life has been rather the opposite; most artists I know reinvent themselves very slowly if at all.

This also falls under the heading of True Fan: if you don't consistently like what an artist does (regardless of their artistic strategy) you're not likely to subscribe to their future efforts.

You've raised an important point that the would-be artist has to consider if they're going to try a model like this. It's not just about getting people to sign up; it's about keeping them signed up. If you don't deliver future work that they like, they will drop off the list. Very, very few people will give you money just for the sake of it. (Oh, if only!)

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Ok, I read the articles...

My thinking is this...

The irritating thing during the second half of the 20th century is the economic models for the arts encouraged "talent inversion". Where lesser talented people were given greater reward than their more talented peers (think about Sean Puffy Combs versus Wynton Marsalis). It is this "talent inversion" that led to many "pretenders" entering the "arts" (I love quotes).

Most people recognize the lack of true talent by many of the most valued artistic "stars". This (in my opinion) has led to a devaluation of the arts in general. This is why most people really don't want to pay for music.

With the late 20th century economic model being invalidated by the ease of digital copying, many of the lesser talents (seeking easy money) will no longer enter the arts. This will result in a decline in the amount of artists producing "new" material.

In this world, I could see a model where 1000 fans would contribute to the production of new material by a single artist. However, I would gamble that this would also lead to these fans wanting a share of any additional proceeds the material might garner.


My two cents...

How artists can make a decent living in a market economy is a perpetual puzzle. (Lewis Hyde's landmark book "The Gift" is really just a long rumination on this question). We as a society should value art, and should support artists, but what artists do, how they work, and what they produce don't fit well in the modern world.

The Church, royalty, and then the wealthy have served as patrons of artists for a long time in the West. Not for any tangible, marketable gain -- since that isn't art's reward. But whatever art's reward is, these sorts of institutions felt it worth supporting.

Government takes the place of these institutions in the modern world. (Any form, really -- dictators and non-democratic states support artistic production at least as much as democratic ones -- they just have different taste).

I lean toward increased government funding for the arts as the solution to the problem. Less taxpayer money devoted to aircraft carriers and ICBMs, more to arts education, arts promotion, arts fellowships etc.

Another solution (apart from being born rich) is the sometimes unsatisfactory but often tenable (and age-old) idea of having an OK-paying dayjob that allows you enough time and energy to devote to your real avocation. For poets, Wallace Stevens (insurance man) would be the example. For photographers, Meatyard (optician) is my hero.

I would definitely pay $100 per year to belong to this blog site, but if I were paying, it would only be fair if others had to pay as well. Then if only paying fans were on this site, the site would not be the same as it is today, and it might not be worth $100 anymore.

My head hurts.

"We as a society should value art, and should support artists, but what artists do, how they work, and what they produce don't fit well in the modern world.
The Church, royalty, and then the wealthy have served as patrons of artists for a long time in the West."

This strikes me as one more pastoral myth. It was all good in the middle ages, no? Do you think there are less artists now than there were then? On the contrary there are, I think, many many more.

The church/emperors/dictators patronised certain kinds of art, and if you want to lament the passing of serious classical training in marble-carving/opera/etc, then fine. We don't produce as much of that now, and I agree that this is sad. (I also regret that I cannot read greek, although would not trade my 20th century science education for a 19th century classics one.)

But we do produce a lot of art which the above patrons weren't so fond of. Songs making fun of royalty might have been sung in pubs but nobody got Bob-Dylan-rich for writing them. Novels critical of rulers tended to be bad for your health, rather than win prizes.

A lot of the photography we (or at least I) prize highly has a strong social documentary streak, or at least a strong focus on human nature, ordinary people. It's hard to imagine the czars, or the pope, paying for such things, isn't it?

"Historically, hasn't the majority of all art work/music prior to this century been subsidized by governments or the ultra wealthy?
Isn't the past century (where the arts were driven by "the masses" - a large upper middle class) the exception in human history?"

Yes, because a large middle class is an exception in human history. We're all part of this, we can afford cameras and time to play with them in a way which would have been hard for (almost all of) our ancestors to imagine. Of course it could be better, but let's not mangle history while moaning that we aren't completely free of the need to earn a living.

Regarding comments about micro-payments above - Amazon have a workable solution there. You can sign up with them and use their Flexible Payments Service to manage/merge small payments without a large overhead. As far as I can tell it would require some coding to integrate initially but seems like it would work in certain situations (having not tried it yet myself).

With due deference to the WPA Artists Project, I am not sure how increased government support to the arts is supposed to work. Who decides what art is to be supported? Other than general, mostly local government support for museums and other cultural institutions, supporting artists is probably best left to the private sector.

After pondering the articles and comments on the subject of earning a living from our art, I find my head spinning madly. The only conclusion that I can draw, is that Annie Leibovitz made a sound business decision.

