Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Women Writing the Future

I refer to Amanda Fucking Palmer and Veronica Mars. Amanda's a singer and Veronica is a fictional detective, but between them they're composing the future of media in huge, sweeping brush strokes.

In Amanda's recent TED talk, 'The Art of Asking', she mentions that her older album sold 25,000 copies, and to the record label that was a failure. It wasn't big enough to be a success and that, frankly, is mind boggling to me. Selling 25,000 albums sounds like a success but to the record company it just wasn't.

Right after that she talked to a fan who gave her ten bucks for a copy he actually burned from a friend. He felt bad and wanted to pay her for it anyway. He didn't have to do it, he didn't have to say anything at all, but he wanted to and that changed everything.

Amanda became the hat in the 'pass the hat' concept. People gave her money for her music. She encourages torrenting, downloading, sharing, but she asks for help because hey, it does cost money and she's gotta eat, pay her band, and stay tricked out in those fabulous punk cabaret costumes.

She freed herself from the bonds of the short-sighted record company and threw herself into the crowd, trusting that they would catch her. Her next album, 'Theatre is Evil', would be funded solely by the fans on kickstarter. It was a historic occasion, would they break her fall or would she crash to the ground?

Her goal was 100,000 dollars and her fans (and I'm one of them) backed her to 1.2 million.

She says that asking makes people nervous and artists don't want to ask for things and that's so true. I'm on the sponsorship committee on my derby team and so it's my job to go out and ask for donations. Support my team. Please. It's hard. It really is. I don't even have soul scorching music to show for it.

Skip ahead a few months.

I watched and adored Veronica Mars as a teenager. Veronica was clever, a modern Nancy Drew and she solved her own problems. But like most clever shows, it got shoe-horned into the category of niche show, one of those cult favorites only the weirdos enjoy and when it was canceled the usual batch of useless petitions went around to save the show in some fashion, and like always, the petitions failed.

Ten years later the show's creator, Rob Thomas, managed to secure permission from Warner Bros. to make a movie. I would've loved to be in the room for that. How did the discussion go? Exactly what words got that result? I'd dearly love to know.

I'm sure you've heard the results.

Veronica Mars made their goal of 2 million dollars in 12 hours. You know why? Because instead of executives looking at demographics or accountant pondering if there was a market, they just asked the fans. They said, "Do you want this to be a thing? Will you put your money where your mouth is?"

A veritable horde of fans raced each other to kickstarter to give their five bucks, ten bucks, fifty bucks- as of right now 1859 of them gave 200 dollars each because they wanted this movie to happen. More than 50,000 people have given 3.3 million dollars in a day and a half. Roll that number around in your mind.

Every so often I go on a rant about region locked content and the occasional difficulty I've had actually, legally, paying for tv shows I like because they haven't got (and might never have) a region 1 release. I know I can watch it on youtube for free. I am not unfamiliar with this concept. I don't want to. I want to pay for it so the people that make the stuff I like get paid and can make more of it.

I'm taking the long view here. I know my pithy contribution to the coffers doesn't actually matter, but when a bunch of people band together to do something, it matters. 'Theatre is Evil' happened and I helped make it happen. It would have happened without me, but it didn't. I helped. I get a warm fuzzy feeling every time I think of that.

So take my money. Do what Amanda says. Ask for help. Don't ask how you can stop piracy (you can't) or get people to pay for this, just ask them to help. Repeat after me.

"Do you want this to be a thing? Will you put your money where your mouth is?"

They'll do it, or they won't. Give the fans the chance to show their love and fund stuff.

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