Both of the stories behind yesterday's pair of posts are getting more commentary. Here are a couple quickies and thoughts to go with them:
Michael Marotta writes for the Phoenix on Palmer's choice to skip the major-label route. The Phoenix, being Boston's alternative paper, was one of the first media outlets to notice and publicize Palmer and the Dresden Dolls. Thus, she writes them from time to time.
In her letter this time she points out that even though the Kickstarter has blown the roof off its fundraising goal that still only represents a few thousand fans. Any major-label release that sold that few copies would be considered a flop, and the artist would make no money, never mind that a major label couldn't possibly manage to put out the kind of complex multi-pronged project that Palmer is fundraising for.
In response to yesterday's post, Luis Cruz asked the question of how well this model would work for someone who isn't already established with a fan base. It's a fair and unfair question at the same time. The answer is we don't really know - there are thousands of people trying to find their way through Kickstarter, maxing out their credit cards, busking, playing open mic nights, etc. A few will make it via each of these routes but most won't. But they don't have a lot of alternatives - the number of acts that will make it via the major-label last-century model is also minuscule.
Each year we see a few creative types that seem to break out (Jonathan Coulton, Felicia Day, etc.) and each has a unique path to present success. There doesn't seem to be a good general model, but I think we're starting to see certain elements in common. For example, intense fan service, a hawk eye on the business details, and a willingness to roll with the punches and adapt all seem to be necessary ingredients. Palmer's success didn't come overnight - Dresden Dolls formed in 2000 I think - which means she's busted ass for over a decade now. What she's doing now would not have been possible in 2000 but that says more about the Internet age than about Palmer.
On the Microsoft/B&N partnership, the blog entry by Tobias Buckell is typical of the reactions I'm seeing. Buckell's point, which I think is spot-on, is that this is not at all about a Windows 8 Nook. It's about the merging of two software ecosystems and the possibilities that opens up. And also that neither big entity seems to have concrete plans for how that's going to happen. Hell, they couldn't even figure out a real final name for their joint venture. This makes me think the whole thing was rushed and not necessarily well thought-out.
Above I mentioned "rolling with the punches." In particular I think a key element of this is being willing to re-invent one's self-conception. Day moved from doing standard television shows to running her own YouTube channel. Palmer has always had theatrical elements as part of her musical acts, but lately she's added spoken word, poetry, and art/photography. What makes me doubt that the MS/B&N merger will work is that I can't see either company pivoting quickly enough to re-imagine themselves in new ways. But a big bankroll buys you a lot, not least of it time, so I'm not willing to write them off entirely just yet.