"I lean toward increased government funding for the arts as the solution to the problem." Yclee, even though my politics lean far to the left, I don't like government funding for the arts because it means someone in government picks the winners and losers. I think art is best served by private passion. What government can do is provide an encouraging climate for the arts, such as a favorable tax regime. Some countries have chosen to do this.

Trouble with the 1K True Fan model, as I see it, is it ultimately devalues fine art and encourages race-to-the-bottom thinking, such as: What if I sold 10,000 refrigerator magnets of that cool fern shot I took for $10 per?

This is dangerous for photography, the most democratic art. Your potential audience, everyone of whom has a digital camera, thinks: I can do that. The tenner stays buried, or gets spent on a pizza.

The artist who appeals to collectors--patrons if you will--with a keen eye, a gift for storytelling, perhaps a rare process (dye transfer, platinum), and somewhat-limited editions, has a better model, it seems to me.

I have been cogitating this topic of art and money for so long...

Really, it is a mystery. The "art market" is a mystery. And what an image contains, be it painted or drawn or photographed, that profoundly connects with us is...a mystery. (I just remembered the long tradition of the nude in art. Okay, sometimes the connection is a bit less mysterious.)

Calculate and discuss as you will. (I surely will continue to do both. I'm looking forward to Ctein's follow-up column.) I suspect, however, that no formula, be it general or specific, will ever replace mystery as the primary element in the creation of art, or determine why one business plan serves well or fails completely in the marketing of that art.

Dear Mike B,

Can't say I agree.

The problem with everyone having a camera and thnking they can do what you do has been there for a dozen decades, since George Eastman ruined it for us Artistes. Damn his Evil Empire! [g]

Digital cameras have had exactly zero effect on that. Everyone already owned a film camera that would make technically good photos 90% of the time.

Web sites had a much bigger effect. Eh. So? Art sales of photography haven't plummeted since everyone and their cousin got a 'site.

Famous photographers have had no problem distinguishing between sales of their art and of merchandise (calendars, posters, postcards, and yes, I've even seen Ansel Adams refrigerator magnets). Ain't hurt their art prices one bit.

Finally, the True Fan scheme isn't about mass-marketing tchachkas; it'd be a poor approach for doing that. It's poor-man's patronage. The few artists doing this successfully aren't delivering inferior work to their patrons, they're just getting them to put up money in anticipation of work being created instead of afterwards.

pax / Ctein

I read all the articles, and it's an interesting discussion... But, I would never, ever pay anything up front for an artist to create something in the future. Not a single penny, not even if Ansel or HCB were still around and offering this scheme. To get my money, you have to create and demonstrate value FIRST...

I read Ctein's article and links, very interesting concept for sure. I think the difficulty would be in trying to maintain the 1000 or what ever number of fans that an artist has managed to acquire to make his or her living. The artist would then have to be concerned with the loyalty of those fans, what if an artist has a bad month or year ?, the results could be that you might lose a few of your fans, this would put pressure on the artist to keep their fan base happy and keep the numbers up, artists are no exception from the rest of us folks out there, we all have our ups and downs and sometimes you might have an off year. There would also be the problem that if every artist was on the 1000-fan-base-band-wagon then the patrons of art would be inundated with requests to become fans of various artists. It may not be the easiest way to make a living as an artist but things might not be much different in a financial sense for the artist than if he or she produced the work up front, that way the art patrons can either choose to buy or not to buy depending on how the art piece strikes them emotionally. Isn't that what art is about the emotional response that we get from viewing art after the artist has finished created it ?

How interesting. I have a BA English/photography, and like Meatyard, earned my living as an optician.

Apparently, the two are related.

One more: "For poets, Wallace Stevens (insurance man) would be the example. For photographers, Meatyard (optician) is my hero."

Don't forget Charles Ives: director of a successful insurance agency.

Just means you aren't a true fan.


Mike, if "true fan" = "creepy zealot stalker" then I agree.

I love Pink Floyd's music, I would describe myself as a true fan of their work, but still I wouldn't make a payment in advance for something they hadn't created yet. I'm sure there are people who would pay up front, but I'm talking about Pink Floyd here...

My opinion is that this model depends on irrational people who are desperate to engage with their "hero". The kind of adulation that makes people pay money to engage with you isn't about the art any more, it's one step away from stalking.

I think if you're already famous enough to get the attention of these types of people, you're already rich enough that you don't need the attention.

I'll watch with interest though, Ctein might just prove me wrong!

Another experiment in artistic business models that's being tried: novels by subscription. I know Diane Duane has been doing one, for example. I believe subscribers get earlier access, and the price comes out to a normal book price in the end. The book is available to non-paying readers later.

John Camp talks about "serious talent" showing, and serious talents he hasn't even heard of yet commanding $100k-$250k for new works, and then asks if somebody will pay $100/year for a talent he recognizes as minor? In that form, it seems to me, the question answers itself -- I can't conceivably buy work by his "serious talents", they're completely out of my price range. Whatever original art I own will, on his terms, be by minor talents. If in fact "serious talent" reliably commands the prices he mentions, then this must be true for the vast majority of us reading this blog!

