I first learned of Jonathan Coulton a couple of years ago when “Code Monkey” was playing on XM Satellite Radio. Then I started reading about his “Thing A Week” program, where he released a new song every week for a year. These elements plus what sounds like a rather arduous tour schedule has put Mr. Coulton at the top of the indie singer/songwriter scene, to the point where he was cited recently on NPR’s Planet Money podcast for having earned something in the neighborhood of a half-million dollars from his music in 2010. Not bad for a guy with a guitar and laptop.
In his own response to the NPR reporting, Coulton took issue with some of the points, like the part that compared him to a Snuggie, and whether or not the way he run his business might be applicable to other musicians trying to build a business in the digital firmament. In comments posted to Hypebot, he makes these observations:
[because of the internet]… We now have an entirely new set of contexts and they come with a whole new set of tools that give us cheap and easy access to all of them – niche has gone mainstream. It is no longer necessary to organize your business or your art around geography, or storage space, or capital, or what’s cool in your town, or any other physical constraint. And this is not to say that anyone can become a moderately successful rockstar just by starting a blog – success is still going to be a rare and miraculous thing, as it has always been. There are just a lot more ways to get there than there used to be, and people are finding new ones every day.
Whether or not Coulton’s “business model” can be applied more broadly to other artists, there is still a lot to learn from how he has found a way to prosper amid the shifting tides.
But if that’s not really interesting to you, just watch the video: