Advent of the Insurgent Creative, Day Eight: Bandcamp

One for the musicians this time around. Music production is one of the many things that I dabble around in, although I haven’t taken the time to do so in far too long (well over a year at this point — I need to get on that). Once I get back to it, however, I’m going to be availing myself of Bandcamp, which I discovered through Amanda Fucking Palmer, who regularly releases content through it.

Bandcamp is a website that allows musicians to sell music and merchandise directly to their fans. It doesn’t distribute your music to sites like iTunes or Amazon (there are other services which do that, which I’ll cover before the end of this series), but handles order processing for direct sales (as well as digital delivery — delivery of physical merchandise is handled by you, as described here). You upload your graphics, your files (in lossless format: AIFF, for example), your metadata, etc., and Bandcamp handles the rest.

This video gives a brief overview of the service:


Best of all, the service is FREE. Bandcamp makes its money by taking a 15% revenue share of all sales (in addition to payment processing fees of between 4 and 6% — all of which is described in their pricing FAQ). The free account gives you access to a staggering list of features, including: multiple download formats, name-your-price downloads, sharing tools, Facebook integration, custom domains and more.

Best of all for the Insurgent Creative musician, Bandcamp gives you real-time statistics on all customers, where your music is being linked and shared, what’s being downloaded and when, what tracks are popular, what search engine terms are being used to find your music, etc. — allowing you to access to all of this data which truly enables you in building your fan base and engaging with them (which, as I’ve hopefully driven into the ground by now, is absolutely crucial for the Insurgent Creative model). CwF + RtB = $$$, right? — Bandcamp offers a direct connection, and makes it much easier for you to offer reasons to buy.

Storm the gates!

Advent of the Insurgent Creative, Day Seven –

I know what you’re thinking. “Webcomics? I don’t make a webcomic. NEXT!” You’re making a big mistake, though.

The book pictured at right, How To Make Webcomics by Brad Guigar, Dave Kellet, Scott Kurtz and Kris Straub, is not about what you think it might be. What I initially dismissed as another “how to draw” book is actually written from the point of view that the reader *already* knows that stuff, and instead focuses on development, planning, site design, community creation and management — in other words, the nuts and bolts of making a living as an Insurgent Creative. The lessons are much more widely applicable than just for webcomic creators, and are worth a look from anybody looking to make a living through digital delivery of entertainment products.

Brad Guigar (co-author of the book, and creator of the webcomic Evil, Inc.), with regular contributions from Scott Kurtz (PvP) and others, runs a website — WebComics.Com, which is a subscription-based premium service filled with massive amounts of advice as well. The subscription price is $30 per year — which is, in my opinion, well worth it, even if you don’t produce a webcomic. The yearly subscription rate more than pays for itself, just in the membership benefits alone, which include:

Aside from the benefits of discounts, the membership subscription gives you access to the archives, the locked members-only content, a private forum, etc. There’s plenty there for any Insurgent Creative to use. For example, just taking elements from the current “Hot” list, there’s a two-part Q&A with Robert Khoo, Director of Business Development for Penny Arcade (you might have heard of him via his role as the Show Director for PAX). This is just the first of a series of Q&As that Khoo has undertaken for the site, currently totally over 60 in-depth questions on various aspects of business development for creatives.

This illustrates an important lesson for Insurgent Creatives — instead of focusing on your particular field, look at what others are doing in their particular niches, and think about how you can apply the things they’ve learned. The old cliché for this is “thinking outside of the box”… and “outside the box” is where the Insurgent Creative thrives.

Storm the gates.

Advent of the Insurgent Creative, Day Six: Fans, Friends & Followers

Today I was going to talk about how to build a fanbase, which, as I’ve mentioned before, is absolutely critical to a successful career as an Insurgent Creative. As I began to take notes on my advice, however, I realized very quickly that I was pretty much just re-stating things that I’d learned elsewhere. So, I figured that I’d just point you in the direction of the source.

Fan, Friends & Followers: Building an Audience and Creative Career in the Digital Age is a book by Scott Kirsner (writer for the Boston Globe, Fast Company, Wired and more). It features 30 interviews with various creatives, all centered around the idea of new gatekeeper-free business models. The interviews were conducted in 2008/2009, but most of the advice presented is still applicable.

You can download a PDF sample of the book at the above-linked website. It’s also available for order from Amazon (in print, or as a Kindle edition).

I was introduced to this book when Scott Kirsner did a presentation at South By Southwest in 2010. That same year, he did a similar presentation (although more detailed — twice as long — more of a workshop) for the Bay Area Video Coalition, who recorded it and posted it to Youtube in two parts:

There’s a lot to go through there — two hours of video, a 200-page book. But again, there is perhaps no other factor more important to operating without gatekeepers. Ironically, it’s even become important to creatives operating with traditional gatekeepers: At the same SXSW where I heard Kirsner speak, I attended another panel discussion on the future of publishing, where representatives of the big publishing houses said that they were most interested now in authors that (in the buzzword-y parlance of the field) “come with tribe.” In other words, authors who brought a pre-existing audience along with them. Of course, the obvious question here is: If an author already has an audience, why do they need the big publishing houses?

Storm the gates.