How small do you want to be?

No one, and I mean NO ONE, has ever grown a larger audience as a result of a crowdfunding campaign or presence on Patreon, it’s just a way to milk your already existing fans for more money. And it’s fine if you like the cash, but don’t delude yourself into thinking your impact is growing, in fact it’s declining.

Same deal with Substack, all the hoopla about charging for newsletters. There are fewer than one hand’s worth that reach as many…as even I do. Yet, they get all this press. They have an inherently limited audience, and if it’s about the message, which it should be, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. As with the freemium model.

Come on, Jay Z did an album with Samsung, he got paid, but the exclusive meant most of the public never heard it and it went straight into the dumper. In a world where your goal is to have impact and power, why would you put up a wall? And if you’re focusing on business model first, you’ve forgotten the law of all the startups of the past twenty years… They focused on excellence, building an audience, and then they figured out how to monetize. If it’s just about money, why don’t you open a hardware store… Oops, scratch that, you can’t compete with the big boxes, but there are a hell of a lot easier ways to make bank than as an artist. And no matter what Gene Simmons says, there’s not an artist alive whose deepest desire is not to reach more people, it always supersedes money, ALWAYS!

Everything’s upside down, and most people have no perspective. The arts are about POWER! Sure, there are a handful of performers making good money, but nowhere near as much as the techies or the bankers, and most artists’ commercial peaks are short, their revenue goes down, then again there’s no barrier to entry, anybody can do it, but that brings out the worst, try listening to the millions of Spotify tracks with fewer than ten plays, you’ll shoot yourself!

Meanwhile, Patreon is run by Jack Conte, who used to be half of Pomplamoose. He’s now telling creators to do what he couldn’t, i.e. make money from his art, even though Pomplamoose was actually pretty good, and very innovative with its marketing. If you want to make money, follow Jack’s lead, get out of the creative sphere completely, sell tools! Kinda like those people selling shovels and tents during the gold rushes, they’re the ones who made all the money.

And why even put forth the illusion there’s any value to what you’re doing. OnlyFans is much better than Patreon, just put up nude pictures. And you’d be stunned how many women are doing this, they’re all over Reddit and other social media platforms trolling for bucks. And the truth is almost none of them are making money, it’s a buyers market. So, Patreon really only works if you’ve already got an audience, and now your plan is to limit it, because Patreon’s model is you provide exclusive content, and once it’s no longer freely available…

As for all the writers leaving publications for Substack… Did you notice that Ezra Klein left Vox for the “New York Times”? Ezra started Vox, but it just didn’t work, he was at a major paper previously, the “Washington Post,” and now he’s gone back. Same deal with Kara Swisher, she started her own company Recode with old “Wall Street Journal” friends and then jumped to the “Times,” where she has much more impact.

In a Tower of Babel world, you want to be on the platform with the most impact. Which is why all the holdouts eventually went on the iTunes Store and then Spotify. Why limit your audience?

Sure, there are a few stars. But they’re very few. Andrew Sullivan was going it alone and had a limited audience, then he went to “New York” and had a guaranteed income and reached many more. Sure, he was fired from “New York” for his views, but now he’s got an independent newsletter and I ask you…other than reading how much money he is making doing it, has anybody talked about his content recently? No!

Do you know how hard it is to reach people these days, to build an audience, NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE! Conte left Pomplamoose to build Patreon, and his other half in life and music, Nataly Dawn, continued making music under her own name…to crickets! People knew Pomplamoose, not Nataly Dawn, she was almost starting all over!

If you’re not paying attention, right now there’s a fight over the future and soul of newspapers. Does “Tribune” sell to Alden, which maintains its margins until extinction, i.e. cuts costs, i.e. reporters and more, until there’s nothing left and then they throw it away, or do you sell to someone who wants to maintain the newsroom, hopefully invest money in head count. The “Washington Post” was in a slide to irrelevance and then Jeff Bezos came along and bought it and invested money in it and it is now solidly in the big three, i.e. the “Times,” the “Wall Street Journal” and itself. Meanwhile, have you been reading about the “Journal”? Behind a paywall with aged readers it is sliding into irrelevance, so they commissioned a study talking about changes necessary to interest the younger generation and women and what did the publisher do…IGNORE IT!  God, we saw this in the music business, if you think the ball doesn’t move, hopefully you’ve got enough money to retire, because you’re gonna be gone soon.

You want to be on the platform with the most eyeballs. The “Times” heavily promotes its podcasts. What do you know, listenership is high, the “Daily” is almost always in the top five. That’s the power of the platform. And speaking of the platform, Nate Silver decamped from the “Times” to his own site, which ESPN/ABC/Disney is trying to sell, but no one will pony up the bucks, and now he’s barely relevant, never mind miscalling election after election.

There was a time when you went independent and built… BUT THAT WAS ALMOST TWENTY YEARS AGO! Now you want to be with the platform, to give you a leg up, to give you visibility.

As for charging, limiting your audience… I make much more money than I did when I charged. Because of forwardability! There’s no friction online, if you like something, you send it on, and that leads to more subscribers and further opportunities for me! And I make more money than just about all the people selling their newsletters, as their revenue goes down, because old customers fall off and new customer acquisition is so damn expensive. But since the people writing about Substack, etc., are in the news business, writing for these publications, they can’t see the forest for the trees, they’re just wondering whether there’s money for them. 

Come on, Jim Fusilli was the music critic for the “Wall Street Journal” forever, I haven’t seen his name in years since he left the paper. The platform has the power, not him! Same deal with radio and streaming platforms, radio can survive quite well without Morgan Wallen, these platforms don’t need any act, they survive and thrive anyway.

Never forget, it’s not about the crumbs. If you’re going for the crumbs, you’re thinking too small, and to make it as an artist you’ve got to think big, VERY BIG! You’ve got to go for the whole enchilada, not just a bite. And you have to maximize your options. Come on, rappers put out free mixtapes, gave it away for free on Soundcloud, and now hip-hop dominates streaming platforms. Rock is a joke, rockers are still demonizing streaming. If someone moves your cheese you go where it went, otherwise you STARVE!

Turns out most people chronicling the game have not idea what it is, never mind how it’s played. At best they’ve been trained in their vertical. But if you hang with the truly powerful, who are oftentimes rich, it’s a better lesson than any college class ever, because they can see the entire landscape, they’re two steps ahead of the other insiders, and so far ahead of the hoi polloi that they’re ultimately unreachable. If I write about anybody in the world, ANYBODY, they read it. They might not like it, they might not ever read anything I write ever again, but they know who I am and they’re aware of my message, never mind those who like my message and spread it further. Could any of this happen if I went behind a paywall…OF COURSE NOT!

Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. If you’re not willing to starve in pursuit of all the marbles, stop right now, you’re doing it wrong. Sure, you can survive on the crumbs of gigs at local performance spaces and in hospitals, if you like it, more power to you, but never ever confuse yourself with the people dominating the conversation. Dream of being big enough to become a platform yourself, while you’re tying in with other platforms, making your wares easily accessible to all.

Kinda like Spotify. Turns out the old people making it before the internet… Most people don’t want to listen to their music, they want to hear that of the stars, not those propped up by the labels who never hit. But the oldsters can’t accept their fate, refuse to reinvent themselves, meanwhile the young wankers glom on to their legion of complaints, and the powerful become more powerful.

Distribution is king, NEVER EVER FORGET IT! You never want to limit your distribution, NEVER EVER! So go behind a paywall at your peril.

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