Mathew Ingram sees a new trend among disparate artists and writers:
In many ways, conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan and alternative musician Amanda Palmer couldn’t be more different: the former writes about the Obama administration and the intricacies of U.S. foreign policy, while the latter is the former lead singer of a punk band called The Dresden Dolls and sports hand-painted eyebrows, among other things. Their approach to their respective businesses, however — in both cases a very personal form of publishing — are similar in one crucial way: they succeed or fail based on how well they connect with and serve their fans. Is this the future of media? … Fans don’t want content, they want a relationship.
When I read this, the first thing that came to mind was the “pay what you want” music experiments of bands like Radiohead and Girl Talk, both of whom asked their fans to pay for songs that they could have easily downloaded for free, and got millions of dollars in response. Why did fans do this? Because they wanted to support those artists, not because they wanted music for free — just as readers who want to support Sullivan probably don’t care that they can get the content free via an RSS reader (Note: Sullivan will be discussing his new approach at our paidContent Live conference on April 17 in New York).
The Kickstarter campaign that Amanda Palmer ran last year to raise funds for a new album and a national tour falls into the same category (as does comedian Louis CK’s method of going direct to his fans to sell a concert tour): after quitting a deal with a traditional record label, Palmer initially wanted to raise $100,000 to fund her recording. Instead, she collected 10 times that amount, or more than $1 million. And the reason why her fans wanted to donate all of that money has very little to do with their desire to get an album, or even to see her perform.