How To Transcend the Starving Artist Cliche

There’s a shift in consumer culture that is starting to value experiences over possessions. A desire for authentic experiences amidst a reality that is increasingly manufactured and contrived. And a desperate yearning for human experiences within a digital world. Or is it just me?

This scenario places artists and creative types with an opportunity to not only turn a crust, but to thrive.

There was a time a while back when purchasing a CD of your favourite band was immensely satisfying. Supersharp digital mastering, a mini booklet, elegantly presented in a plastic case. What more could you ask for?

But with the rise of file sharing, the CD copped a life-threateing blow. It dawned on consumers that the CD as a delivery mechanism was soulless, inconvenient, and poor value.

While the record companies cried poor and went on the attack, the smart artists built their own delivery mechanisms: Selling their product to consumers directly, and a resurgence of playing live.

Art as a boxed up commodity just didn’t cut it. Consumers wanted to participate, and to experience the art in a unique, individualised setting: a gig, a festival, to blog about their experiences, access rare recordings, remix the material etc.

Now we’re moving to the next level:

Consumers or fans want to be involved and connected to the process of the artist, they want to be involved in the creation of the art, and in some cases be the subject of the art. They want to form partnership arrangements with the artists. They want to go on a journey with the artists.

Here’s some scenarios in which I can see artists and creative types using to build relationships with audiences:

Membership: You don’t just buy a CD, you buy a subscription to the artist’s creative output. You are the first to be alerted to when new material is released.

Special Access: You don’t just receive the official products, you also receive access to sketches, works in progress, abandoned work, diary entries, speical events.

Community: You don’t just receive a product, but entree into a community of people who value similar work. This may occur through membership websites, forums etc.

Patronage: A revisiting of the days when Royalty and Gentry would financially back artists to capture their lives, or be in their proximity. In a world in which a sizable group of people are bored by what they can aquire materially, the prospect of building a studio in the back yard of your mansion for an artist to have a residency may be the next frontier.

Shares: Buy a work of art before it exists, at as reduced price. The price increases as it grows closer to completion. Get in early and save money like Kogan Live Price

Inner Circle: A small group of highly dedicated followers pay a premium for unprecednted access to the artists time. Check out the premium ticket available at the upcoming 21st Century Education Summit and what you get for $5k.

Group Buying: e.g. a group of old surfing buddies chip in and hire a top surf video director to document their surf weekend away.

Speical Events: Workshops by the artists, events curated by the artist etc

What do you think? Is this nothing short of selling out? Or can it be done with an integrity that allows artists to transcend the starving artist cliche, and build deeper and lasting connections with their audience?

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