Furthermore, it's likely that most of the work I like best will be by people he considers minor talents. And that this is true of most people. His tastes are probably more educated and more mainstream than mine, but in fact the vast majority of people have *uneducated* artistic tastes, and like things often not to the taste of connoisseurs.

Stuart, how do you feel about subscribing to a magazine or a newsletter? Or do you insist on browsing every issue at the newsstand before you commit to buying?

To confuse "true fan" of an artist's work, as "creepy zealot stalker", seems rather twisted.

An artist develops a style and quality of work over time that is immediately recognizable by a person. There is a credibility or not in the expression.

A true fan would be one who identifies with the ongoing style and quality, "statement", in the artist's work, and wishes to see and feel more of the artist's work in the future. The fan responds to the work and would be sad if the artist would stop producing work.

As an artist myself I know people who follow my work, attend shows regularly, buy my work and communicate with me about how my work affects them. I have never felt stalked by them or that they were creepy or zealots. Art is supposed to cause a response in the viewer, or it isn't expressing to that viewer. If a viewer feels it and wishes to feel it again, then they might become a true fan.

To pervert that beautiful interaction as something "creepy" or "stalker" is unbelievable in its misunderstanding of what art does in the world.


It seems to me this is simply a subscription model applied to future artistic output. People are willing to subscribe to magazines and, more specifically, art photography magazines, so why not the photographic output itself?

(In answer to my own question, there would have to be a balance between the cost of subscription and the perceived value of the output. I'd also want some assurance that the output would be real rather than hoped-for. Fair or not, artists as a group are not known for being reliable and businesslike.)

As I posted earlier in this thread, I think this "1000 fan club idea" is an interesting idea, personally I think in order for the "photographer's 1000 fan club" idea to work, if there was such a thing, that maybe a be a website could be set up, in which each photographer's past work and a written profile could be displayed, so that the "fan" could get to know who the artist/photographer is, also what the "fan" would get in return for their pre-determined donation amount, probably a print of a certain size. The donation could be a pre-determined amount from $10 or $100 or maybe even more depending on what level the artist is at, at the end of the year the the photographer/artist would post his or her best work and the "fan" would get to chose their favourite print. It might be kind of interesting to anticipate from the "fan's" perspective what they would get at the end of the year.

Dear folks,

Now that this conversation is winding down, I'd like to introduce a few "course corrections" (I didn't want to seem to be trying to steer the discussion).

First, this business of major versus minor talent has been miscast. People have been talking about it as if there is a uniformity of taste, and that the difference between the two is that everyone likes a major talent a lot and everyone likes a minor talent a little. I would put it to you that that is erroneous: the difference is that a lot of people really like the major talent and only a few people really like a minor talent. If nobody really likes a minor talent, they don't even qualify as a "talent." They're entirely off the radar.

In the music field, there are innumerable minor talents who can fill clubs and small halls. And make no mistake, the dozens to hundreds of people who come to hear them really, really like them. Add up the cost of travel, cover charge, drink minimum (if any), and the time spent going to the performance, and that's a pretty serious investment. At least compared to buying a CD or downloading a song from iTunes. These people have fans. They even have True Fans. (Whether they have enough to support them is highly questionable.)

There is no musical talent out there who everybody likes. I would opine that there is not even a musical talent out there who the majority of music listeners like (all music listeners, all genres). In photography, the difference between me and Ansel Adams is that Ansel Adams has an awful lot of people who really, really like him, and I have many fewer people who really, really like me. But we both have people who do, and we also both have people of indisputable good taste who do not like our respective works.

The question for any artist is whether you can make a living off of the people who do like your work, but you have to cast the question properly.

And in that vein: the following is NOT a viable business plan: "make something good and you will make money." Making good art does not mean you will make good money. Making a good widget does not mean you will make good money. Making a good ANYTHING does not mean you will make good money. It's an excellent precondition, but unless you have a mechanism that brings your product to people's attention AND convinces them that they want to buy it, you will go broke, unless you're one of the handful of fortunate few who happen to luck out. (And there are people who luck out, but they are far from the norm.)

As I said in the original article (and too many people glossed over this point): X people will not give you Y dollars without being given a good reason.

And the source of that reason is usually sales and marketing efforts. Another unfortunate fact of life is that most people are very poor at doing sales and marketing (I was going to say most artists, but then I realized it's true of everybody). It requires both a skill set and an attitude that most people lack, and among the ones who can learn it, most of them wouldn't enjoy doing it. (For the record, I am mediocre at it and I definitely don't enjoy it. The reality is that that void in my skill set has more to do with my lack of artistic success than anything else.)

As I said, 1KTF is a concept. It's not a business plan. It's definitely not a way to get rich quick. (The only way I know of to get rich quick is to come into a large trust when you turn 21.)

Sorry to sound like too much of a wet blanket, but it makes me nervous when people start waxing philosophical and theoretical about business, unless they want to lose their shirts.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

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