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NYT Magazine on Coulton, Hold Steady, and "Artist 2.0"

Sex, Drugs and Updating Your Blog

Fun story by Clive Thompson in today's New York Times Magazine about what some people are coming to call "Artist 2.0" (or "Music 2.0") -- the post-plastic-disc world of musicians like Jonathan Coulton and The Hold Steady, who are actively engaging with their fans and not relying on the old school "spray and pray" approach to music marketing that's still in practice by the majors and their foundering artistic properties.

Selected quotes from Clive's article (plus clickable video of my interviews with Jonathan Coulton):

More than 3,000 people, on average, were visiting his site every day, and his most popular songs were being downloaded as many as 500,000 times; he was making what he described as “a reasonable middle-class living” — between $3,000 and $5,000 a month — by selling CDs and digital downloads of his work on iTunes and on his own site...

Coulton realized he could simply poll his existing online audience members, find out where they lived and stage a tactical strike on any town with more than 100 fans, the point at which he’d be likely to make $1,000 for a concert. It is a flash-mob approach to touring: he parachutes into out-of-the-way towns like Ardmore, Pa., where he recently played to a sold-out club of 140....

In total, 41 percent of Coulton’s income is from digital-music sales, three-quarters of which are sold directly off his own Web site. Another 29 percent of his income is from CD sales; 18 percent is from ticket sales for his live shows. The final 11 percent comes from T-shirts, often bought online...

I also like how Clive highlighted the challenges of maintaining a virtual relationship with hundreds or thousands of people. And, I'll bet a lot of bands would love to get their hands on the "software robot" that helps The Hold Steady speed up the tedious process of adding new "friends" to their MySpace.

Really good article. Nice work, as always, Clive.

In our recent interviews (part 1 and part 2) for The Merlin Show, Jonathan Coulton addressed some of these issues as well as discussing many of the other challenges and joys of working on your own and outside the system. Very inspiring fellow.

The Merlin Show 002: Interview: Jonathan Coulton, Part 1

Part 1 Show Notes »

The Merlin Show 007: Interview: Jonathan Coulton, Part 2

Part 2 Show Notes »

About Merlin

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Merlin Mann is an independent writer, speaker, and broadcaster. He’s best known for being the guy who created the website you’re reading right now. He lives in San Francisco, does lots of public speaking, and helps make cool things like You Look Nice Today, Back to Work, and Kung Fu Grippe. Also? He’s writing this book, he lives with this face, he suffers from this hair, he answers these questions, and he’s had this life. So far.

Merlin’s favorite thing he’s written in the past few years is an essay entitled, “Cranking.”




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