You have created art to move, inspire, connect, rebel. Why ever it is that anyone might create a piece of art.
For a moment I will ask you to take the word commerce out of your artistic equation. Don’t worry, I’ll get back to it. But, for right now we are going to focus on that thing you felt compelled to produce; your art. Does your art mean anything to you? Do you want people to at least have the opportunity to experience your art? Are you making art that you would like to share with any portion of humanity, no matter how small? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of those questions then why not build a museum.
A public museum. One of the oldest distribution platforms for art. It has evolved over the years, but let’s say the art museum is this: a public place for the people to experience art.
Location, Location, Location. Now since The Internet is the busiest street in the world. Roughly 1.7 billion people walk down it every day. That’s where you’re going to build your museum. Your museum is going to be accessible to people everywhere all of the time. And your museum is going to present you art exactly the way you decide. I’ve heard statements before about: how the label did this or the studio did that. Complaints about how some outside force altered or even ruined an artistic vision. Well, with the personalized museum model those problems are solved. You are the label and you are the studio.
Your museum is a simply your art in a public place. It is any online distribution mechanism you utilize to allow people to experience your art. The catch is your going to let them experience it for free…kinda. When you go to a museum, even a public one, there is usually an entrance fee. For our museum analogy that entrance fee is the price a person pays each month for internet access. It’s a good deal for them. For one low price they get access to millions of museums. But, just like some museums, there is an extra price for certain special exhibits, an IMAX movie perhaps. That is a paid subscription site.
But, let’s say you haven’t built that type of reputation yet. You paid to build your museum and anyone can access your museum by paying the general internet entrance fee. Everyone is welcome in your museum. They can watch, listen, download, share, link, remix, mash-up/down and sideways. As a matter of fact, there’s only one thing visitors are not allowed to do with your art, make money. That’s because you haven’t made any money yet. It’s a Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike Museum.
Any money associated with the your art is going to come to you. You see this museum that you’ve built has a gift shop. It’s a nice gift shop that you have created to allow people to participate in your process. Your gift shop allows people that are moved, inspired or otherwise impacted by your art, to connect your art with their lives. It might have CD’s, DVD’s, T-Shirts, Mugs, Prints, Licensing, advertising opportunities, etc. It is a place for anyone who WANTS to buy in to your art.
The gift shop is where you make your money. But you had to earn it as an artist by creating something that impacted at least one person. When you walk out of any museum there is a gift shop. In that gift shop are various items that in someway connect with the original works. People only buy in to the art that they liked. I like Dancers at the Bar by Degas, I did not like Girl with a Hoop by Renoir. Guess which one I’m going to invest my money in? Why does Renoir deserve any money from me? To me, he failed at his job as an artist. Art is wholly subjective. That subjectivity is bound to find it’s way into the commercialization if that art. The question is, do you want to control that commercialization?
Before YouTube and Ask A NInja and Lonely Girl 15, there was Homestar Runner (I know there was lots of stuff before them, but I’m using them as my example). The animated series has been running online for nearly 10 years and is still going strong. HSR has massive fanbase who pay the creators very respectable money year after year through buying merchandise from their store. The show is free and available to anyone online to watch in full. The website is not supported by a label or a studio in any way and have actually turned down several very lucrative offers. The reason? They figured the perfect formula, artists connecting with fans directly. As an artist they present their art to me as best they can. As a fan I know that every dollar I spend in their store goes directly to the artist.
You earn by entertaining and inspiring. If you truly want to express yourself through art, open a museum. Put your art out there for anyone to look at and listen to. Maybe you’re searching for a thousand true fans. Maybe you only need one fan to be satisfied. Maybe you want to take over the world. If you ignore the opportunity to personally control how your fans can pay you, recognize that that is a choice you have made.
Not everyone will pay you. Truthfully, most of the people that come to the museum will pay you nothing for your art. They might not like it. They might be only mildly impacted by it, but certainly not in way that makes them want to incorporate it into their lives. But, the folks that do want to support and engage with you, want the money they spend to come to you. People don’t buy U2 albums because they love Universal Music Group, LLC. They buy it because they love U2. There is no reason that you cannot or should not connect your art to a revenue stream. I don’t care what you do with the income, but I really think it’s best if you have it. You. The artist.