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An Internet Rock Star Tells All


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From National Public Radio’s Planet Money:

Jonathan Coulton's songs almost never get played on the radio. He doesn't have a contract with a music label. Yet he's a one man counterargument to the idea that musicians can't make money making music.

In 2010, Coulton's music brought in about $500,000 in revenue. And since his overhead costs are very low, most of that money went straight to him.

Full article plus audio at: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/05/14/136279162/an-internet-rock-star-tells-all

Jonathan Coulton's music (play, purchase, lyrics links) : http://www.jonathancoulton.com/store/downloads/

One of the comments to the NPR article made what I think is a great point:

Dalin Abilene (Dalin)
wrote:

JoCo has been a staple of my listening since I first heard Re Your Brains a few years back. He's not just good. He's VERY good. Singing ability, comedy, musically; he's got it all. So, he's also become a bit of a lightning rod for the self production argument. It used to be that the self published or self released were viewed as a bit of a sad sack because they obviously wouldn't get to publish their stuff any other way. Now, that notion can really start being scrapped. Why work so hard to impress a publisher or producer when you could work that hard to impress your prospective fans instead? I figure, your chances are about even, either way.

Even with talent, ambition and brains, “making it” in any artistic field has always been a crap-shoot; but it looks like the big game might be breaking up and moving to a different table.

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Interesting article Coises, thanks for the link:)

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Or in essence, are we holding up the few lotto winners & trying to convince everyone else that they should be playing too? :001_tongue:

You've got a point there, but then again what are the chances of even a talented musician with all the other things done right (sexy (I mean great personality), huge network of friends and relatives, etc etc) to become the next Lady Gaga or Justin B.? Probably also smaller than getting hit by lightning on the very day you win the lottery?

In other words, 'incredible luck' is always going to play a part, I think - meaning it's more of a lottery than anything else. :)

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  • 3 months later...

I think 'Luck' is definitely a part of it, but I also believe that nothing happens by accident on the internet. As in, if your website isn't attracting fans, it's because you need to change your promotional strategy! Granted, not everyone will be as successful as JoCo, but I think everyone could see a lot of success if they went about it the right way.

Also, 'Code Monkey' is a fantastic song.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The point about finding your niche audience is a good one. There's a lot to latch onto and lots of groups to try and speak to with your music. His song about the tech geek being posted on a tech site is also a very good promotional tactic that illustrates how this can be used to your advantage. Definitely got things to learn from this guy.

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  • Editors

Nice one :) Makes me think a lot about how once John was talking about finding band members suitable to your musical interest. "You keep playing the music that you play and as you get more listeners and as you get more popular,they will come to you".

Its not about the same thing but it just makes me think how much a gamble this could be. You play your music,self publish it and get popular,and once you get so popular that you get a record deal from a big(or any) company,you have to decide if you could get more popular and successful by ACCEPTING it or by doing it all by yourself.

When the journey to such a situation itself seems so far,you wouldnt want it to be not worth it obviously.

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  • 1 month later...

A really nice story. I disagree that it's like "winning the lotto". He didn't just buy a ticket and cross his fingers, he put in a tonne of consistent hard work. To me, hoping to get signed is the lotto ticket option. He worked constantly and learnt all sorts of lessons and probably adjusted and tweaked his strategy as he went along as he started discovering what was working and what wasn't.

He's definitely a talented musician and he's put in the hard yards to make sure that he's not squandering his ability. I find his story very inspirational.

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