The webcomics blog about webcomics

In Other, Perhaps Less Breaking News

Then again, who’s to say? At least one person involved in each of these stories think they’re pretty important events, but you aren’t here for a philosophical discussion as to what constitutes “breaking news”.

  • Steve Wolfhard is somebody that you can never talk about too much; his Cat Rackham comics are beautiful and revelatory and sometimes surprisingly intimate. In the latter category is the comic that went up yesterday, referring to the events of Monday, to which only one thing can be said — congratulations to Steven and Leslie, and big ups to MaxFunCon for the assist.
  • God DAMN, Chris Onstad has gone from total Achewood stasis to the sort of weird, crazy-go-nuts stories he produces when at the top of his game in three strips. Ray In Rehab (tentative title) may only be updating every ten days or so, but it’s already showing the potential to be another New Kings of Sapphic Erotica/Lash of Thanatos or North Korean Magical Realism. Well done, mysterious sir.
  • I’ve been waiting to mention the much-discussed experiment in downloadable comedy because I wanted to see raw data on how it all worked; yesterday Mr CK gave us that information. Short version: the disintermediation and lack of DRM surrounding the Louis CK: Live at the Beacon Theater is a success, and bears some instructive lessons for independent creators that seek to make their living by trusting their audience. I found this bit to be particularly telling:

    The show went on sale at noon on Saturday, December 10th. 12 hours later, we had over 50,000 purchases and had earned $250,000, breaking even on the cost of production and website. As of [13 December], we’ve sold over 110,000 copies for a total of over $500,000. Minus some money for PayPal charges etc, I have a profit around $200,000 (after taxes $75.58). This is less than I would have been paid by a large company to simply perform the show and let them sell it to you, but they would have charged you about $20 for the video. They would have given you an encrypted and regionally restricted video of limited value, and they would have owned your private information for their own use. They would have withheld international availability indefinitely. This way, you only paid $5, you can use the video any way you want, and you can watch it in Dublin, whatever the city is in Belgium, or Dubai. I got paid nice, and I still own the video (as do you). You never have to join anything, and you never have to hear from us again.

    I really hope people keep buying it a lot, so I can have shitloads of money, but at this point I think we can safely say that the experiment really worked. If anybody stole it, it wasn’t many of you. Pretty much everybody bought it. And so now we all get to know that about people and stuff. I’m really glad I put this out here this way and I’ll certainly do it again. If the trend continues with sales on this video, my goal is that i can reach the point where when I sell anything, be it videos, CDs or tickets to my tours, I’ll do it here and I’ll continue to follow the model of keeping my price as far down as possible, not overmarketing to you, keeping as few people between you and me as possible in the transaction.

    Much has been made in the many (sometimes quite loud) discussion about webcomics business models (and the viability of same) about whether or not any money can be made via variations of the 1000 True Fans model. It’s been loudly declared that only working with a publisher can possibly pay, or that transitioning from a major-media publisher model to an independent producer model couldn’t possibly scale.

    Truth be told, the dozens of webcomickers making their living aren’t a large enough sample to be statistically valid (not have they been at it long enough to draw conclusions from duration), and what was really lacking was any evidence as to how far the model could scale up.

    Louis CK would seem to indicate: pretty damn far. Again, one datum may be an outlier, but I’m pretty confident that Louis CK can turn another show into a similar-sized success — which could provide the impetus to scale further up into funding the production of a feature film:

    Keep in mind, however, that it’s not sales of Beacon that would fund the film: He says that if Beacon “really tears an asshole into the money monster who then shits dollars into my mouth,” he would then use those shit-dollars to “buy a home and get some security which I NEVER have had in my life and have certainly not gotten from my low-budget show.” However, if he sells enough downloaded copies of this one to justify trying the experiment again, then the proceeds from his second special will all go toward making a movie.

    Crowdsourcing a motion picture has been bandied about a couple of times (hello, Browncoats), but this is a little different. This isn’t asking a lot of people to donate/finance/invest for the costs of the movie, it’s following a traditional production model, using the proceeds of a success to bankroll the next, hopefully more successful, project. It’s the sort of thing that has, in the past, been pretty much the exclusive province of large corporations. It’s the sort of thing that every webcomicker that rolls the profits of a book into a run of shirts has been doing, on a smaller scale. It has the potential to change how lots of independent artists¹ do things for the forseeable future.

¹ Who need to have drive, ambition, and damn good business instincts — maybe not the skills to do all the business things themselves, but the self-awareness to figure out what they can do versus what they need to farm out (without giving up ownership), and the bullshit detector to figure out who’s trying to screw them.

[…] if the value of disintermediation and individual publishing that we discussed on this page two days ago was really much less universally understood that I had […]

[…] put together with tremendous time and expense for five dollars (American). Seriously, we are into Louis CK territory here, with nothing standing between the creator and the audience but an entirely nominal sum of […]

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