I’m a supporter of MaximumFun.org (I religiously follow at least 3 of their podcasts, and dip into many of the others for a listen here and there). I absolutely love this explanation of their business model and, frankly, am evaluating it as a possible method for my own distribution. I love the idea of, “We are going to make things that we think are awesome. If you think they’re awesome, too, we’d love it if you could help us continuing to make them.” It’s not a model that depends on iTunes downloads, Spotify plays, or anything like that—it’s a way for the frands and the creator to have a relationship, and for the amazing people who like the content to be truly involved in its creation, knowing that every time they listen to a song, they get to think, “This is because of me!”
I have a lot of new and exciting things coming down the pipeline that I can’t wait to announce when they are ready. Some of it will take inspiration from this model, some of it will still rely on old-fashioned distribution.
But the fact of the matter is that “Nothing Left to Lose” (my charity track for which all income, for all time, will be donated toward causes fighting eating disorders) raised $2,700. In one week. Despite the fact that anyone could stream it for free, and all anyone needed to pay was $1. Yes, it was for charity, and that’s an entirely different proposition than what essentially amounts to paying an artist so that he/she has time and flexibility to keep creating as much and as often as possible. But, still, it shows that, given a legitimate reason, people will rally behind something as simple as a pop song about struggling with an eating disorder.
It’s all extremely interesting, it all requires a great deal more processing and thinking on my part (luckily, my brain never shuts up and at least 60% of its thinking power is always focused on music), but there are signs here that a new business model, one that relies on a direct and close relationship with the frands, could potentially be possible. And as an artist who makes a really big effort to connect personally to as many people as possible who listen to my music, that’s what I want. I don’t want to put out albums/singles/EPs to get rich, I’m not looking to become famous, or even Internet-famous. At the end of the day, I just want to make cool music and cool videos that people enjoy, and I want to know who those people are, and want them to feel personally invested in the art, because, without them, it wouldn’t exist.
This is rambly, this is stream-of-consciousness writing, and this is 100% just me thinking aloud (thinking a-type? thinking a-write?), and there are probably 8 million things that I haven’t considered yet. But that’s the way that things happen—they start out as ludicrous ideas (“Hey! I know! I’ll make an alt-country EP!”), and then can turn into something cool. All I know is that I have a lot more thinking to do on the subject. And all I can say is to stay tuned, because there are some announcements coming that aren’t entirely unrelated to this post.
Always 100% serious when I say that I can never possibly express all of my gratitude to you all, Matt
Folks ask me sometimes why I’ve chosen to make my podcast network MaximumFun.org donation-supported. I thought I’d try and explain.
First of all, I think that our talent and producers deserve to be paid for their efforts. All of our folks are professionals, doing very high-level work. It’s work that frankly couldn’t be produced if it was just a hobby for them. I think they should get paid for it. Plain and simple.
Secondly: this isn’t a farm team. I don’t think that because it’s on the internet, or because it doesn’t have pictures, podcasting should be a way to “increase your profile” and improve your earning potential in other ventures. Some podcasters may work in fields where a podcast might increase their consulting fees, or their appearance fees. That’s great for them. I am a broadcaster, and so are my colleagues at maximumfun.org. This is what we do.
So, how to get people paid?
Most of our shows have audiences in the tens of thousands. That’s more than most podcasts, but rarely is it enough to generate significant advertising revenue. The truth is that advertisers as a whole are uncomfortable with podcasts, and generally disinterested in audiences which don’t number in the millions. If our shows were specialty programs - say “The Hardware Hour” - we could sell specialty ads - to Hammers, Inc. They’re not. Ads are part of the pie for us, but they’re just not enough.
Furthermore, I don’t want to depend on ads. We have some ads at MaxFun, but we work very hard to keep them appropriate and brief. When a deal is offered to us that we don’t like, we turn it down. The average hour of network TV has 16 minutes of ads. For talk radio, it’s more like 18-20. I don’t want to put out “content” that’s 1/3 advertisements, designed to make you feel like there’s a consumption-sized hole in your life. I can see how the need to create a consumption-friendly environment drives ad-supported media. I don’t really want to be dependent on that money. I care too much about what we’re making.
I also don’t want to withhold my work from anyone. Like any content creator, I want people to hear what I have to say, and to share my work as broadly as possible. And as a guy with no marketing budget, I want to make it as easy as possible for people to try my product. I also know that it’s easy to steal content on the internet if that’s the choice you want to make. I prefer simply to make our work free and openly accessible to all.
I don’t think we’re “begging” or running a charity. I think that we’re offering something valuable to people, and they’re paying for it. They happen to do so voluntarily, which I think is wonderful. Even in the height of the MaxFunDrive, our requests for donations take up about half the time that ads take up on commercial talk radio. We try to keep our message simple: if you like this, pay for it. We have no stick, only a carrot. We’re not going to take the shows away, we are offering the chance to feel great that you supported work that enriches your life.
It was never my dream to be an administrator. I don’t relish fundraising. I do want to make great work and help my friends and colleagues make great work. That takes money.
So that’s where I’m at. I’m grateful to all the people who make our work part of their lives, and to the thousands who make it part of their household budgets. Seriously: you rule.
So, I was listening to this podcast the other day where John Hodgman said something interesting. He has a new special coming out on Netflix on June 20th, and he told everyone (paraphrased), “If you’re a fan of what I’m doing, all I ask is that at the very least, you go on Netflix, push play, and walk away. I’d love it if you sat and watched it, but the best way to make sure I’m able to keep making things is to make sure it gets played on Netflix.” He went on to emphasize how important it is for independent content creators to tell people the easy ways to help them monetize what they make.
So, let me tell you what I do, and let me offer the suggestion that you do it, too. I buy a lot of albums, especially of friends/compatriots in the independent music scene. But when I listen to their music, I almost always use Spotify, rather than playing from my phone’s memory or in iTunes. Why? Because, in addition to the money they received from my album purchase, they get a small amount every time their music is streamed. And every stream puts them higher on Spotify’s radar. It makes no difference to me how I listen to the music, so if I can help a bit by listening through Spotify, putting a few extra cents in their coffers, and promoting them (by posting my history to Facebook, my Spotify followers)… why not?
That’s a (as one expect from me) really longwinded saying: even if you own the album, try to listen to our records on a streaming service. It’s a tiny thing, and hopefully no inconvenience to you at all, but it offers us some small help, and we’d all appreciate it.